How do software development teams manage technical debt? – An empirical study

Technical debt (TD) is a metaphor for taking shortcuts or workarounds in technical decisions to gain short-term benefit in time-to-market and earlier software release. In this study, one large software development organization is investigated to gather empirical evidence related to the concept of technical debt management (TDM). We used the exploratory case study method to collect and analyze empirical data in the case organization by interviewing a total of 25 persons in eight software development teams. We were able to identify teams where the current strategy for TDM was only to fix TD when necessary, when it started to cause too much trouble for development. We also identified teams where the management had a systematic strategy to identify, measure and monitor TD during the development process. It seems that TDM can be associated with a similar maturity concept as software development in general. Development teams may raise their maturity by increasing their awareness and applying more advanced processes, techniques and tools in TDM. TDM is an essential part of sustainable software development, and companies have to find right approaches to deal with TD to produce healthy software that can be developed and maintained in the future.

Jesse Yli-Huumo, Andrey Maglyas (Lappeenranta University of Technology), Kari Smolander (Aalto University): How do software development teams manage technical debt? – An empirical study