Digital Debt, Digital Depreciation, and Digital Communities

By Chris Lane-Lightfoot

Spoiler alert… this article is not about finance.

New products and product updates require constant refreshes to existing digital assets.  Before you create your next asset, let Tricycle assist you in considering the digital debt and digital depreciation implications so you reap all the benefits of your asset throughout its entire lifecycle.

Digital Debt

Digital Debt is only loosely associated with financial debt.  Digital debt pertains more to assets that are created in a manner that makes it challenging to evolve the asset further. For example, you may have a PowerPoint deck that’s gained popularity in your organization.  Perhaps this same PowerPoint is modified by other people and possibly in other mediums (websites, etc.). If you did not make your slide deck easily modifiable and portable you now start to experience the effects of Digital Debt.  Although initially using PowerPoint as a tool (and yourself as a builder) may have been a great option, as the needs for assets expand it can become more painful to enhance because you did not build it with enhancement in mind (or you figured that you would deal with that later). Digital Debt requires you to expend significant effort to rework the asset to suit the new needs.

Digital Depreciation

Like owning a house, when you create a digital asset, no matter how well you build it, over time that asset will require maintenance as technology evolves around it.  In the life of a digital asset, many factors determine the depreciation of the asset.  For example, if you develop an App that runs on an Apple iPad you must continue to maintain the App as new versions of Apple iOS are released or the app may cease to function properly and lose value.  Continuing with the iPad App example… as other similar Apps are developed, users may find that these new Apps have features that your App does not provide and your App may decrease in usefulness.  Additionally, as visual styles evolve, your App may start looking too “old school” causing users to look for other options.  The message here is that the digital landscape is rapidly evolving and digital assets must be continually maintained or they will depreciate in value.

Both Digital Debt and Digital Depreciation can be limited by choices that are made during conceptualization and development of a digital asset.

Digital Community

The final factor to consider is the Digital Community that you choose to associate with.  Digital Communities include groups like the Microsoft Windows community, the UNIX community, the Open-Source community, etc.  By choosing one or more digital communities to associate with, you are in essence making a bet on which group will provide the best environment for the success and longevity of your digital asset.  Often there are many factors that limit the digital communities you associate with.  These may include; company policy (“we require all assets to be compatible with Microsoft Windows”), needs of the asset you are creating (“internet access is unreliable in hospital environments”), and personal choices (“I prefer to use Open-Source options if available”), etc.


Tricycle is committed to helping our clients make the best choices when building digital assets.  When creating a new asset, it’s helpful to understand the digital debt your company may accrue and, to some extent, the rate with which you can expect to incur digital depreciation.  Strategies for managing digital assets are critical, and when you partner with Tricycle, we’ll work with you to ensure you gain continual value from your digital assets.