Smart Building

How You Can Avoid Technical Debt

Daniel Charles

Forrester Research says that maintaining outdated applications and technology now consumes 70% or more of an organization’s technology budget. That’s a large chunk of money! The time, money and effort it takes to keep these systems running could lead to technical debt.


The term “technical debt” has its roots in IT, code and programming. It’s a term used to describe the implied costs of rework caused by poor performance. At its core, technical debt refers to cutting corners: Taking actions to speed up delivery without any consideration for long-term performance or reliability. This approach may appease short-term requirements and get you to completion faster, but it often results in more work later when systems have to be revisited for repair, compatibility problems, performance issues, failure, etc.


We think technical debt is a concept that applies to cabling infrastructure, too. Legacy cabling systems and installation processes can drain money, time and resources, as well as prevent organizations from staying competitive and achieving digital transformation. (If you don’t have the cabling and connectivity to support emerging technology, you won’t be able to move your business forward.)


Just like financial debt, technical debt involves two types of expenses: principal and interest.

  • Principal = the cost of fixing problems
  • Interest = the cost of the inefficiencies caused by those problems

If you cut corners and delay making necessary fixes, that’s when technical debt can really spiral out of control. Lots of money and manpower goes toward makeshift solutions instead of innovative initiatives to move a company forward.


During the decision-making process, some see this “debt” as being offset by the benefits associated with finishing the work faster (saving money, sticking to the timeline, being first to market, etc.). But technical debt also brings a host of problems:

  • You’ll spend more time making “fixes” vs. working on new features or critical updates
  • Total cost of ownership increases due to the extra time and work going into maintenance and service
  • You’ll potentially experience unplanned downtime – and it will take longer to determine what caused it
  • Simple tasks will take much longer than they should
  • Scalability and new technology will become much more difficult to implement

Think about it like this: When you’re investing in a new roof, it may be tempting to cut corners by using fewer nails than the manufacturer recommends. Using fewer nails means the installer will save time, money and manpower – and the roof will be completed faster. Everything will probably seem fine at first. But what happens in a few years?


Over time, wind, snow and rain will get under your shingles and create bigger problems. At some point, those problems will need to be addressed, costing you more time and money. If the job had been done right the first time – using the right materials – you wouldn’t have to spend more time and money now to correct these problems.


Similarly, an “okay” cabling infrastructure may seem stable for a while, but it won’t last forever. Sudden failure or unplanned downtime can be difficult to respond to – and come back from. Now more than ever, companies can’t afford to have failing infrastructure. When cabling systems fail, so do all the systems, applications and technology that rely on them.


When it comes to cabling and connectivity, technical debt can increase by:

  • Creating a spaghetti mess of cable that will have to be organized at some point
  • Making racks and PDUs difficult to access
  • Selecting infrastructure solutions that support what you’re doing right now – without giving thought to the technology and applications you’ll use five years from now
  • Selecting a cable that isn’t recommended for your application
  • Choosing lower-grade patch cords to save money (read this story about how poor-quality patch cords led to surveillance camera failure)

Plan for the Future to Keep Debt Down

We’re at the dawn of new frontier. Technology will have a major impact on workforce productivity. Network speeds for wired connections have increased to 10 Gb/s. Wireless connectivity is also headed toward 10 Gb/s with the unveiling of IEEE 802.11ax. Cabling and connectivity need to support these new technologies and applications – otherwise, technical debt can accrue.


There are ways to save time and money while still doing things the “right” way. Investing in quality and reliability over “cheap and fast” helps you reduce technical debt.


To stay on top of technical debt, we recommend planning for the future now – and thinking about the implications of your decisions. Resist the urge to put “cut costs” at the top of your list. If you place efficiency, productivity and reliability there instead, cost savings will come naturally in the form of time savings, consistent uptime and fewer problems.


To help you reduce technical debt, Belden has revolutionized its structured cabling systems! Each REVConnect System includes end-to-end cable and connectivity to meet the needs of demanding applications today, tomorrow and beyond. The systems provide best-in-class performance guarantees across all category levels.


This approach also makes it easier to quickly identify the cabling and connectivity solutions they need to support their specific application: PoE, in-building wireless, noisy environments, smart buildings, data centers and much more.