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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Technical debt : what software practitioners have to say Lim, Erin


Technical debt is a metaphor for the consequences that software projects face when they make trade-offs to implement a lower quality, less complete solution to satisfy business realities. While interest in the metaphor is slowly gaining traction in academic research, there already exists a significant amount of discussion in website logs (blogs). The purpose of this research is to validate the existing definitions and to enrich it with the insights, experiences and lessons learned of software practitioners working in industry. The results are based on a series of one-hour interviews conducted with nineteen software practitioners that investigates the definitions, attributes, causes, symptoms and management of technical debt. It is validated by the findings from a secondary study based on “Hard Choices”, a board game designed to teach the concepts of technical debt, and a replication study conducted by Nitin Taksande at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The outcome of this research provides software practitioners with a set of guidelines to recognize and manage their technical debt. The guidelines state that incurring technical debt is unavoidable because software projects need to meet business goals. Instead, project teams should learn to manage technical debt by developing effective communication skills that bring visibility to its existence in order to enable all project stakeholders to take ownership in mitigating its risks.

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