An Empirical Investigation of the Harmfulness of Architectural Technical Debt
Licentiatavhandling, 2018

Background: In order to survive in today's fast-growing and ever fast-changing business environments, large-scale software companies need to deliver customer value continuously, both from a short- and long-term perspective. However, the consequences of potential long-term and far-reaching negative effects of shortcuts and quick fixes made during the software development lifecycle, described as Technical Debt (TD), can impede the software development process. Objective: The overall goal of this Licentiate thesis is to empirically study and understand in what way and to what extent, TD in general and architectural TD specifically, influence today’s software development work and, specifically, with the intention of providing more quantitative insights into the field. Method: To achieve the objectives, a combination of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies are used, including interviews, surveys, a systematic literature review, a longitudinal study, correlation analysis, and statistical tests. In five of the seven included studies, we use a combination of multiple research methods to achieve high validity. Results: We present results showing that software suffering from TD will cause various different negative effects on both the software and on the developing process. These negative effects can be illustrated from a technical, a financial and from a developer’s working situational perspective. Conclusion: This thesis contributes to the understanding and quantification of in what way and to what extent TD is harmful to software development organizations. The results show that software practitioners estimate that they waste 36% of their working time due to experiencing TD and that the TD is causing them to perform additional time-consuming work activities. This study also shows that, compared to all types of TD, architectural TD has the greatest negative impact on the daily software development work.

Software Engineering



Software Architecture

Empirical Research

Software Quality

Software Developing Productivity

Technical Debt

Room 321, Jupiter Building, Hörselgången 11, Göteborg
Opponent: Professor Patricia Lago, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Terese Besker

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering

The introduction of technical debt tracking in large companies. A Survey and Multiple Case-Study

Proceedings - Asia-Pacific Software Engineering Conference, APSEC,; (2016)p. 161-168

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Time to Pay Up - Technical Debt from a Software Quality Perspective

CibSE,; (2017)p. 235-248

Paper i proceeding

Managing architectural technical debt: A unified model and systematic literature review

Journal of Systems and Software,; Vol. 135(2018)p. 1-16

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Looking for Peace of Mind? Manage your (Technical) Debt - An Exploratory Field Study

International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement,; (2017)

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Current State of Practice - A Survey and Multiple Case-Study in 15 large organizations

Science of Computer Programming,; Vol. 163(2018)p. 42-61

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The Pricey Bill of Technical Debt - When and by whom will it be paid?

IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME),; (2017)p. 13-23

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Impact of Architectural Technical Debt on Daily Software Development Work - A Survey of Software Practitioners

Proceedings - 43rd Euromicro Conference on Software Engineering and Advanced Applications, SEAA 2017,; (2017)p. 278-287

Paper i proceeding





Room 321, Jupiter Building, Hörselgången 11, Göteborg

Opponent: Professor Patricia Lago, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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