The use of incentives to promote technical debt management
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2022

Context: When developing software, it is vitally important to keep the level of technical debt down since, based on several studies, it has been well established that technical debt can lower the development productivity, decrease the developers' morale and compromise the overall quality of the software, among others. However, even if researchers and practitioners working in today's software development industry are quite familiar with the concept of technical debt and its related negative consequences, there has been no empirical research focusing specifically on how software managers actively communicate and manage the need to keep the level of technical debt as low as possible.
Objective: This study aims to understand how software companies give incentives to manage technical debt. This is carried out by exploring how companies encourage and reward practitioners for actively keeping the level of technical debt down add whether the companies use any forcing or penalising initiatives when managing technical debt.
Method: As a first step, this paper reports the results of both an online survey providing quantitative data from 258 participants and interviews with 32 software practitioners. As a second step, this study sets out to specifically provide a detailed assessment of additional and in-depth analysis of technical debt management strategies based on an encouraging mindset and attitude from both managers and technical roles to understand how, when and by whom such strategies are adopted in practice. Results: Our findings show that having a technical debt management strategy (specially based on encouragement) can significantly impact the amount of technical debt related to the software.
Conclusion: The result indicates that there is considerable unfulfilled potential to influence how software practitioners can further limit and reduce technical debt by adopting a strategy based explicitly on an encouraging mindset from managers where they also specifically dedicate time and resources for technical debt remediation activities.

Software development

Software incentive programs

Technical debt

Empirical study


Terese Besker

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Antonio Martini

Universitetet i Oslo

Jan Bosch

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering, Software Engineering for Testing, Requirements, Innovation and Psychology

Information and Software Technology

0950-5849 (ISSN)

Vol. 142 106740




Systemvetenskap, informationssystem och informatik med samhällsvetenskaplig inriktning



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