Recession Investment: Cut Tech Debt and Use Automation to Create Savings

Posted on June 23, 2020
  • Instead of slashing budgets, look at a recession as time to make investments that will save you time and money in the long-haul
  • Two ways to do this: eliminate technical debt and leverage automation
  • Technical debt happens over time when layers of code get stacked on top of each other, creating a more complicated (read: expensive) system to run
  • Automation takes care of the boring work, freeing you up to do the fun stuff
  • When you combine the two, you’ll get more bang for your buck now and in the future

When a recession is looming, your first instinct as a business owner may be to make deep cuts to blunt the impact. It makes sense, of course. If you’re worried about how you’ll pay the bills, cutting expenses is a natural first line of defense.

And if you’re making cuts, your marketing budget might be among the first items cut. But unless your business is in the most dire straits, cutting your marketing is gambling with your future. You risk losing valuable market share and brand awareness that you’ll never be able to get back. Just ask Moxie how well this strategy worked for them.

Instead of taking a machete to your budget, look at this slowdown as a time to analyze and regroup. By making a few strategic changes to your technology now, you can “make cuts” without the risk of being left behind.

In the short-term, upgrading your technology prowess means you’ll gain more time to spend on running your business. In the longer-term, your competitors will be left scrambling to keep up when the economy recovers — and you’ll be ready.

To put a finer point on upgrading your technology, we’re talking about two things with a large payoff — eliminating your technical debt and leveraging the power of automation.


What is Technical Debt?

If you have a website, you almost certainly have technical debt and don’t realize it. The amount depends on how long your website has been up and how many features you’ve added to it over the years.

Each time you update your site to add a new feature or functionality, you add additional layers of code to your website, all stacked on top of each other.

The first few layers can be woven together seamlessly. But at some point, your website will have so many layers of code stacked on top of each other that it becomes impossible to make changes that integrate smoothly with all the other layers.

Your website becomes like a house of cards — every new change makes it that much more likely for the whole thing to come crashing down.

Each layer is technical debt. And, of course, the longer your website has existed and the more changes you’ve made, the greater your tech debt.

The day-to-day cost of technical debt is costly, in terms of both time and money. Managing technical debt sucks up 40% of your developer’s time and creates higher operational expenses, according to Appian. It could also lead to fines from security breaches or lost sales caused by system outages, Agile Zone notes.

Technology debt isn’t a sign of failure — even the biggest companies accumulate it. Accrual is a natural part of the technology life cycle.


Why Should I Eliminate My Technical Debt?

Accruing technical debt happens when you’re updating your website and face a common conundrum. Do you take your time to create perfection, or do you prioritize speed for something that does the trick?

More often than not, we see businesses choose the latter option. Maybe you’re trying to beat the competition. Or maybe your web team is a big agency that passes off your project to junior employees.

The risk happens when you prioritize speed, and the code isn’t as clean as it should be. For the first couple of updates, you probably won’t even notice any issues. But as you build more updates, it becomes way more likely you’ll encounter a bug — or a total system collapse.

It’s not because your team was negligent or did crappy work. In one real-life example, we were actively developing a website at the same time our client was gathering data we needed for the project.

At a certain point, we had two options: stop development or find a way around the missing data. We chose to find a different solution so we could move forward with the project (aka: create tech debt), knowing that we’d have to go back, add the data and make adjustments based on the missing data (aka: repaying our tech debt).

While it’s more of an up-front investment of time and money to clean up those layers of code on your website, you’ll save in the long-term. Future updates will be easier for developers to build, because they’ll be built upon a solid foundation. And these future updates will take less time to code, which translates to a lower cost.

When we’re building websites for our clients, we use an 80/20 rule — 80% of our time building, and the remaining 20% documenting and repaying tech debt. This way, the next time we’re hired to add a feature, we can get it done quickly and without having to make unforeseen changes.

As an added bonus, eliminating your tech debt will pay off in two other benefits (that also happen to be important Google ranking factors):

  1. Faster site speed - How fast your website loads is a major factor in where your site appears in Google searches, your Google Ads position — and user experience. When a user taps on your website, the longer it takes to load, the less likely they are to stick around and actually look at your website. The tl;dr: A faster site = more people will see your website.

  2. Better user experience - In addition to making your website faster, getting rid of your technical debt creates a clean slate to craft a stronger experience for your customers. And this investment pays off big — every dollar you spend on user experience brings a return of $2-$200. The tl;dr: Better website = more sales.


Save Valuable Time With Automation

When times are tough, businesses have to do more with fewer resources. Automating those boring tasks that you don’t want to do anyway frees up your time to focus on what you do want to do. You’ll spend your time making your business more competitive now, so you can enjoy future success.

When we talk about automation, it could mean something simple, like a program that separates spam from genuine inquiries on your contact form, so your team can have more meaningful communication with your audience. It could also be more complex, like monitoring inventory and automatically updating your e-commerce website when items are out of stock.

For our clients, we’ve saved them money by automating our QA process. In the time before automation, we would either hire somebody or go through ourselves to click every single link in a bunch of different browsers. And we’d have to do this every.single.time we built a website. Now, we have a script that goes through and identifies issues immediately. We spend less time, our clients spend less money, and everyone is happy.

Nearly 68% of businesses are already using some type of automation, making now a great time to invest in saving time with:

  • Chatbots - Adding a chatbot to your website can help you identify the most valuable visitors and leads to your website, making it more likely you’ll turn them into customers.
  • Scripts to automatically update important data - If you’re an e-commerce or similar company that needs to update your website often, doing it automatically can save hours of time.
  • Form Fills - When somebody fills out a form on your website, you can automatically add them to a segmented list and send them follow-up emails without even pressing a button.
  • Compiling reports - Pulling important metrics can be tedious and take away from analysis. If you can automate your reports, your team can spend their time making data-driven recommendations and decisions.

The Takeaway: Save Time and Improve Customer Experience

Eliminating technical debt and leveraging the power of automation will cost more in the short-term, but investing now allows you to use your resources more effectively long-term:

  • Reducing tech debt means your developers will create new features faster (and for less money)
  • Leveraging automation frees up your time to focus on the complex stuff

When you cut out your tech debt, you’ll notice quotes for new website projects are a lot cheaper because the work will take less time. When you layer on automation, you’ll no longer have to spend time on very menial tasks that aren’t worth your time. The result? You’ll get more bang for your buck every single time.

If you’re reading this article and thinking, “I wonder if my website could…,” we’d love to hear your idea. If you’re curious about how much technical debt your website might have, we’d love to help you find a way out of debt.

Get in touch here, and let’s talk about all of the cool things we can do with your website.