Are you starting a new business, or considering doing so? On the first day, the first hours, of your new business there are a few key players that are needed to be in place. Your attorney, of course. And probably your financier. Maybe someone who understands your operations, if that isn’t you yourself. And, of course, your technology adviser.
To many starting a business, it might sound crazy to have someone to oversee your technology before you have incorporated, before you have any staff, or even any computers; but this is exactly when they are needed.
This is called a greenfield and this is the time that your technology partner, who might be a CIO, an ITSP, or other resource, has free reign to consider all possibilities. This is the one, and literally the only, chance that your company will ever exist with zero technical debt and all options can be evaluated, including those you never knew were options because no one ever evaluates the greenfield scenarios.
If you, instead like most new businesses, run out and set up email accounts, buy laptops, order your Internet connection and so forth before IT is there to guide you, you have created technical debt. Money has been spent, decisions made, debt incurred. Sure, it can all be replaced, but it won’t be. Those decisions, ones that feel ridiculously trivial at this stage, will normally haunt a company for more than a decade.
From the IT perspective, the mistakes made at this crucial time are often astounding. Wrong licensing, bad hardware, key applications chosen. Often in a few minutes without IT guidance, decisions that end up doubling the cost of IT infrastructure over the next decade are made, but because of the frog in the boiling water problem, they are likely never resolved.
This happens because it feel logical to just “buy what gets us up and running right away, we will fix it later.” But this makes no sense, fixing things is very costly and when will you rip and replace everything? There is no sensible time to suddenly decide to do that. You didn’t do it on day one, why would you do it on day two?
With each new day, more time and money is invested into the initial decisions. More hardware, more software, more licenses, more applications that depend on those things are purchased. Day by day the initial decisions go from “technical debt” to heavily entrenched decisions with unknown dependencies throughout the organization. On any given day it is just “doing the simplest thing right now” and “not wasting time on big decision making”, but this de facto planning process ends up guiding the core of the business, and all of IT, without anyone intentionally deciding on what actually would best service the business.
It’s a ripple effect (the butterfly effect), what seems like a completely trivial decision to move quickly without getting “bogged down by IT” can spell long term disaster and is often the underpinnings for many of the struggles that businesses face every day.