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The Impacts of Technical Debt

Unravelling the Hidden Costs

Let's unpick technical debt. First off - what is it?

Technical debt is a term used to describe the compromises made by businesses during software development and maintenance. What might seem like a convenient shortcut or money saving exercise at the time can accumulate a technical debt and result in significant consequences over the long-term. In this blog, we'll explore the impacts of technical debt, with a focus on the part it plays in digital signage and how it can impact performance, maintenance costs, security, and the ability to innovate and scale.

So, why do companies accumulate technical debt? Surprisingly, it often boils down to short-term monetary savings. In terms of digital signage, there are several areas that are often the biggest contributors to technical debt, including:

  • Content management platform selection

  • Media playback platform selection

  • Operating system selection

As a simple example, let's say a company chooses to use an Android 9 based media player running a low cost, or even free content management system (yes they exist). All works fine for the first year, but then a large security flaw is exposed on Android 9. The media player and Content Management system selected don’t allow remote upgrading of the problem, so you’re now faced with the cost of visiting every site to patch the players. When you get to the first site and discover that the Content Management system won’t now work with the patched version of Android and there is no support from the vendor because, well, it’s a free system… It’s the cost of rectifying the problems caused by these choices that is your technical debt and, on large estates, it can be really significant.

When it comes to digital signage systems, technical debt can hinder performance and flexibility, create security risks, and may hold you back from meeting the ever-evolving industry standards. This can lead to slow performance, delays in updating content, high costs for on-site servicing and an overall poor user experience. In today's fast-paced digital world, where delivering real-time information is crucial, technical debt can make it difficult for a business to respond quickly to customer demands and market changes.

So how does technical debt hinder a digital signage network’s ability for innovation and scalability? By introducing complexity, rigidity, and limitations. A build up of shortcuts and outdated technologies make it difficult for developers to introduce new features, adapt to changing requirements, and leverage emerging technologies. Your network becomes harder to maintain, modify, and scale, resulting in slower development cycles and increased costs. Resources are consumed in managing existing issues rather than exploring new possibilities, and this lack of flexibility can impede growth opportunities and prevent businesses from adopting new approaches to the use of digital media.

When it comes to security, technical debt can leave digital signage systems vulnerable to threats and cyber-attacks because of outdated software versions, unpatched vulnerabilities, and inadequate security protocols. This could lead to unauthorised content display, information theft, or, at worst, a backdoor into your corporate network.

The consequences of these security breaches can be severe, damaging a company's reputation and resulting in financial losses.

Just like any other system, digital signage systems require ongoing maintenance, and technical debt can significantly increase these costs. If a software application is poorly designed, lacks proper documentation and is left unmaintained and updated, then troubleshooting and fixing problems can become time-consuming and labour-intensive. Outdated technologies may even require specialised support or expertise, driving up maintenance expenses even more. These hidden costs created by technical debt can strain a company's resources and divert funds from other critical areas.

But the good news is, by avoiding technical debt, simply by putting thought into the long-term impacts of initial choices (not considering the initial buy price as the only factor) businesses can maintain a healthier and more sustainable software ecosystem, enabling you to respond more effectively to market changes and achieve long-term success.

Avoiding technical debt can help you keep up in the ever-changing digital realm by embracing scalable and adaptable solutions, investing in rock-solid, future-proof digital systems and ensuring your network is in tip-top shape, dazzling customers, propelling business growth, and avoiding costly repairs.


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