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TransformationMar 08, 2018

The Dave Ramsey Plan for Technology Teams

John Jacobs

Financial coach Dave Ramsey has helped millions of people successfully pay off debt and build wealth. His programs like Financial Peace University are simple, effective, and applicable to anyone, no matter where you are on the journey to financial independence.

I often hear leaders we work with say their teams have more work to do than they can possibly accomplish. This problem is particularly acute in companies that are growing quickly or undergoing digital transformations. Whether you’re a household, a 10-person development team, or a global enterprise, Ramsey’s ideas can help provide a framework and structure for achieving your goals.

Understand Where Your Money Goes

The first step to financial independence is a true and accurate accounting of where you spend your money. Most people who do this are shocked to learn where much of their income actually goes – morning lattes, meals out at restaurants, and weekend getaways are common “black holes” that consume our hard-earned money.

Technology organizations also have “black holes” that consume valuable resources. System outages, break/fix, pet projects, and squeaky wheel product owners all take time away from the work that leadership has planned and staffed for. Projects fall behind schedule. IT is perceived as slow and inefficient.

The challenge for leadership is to determine which activities are valuable and worthy of continuing and which are distractions and then remove the distractions.

Live Within Your Means

Ramsey advocates creating a household budget that both you and your significant other can get excited about. His strategy encourages fully funding the things that are important to you both, and letting go of the things that are not. The real genius of this approach is that it forces an open, transparent dialog between you and your partner about what truly matters to you both.

I’ve observed that similar conversations happen frequently in high-performing technology organizations. Often these are difficult conversations – we may not get to work with the hottest new tech because it simply doesn’t align with our goals, or we may have to cut our losses on a project where months of sweat equity have already been invested. Great leaders stand up and make the tough calls, based on what is truly important.

When creating a budget, don’t forget to have a rainy day fund. Just like cars and houses need unexpected repairs, system impairments, security scans, audit findings, patching, forced upgrades, and other unexpected events will happen. Sometimes these are great things like a new business opportunity that you won’t want to miss out on. Set aside some capacity so you can meet the need without going over budget.

Pay Off Debts

Eliminating personal debt is incredibly liberating, and it’s one of the cornerstones of Dave Ramsey’s program. Debt reduction frees up capital to invest or save, and frees you from the burden of owing something to another person.

The best technology leaders I know work hard to minimize two particularly troublesome kinds of debt:

  1. Backlog Debt – The work we have left to do on a project is often referred to as backlog. Backlogs need to be continuously scrutinized, questioned, and reprioritized before entropy sets in. Untended backlogs are like mountains of debt you owe to someone else – they lead to missed expectations and destroy team morale.

  2. Technical Debt – The things in our tech stack or architecture that slow us down or impede progress are sometimes referred to as technical debt. A certain amount of technical debt is usually unavoidable – poorly structured code, missing unit tests, performance bottlenecks, and manual deployment processes are common examples. Technical debt reduction is another important line item in your budget. Plan for it, and commit to making regular payments to avoid a negative equity situation.

Summary

Like taking control of your finances, taking control of your IT spending and debt can help you achieve your goals. Leaders can help maximize their team’s output by planning carefully and avoiding the “black holes.” Need help getting started? I’d love to collaborate. Contact us here or email me directly at jjacobs@credera.com.