The Pricey Bill of Technical Debt - When and by whom will it be paid?
Paper in proceeding, 2017

— Software companies need to support continuous and fast delivery of customer value both in short and a long-term perspective. However, this can be hindered by evolution limitations and high maintenance efforts due to internal software quality issues by what is described as Technical Debt. Although significant theoretical work has been undertaken to describe the negative effects of Technical Debt, these studies tend to have a weak empirical basis and often lack quantitative data. The aim of this study is to estimate wasted time, caused by the Technical Debt interest during the software life-cycle. This study also investigates how practitioners perceive and estimate the impact of the negative consequences due to Technical Debt during the software development process. This paper reports the results of both an online web-survey provided quantitative data from 258 participants and follow-up interviews with 32 industrial software practitioners. The importance and originality of this study contributes and provides novel insights into the research on Technical Debt by quantifying the perceived interest and the negative effects it has on the software development life-cycle. The findings show that on average, 36 % of all development time is estimated to be wasted due to Technical Debt; Complex Architectural Design and Requirement Technical Debt generates most negative effect; and that most time is wasted on understanding and/or measuring the Technical Debt. Moreover, the analysis of the professional roles and the age of the software system in the survey revealed that different roles are affected differently and that the consequences of Technical Debt are also influenced by the age of the software system.

Empirical Study

Software Development

Technical Debt


Quantitative data

Development Cost

Wasted time

Qualitative data


Terese Besker

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

Antonio Martini

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

Jan Bosch

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME)

9781538609927 (ISBN)

Subject Categories

Computer and Information Science

Information Science





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