How Regulations of Safety-Critical Software Affect Technical Debt
Paper i proceeding, 2019

In recent years in the  software industry, the  use of safety-critical software is increasing at a rapid rate. However, little  is  known  about  the  relationship  between  safety-critical regulations  and  the  management  of  technical  debt.  The  research  is  based  on  interviews  with  19  practitioners working  in  different  safety-critical  domains  implementing software  according  to  different  safety  regulation  standards. The  results  are  three-fold.  First,  the  result  shows  that performing  technical  debt  refactoring  tasks  in  safety-critical software  requires  several  additional  activities  and  costs, compared  to  non-safety-critical  software.  This  study  has  also identified  several  negative  effects  due  to  the  impact  of  these regulatory  requirements.  Second,  the  results  show  that  the safety-critical  regulations  strengthen  the  implementation  of both  source  code  and  architecture  and  thereby  initially  limit the introduction of technical debt. However, at the same time, the  regulations  also  force  the  software  companies  to  perform later  suboptimal  work-around  solutions  that  are counterproductive  in  achieving  a  high-quality  software  since the regulations constrain the possibility of performing optimal TD refactoring activities. Third, the result shows that technical debt  refactoring  decisions  are  heavily  weighed  on  the  costs associated  with  the  application’s  recertification  process  and that  these  decisions  seldom  include  the  benefits  of  the refactoring activities in a structured way.


Safety-Critical Software

Software Development

Technical Debt


Terese Besker

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering

Antonio Martini

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering

Jan Bosch

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering

Proceedings - 45th Euromicro Conference on Software Engineering and Advanced Applications, SEAA 2019


Euromicro Euromicro DSD/SEAA 2019
Chalkidiki , Greece,






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