Background: In order to survive in today's fast-growing and ever fast-changing business environment, software companies need to continuously deliver customer value, 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 overarching goal of this Ph.D. thesis is twofold. The first goal is to empirically study and understand in what way and to what extent, TD influences today’s software development work, specifically with the intention to provide more quantitative insight into the field. Second, to understand which different initiatives can reduce the negative effects of TD and also which factors are important to consider when implementing such initiatives.
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, analysis of documents, correlation analysis, and statistical tests. In seven of the eleven studies included in this Ph.D. thesis, a combination of multiple research methods are used to achieve high validity.
Results: We present results showing that software suffering from TD will cause various negative effects on both the software and the developing process. These negative effects are illustrated from a technical, financial, and a developer’s working situational perspective. These studies also identify several initiatives that can be undertaken in order to reduce the negative effects of TD.
Conclusion: The results show that software developers report that they waste 23% of their working time due to experiencing TD and that TD required 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 daily software development work and that TD has negative effects on several different software quality attributes. Further, the results show that TD reduces developer morale. Moreover, the findings show that intentionally introducing TD in startup companies can allow the startups to cut development time, enabling faster feedback and increased revenue, preserve resources, and decrease risk and thereby contribute to beneficial effects. This study also identifies several initiatives that can be undertaken in order to reduce the negative effects of TD, such as the introduction of a tracking process where the TD items are introduced in an official backlog. The finding also indicates that there is an unfulfilled potential regarding how managers can influence the manner in which software practitioners address TD.
Terese Besker tillhör avdelningen för Software Engineering vid Data- och informationsteknik.
Professor Carolyn Seaman, University of Maryland, USA.
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