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Want to tackle technical debt? Sell it as business risk

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What CIOs need to do instead is to present IT infrastructure investment as an important corporate financial and risk management issue that the business can’t afford to ignore.

Consider, for example, a school building that contains asbestos. To address this, the school district must raise funds and budget for replacing or modernizing the building. From a financial and risk management standpoint, the building is a useless (and hazardous) asset that must be written off the books and remedied.

When IT infrastructure is viewed like any other corporate physical asset that is suddenly too expensive or hazardous to maintain, getting budget approvals is easier because other corporate executives (like the CFO) will also see inadequate IT infrastructure as risky and hazardous for the company.

The “catch” in this is that CFOs and other corporate leaders don’t see aging IT infrastructure as risky and hazardous today — and IT has contributed to this thinking.

How? Through IT’s long history of presenting infrastructure upgrade requests in separate hardware and software line-item budgets, alongside technical justifications — e.g., maxed out processing, end of vendor support, too many users on the network, etc. — that don’t mean much to key financial decision-makers.

Changing the IT infrastructure conversation

Technical budget justifications for IT infrastructure upgrades, which are seldom linked to end business strategies, make it easy for budget decision-makers to defer IT infrastructure investment. Instead, budget decision-makers figure that the company can “make do” because IT will somehow find a way to keep systems running.

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