Analyzing the concept of technical debt in the context of agile software development: A systematic literature review



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Technical debt (TD) is a metaphor that is used to communicate the consequences of poor software development practices to non-technical stakeholders. In recent years, it has gained significant at- tention in agile software development (ASD). Objective: The purpose of this study is to analyze and synthesize the state of the art of TD, and its causes, consequences, and management strategies in the context of ASD. Using a systematic literature review (SLR), 38 primary studies, out of 346 studies, were identified and analyzed. We found five research areas of interest related to the literature of TD in ASD. Among those areas, “managing TD in ASD” received the highest attention, followed by “architecture in ASD and its relationship with TD”. In addition, eight categories regarding the causes and five categories regarding the consequences of incurring TD in ASD were identified. “Focus on quick delivery” and “architectural and design issues” were the most popular causes of incurring TD in ASD. “Reduced productivity”, “system degradation” and “increased maintenance cost” were identified as significant consequences of incurring TD in ASD. Additionally, we found 12 strategies for managing TD in the context of ASD, out of which “refactoring” and “enhancing the visibility of TD” were the most significant.The results of this study provide a structured synthesis of TD and its management in the context of ASD as well as potential research areas for further investigation.

Authors: Woubshet Nema Behutiye (a), Pilar Rodríguez (a), Markku Oivo (a), Ayse Tosun (b)
(a) University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
(b) Faculty of Computer Engineering and Informatics, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey

Published in the Information and Software Technology Journal 82 (2017) 139-158, Elsevier, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infsof.2016.10.0040950-5849/© 2016 Elsevier


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I am full professor of Software Engineering at the University of Québec in Montréal, in its Software Engineering faculty. I have more than 30 years of Helthcare, Finance/Banking and Telecommunications IT industry experience, especially in Cloud Computing, Big Data, software acquisition, contracts, software quality assurance and business process management. I am more comfortable with open source, practical applications and technology transfer to industry.
Currently I concentrate on research projects. In the past I was the recipient of the ISO award for higher education in standardization in 2011, as well as the chair of the Software Engineering gratuate program and of the Software Engineering departement. I also published Software Engineering Books: Software Maintenance Improvement and Software Quality Assurance.