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The Digital Renaissance

What Kitchens Teach Us About Technical Debt Management

It starts with good intentions. And carried forward by mouth-watering expectations. 

Have you ever cooked a big meal, only to realize that you’ve created a massive mess? Pots and pans are splayed out everywhere, food scraps carpet the floor, and a mountain of dishes towering over the sink.  

You can watch the same process unfold in the world of software development when it comes to technical debt.  

Technical debt is the cost that a software project incurs in the future by making short-term decisions to solve existing problems. These short-term solutions carry a set of trade-offs, “resulting in future obligations that must be repaid in the form of engineering work,” according to Scott Carey from InfoWorld. 

That’s because these types of decisions are often shortcuts or low-quality code. And when the time comes to clean up and fix the mess, it means more resources and time. 

Yes, shortcuts may provide temporary solutions, but they accumulate over time, and are prone to crumble in a mess of code. This makes it much more difficult to fix, which requires more resources, time, and money. 

It’s like using every dish, pan, and utensil in the kitchen to cook that epic meal, but in the process leaving them strewn all over the place instead of cleaning up as you go. Messy cooking, messy code. 

So, what is there to do? 

Improve the process. And there’s a lot that software development you can learn in the kitchen. Let’s go to McDonald’s. 

First opened in the early 1940s, the brand has evolved into one of the most recognizable fast-food chains in the world. “It came to epitomize the fast-food industry thanks to a pioneering system for food prep,” Christopher Klein wrote in History. 

The original McDonald’s restaurant was slow and inefficient. The burgers took an age to cook, and customers had to wait in long lines. Taking a look around, the founders decided to revamp their process, focusing on speed and efficiency.  

They analyzed every step of the cooking process, from how long it took to cook the burgers to how quickly the buns could be toasted. They even designed a special grill that allowed them to cook multiple burgers at once. These improvements made a massive difference, and McDonald’s became known for their lightning-fast service. 

Now, imagine if they had never examined their processes and just continued to use their old and slow methods. Think how long we’d have to stand in line or wait in the drive-thru. Image the traffic! 

This is where an architecture design review comes in. 

An architecture design review involves examining all the systems and interactions within your business. This includes everything from your cloud enablement, data services, enterprise integration strategies, and CX/UX and commerce. 

Argano carries our architecture design reviews for our clients and by doing so, we identify areas of technical debt. And we create comprehensive plans to diminish it. 

By committing to an architecture design review of its old kitchen setup and processes, McDonald’s enabled positive change to enable growth and became the brand that we know today. However, if they had not examined every step of the process and designed improvements, they may not be able to claim, “Over 99 billion served.”  

(The company actually stopped officially counting their hamburger servings in the 1990s. Current estimates put the number at around 300 billion.) 

Process excellence elevated the McDonald’s brand with faster service, happier customers, and ultimately, bigger profits. And this wouldn’t have been possible without a thorough architecture design review process. 

If your organization is feeling the burden of technical debt, there are pathways out of it.  

Just like cleaning up your kitchen after cooking a big meal, it first feels like a daunting task, but with a little effort and the right tools, things will begin to shine. And moving forward, the experience becomes much more pleasant, whether it’s a kitchen or a piece of software. 

Take a page out of McDonald’s book and examine your processes, and before you know it, your order will be ready before you even pull up to the drive-thru window. 

How’s your appetite for process improvement? We have a great recipe…and secret sauce. Get in touch with us!