Technical Debt Triage in Backlog Management
Paper in proceedings, 2019
Remediation of technical debt through regular refactoring initiatives is considered vital for the software system's long and healthy life. However, since today’s software companies face increasing pressure to deliver customer value continuously, the balance between spending developer time, effort, and resources on implementing new features or spending it on refactoring of technical debt becomes vital. The goal of this study is to explore how the prioritization of technical debt is carried out by practitioners within today’s software industry. This study also investigates what factors influence the prioritization process and its related challenges. This paper reports the results of surveying 17 software practitioners, together with follow-up interviews with them. Our results show that there is no uniform way of prioritizing technical debt and that it is commonly done reactively without applying any explicit strategies. Often, technical debt issues are managed and prioritized in a shadow backlog, separate from the official sprint backlog. This study was also able to identify several different challenges related to prioritizing technical debt, such as the lack of quantitative information about the technical debt items and that the refactoring of technical debt issues competes with the implementation of customer requirements.
Technical Debt Prioritization