Technical Debt is not Only about Code and We Need to be Aware about It

  • Clara Berenguer UNIFACS
  • Adriano Borges UNIFACS
  • Sávio Freire IFC / UFBA
  • Nicolli Rios UFRJ
  • Nebojša Taušan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Robert Ramač University of Novi Sad
  • Boris Pérez Universidad de Los Andes / Francisco de Paula Santander University
  • Camilo Castellanos University of Los Andes
  • Darío Correal University of Los Andes
  • Alexia Pacheco University of Costa Rica
  • Gustavo López University of Costa Rica
  • Davide Falessi University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Carolyn Seaman University of Maryland
  • Vladimir Mandić University of Novi Sad
  • Clemente Izurieta Montana State University / Idaho National Laboratories
  • Rodrigo Spínola UNIFACS / UNEB


Context: It is common for a software project to incur technical debt (TD) during its development. It can impact several artifacts produced throughout the software development process. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out management actions to find a balance between the benefits of incurring it and the effects of its presence. However, so far, much of the attention has been given only to discussions relating TD to coding issues. This is a worrying scenario because other types of debt can also have impactful, or even worse, consequences on projects. Aims: This study elaborates on the need to consider other issues of the development process and not just the source-code when investigating the TD phenomenon. Method: We analyze responses from 653 practitioners concerning TD causes, effects, prevention, reasons for non-prevention, repayment, and reasons for non-repayment and investigate whether these TD management elements are related to coding or to other software development issues. Results: Coding issues are commonly related to the investigated elements but, indeed, they are only part of the big picture we draw. Issues related to the project planning and management, human factors, knowledge, quality, process, requirements, verification, validation, and test, design, architecture, TD management, and the organization are also common. Lastly, we present a hump diagram that, in combination with the detailed results, provides guidance on what to expect from the presence of TD and how to react to it considering several issues of software development. Conclusion: The results shed light on other concerns beyond code that the research community and practitioners need to be aware of.
Palavras-chave: Technical debt management, Causes, Effects
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BERENGUER, Clara et al. Technical Debt is not Only about Code and We Need to be Aware about It. In: SIMPÓSIO BRASILEIRO DE QUALIDADE DE SOFTWARE (SBQS), 20. , 2021, Evento Online. Anais [...]. Porto Alegre: Sociedade Brasileira de Computação, 2021 . p. 130-141.