In episode 43 of the Data Modernization Minute, Wayne Sadin explains how to “dig out” of technical debt at the executive level and why “IT reassurances” shared by the developers behind the software at the center of the Southwest Airlines meltdown last month should scare its CEO and board members.
00:45 — After the Southwest Airlines incident, the company’s CEO announced that the crew scheduling program that the airline utilizes, Skysolver, will be putting out a new release that Southwest Airlines will adopt. Skysolver has already launched eight releases in the last year.
01:18 — As a 30-year CIO and board member, Wayne says that news “scared the heck out” of him — and it should scare other CEOs and board members, too. Why? If a big, monolithic software company has already put out several releases (eight in this case), that means Southwest Airlines is that many releases behind. There are hundreds — or thousands — of updates and changes to the system that Southwest Airlines is not utilizing.
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02:03 — Additionally, it is likely that the company adopting the software — in this case, Southwest Airlines — modified the software to fit its needs. When new releases of software come out, it can be difficult to maintain the changes.
02:40 — In the case of the airline industry, there are many interfaces — both internal and external. Wayne emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the interfaces work, especially in an instance where software is updated. This may involve the training of employees, business partners, IT departments, and even customers.
03:40 — The problem with technical debt is that it is very expensive to fix, and the company ends up needing to make many changes — this is scary. Board members and CEOs must be asking about risk management. Wayne says that multiple (eight or nine) releases a year does not reassure him. Too many releases a year creates a lot of risk for companies.
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