The introduction of technical debt tracking in large companies. A Survey and Multiple Case-Study
Paper in proceedings, 2017
Large software companies need to support continuous and fast delivery of customer value both in the short and long term. However, this can be hindered if both evolution and maintenance of existing systems are hampered by Technical Debt. Although a lot of theoretical work on Technical Debt has been recently produced, its practical management lacks empirical studies. In this paper we investigate the state of practice in several companies in order to understand how they start tracking Technical Debt. We combined different methodologies: we conducted a survey, involving 226 respondents from 15 organizations and a more in-depth multiple case-study in three organizations, where Technical Debt was tracked: we involved 13 interviews and 79 Technical Debt issues analysis. We found that the development time dedicated to manage Technical Debt is substantial (around 25% of the overall development) but not systematic: only a few participants methodically track Technical Debt. By studying the approaches in the companies participating in the case-study, we understood how companies start tracking Technical Debt and what are the initial benefits and challenges. Finally, we propose a Strategic Adoption Model based to define and adopt a dedicated process for tracking Technical Debt.
Software process improvement