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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Investigating the causes of software technical debt at the architectural level Hsu, Jen Tsu


Architectural technical debt (ATD) describes the consequences of intentionally or unintentionally making architectural design decisions that compromise the internal quality of a software system. These consequences include long-term software evolution and maintenance issues that jeopardize software developer productivity. The architectural aspect of technical debt has been receiving significant interest from technical debt researchers, but many questions concerning architectural technical debt itself have yet to be answered. The main goal of this exploratory multiple-case study is to investigate architectural technical debt’s causes and accumulations at the design decision-level by examining software practitioners’ experiences with architectural technical debt and creating taxonomies that would aid software practitioners and technical debt researchers in the future. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 18 participants and an interview-style online questionnaire with 10 participants. From the data collected, we obtained 53 architectural technical debt issues in 15 non-trivial software intensive projects from eight organizations. The results of this study present two architectural technical debt taxonomies on the causes and accumulations of this issue. Then, we report our findings on current architectural technical debt management practices and practitioner experiences with architectural technical debt.

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