Preventing technical debt with the TAP framework for Technical Debt Aware Management

by   Marion Wiese, et al.

Context. Technical Debt (TD) is a metaphor for technical problems that are not visible to users and customers but hinder developers in their work, making future changes more difficult. TD is often incurred due to tight project deadlines and can make future changes more costly or impossible. Project Management usually focuses on customer benefits and pays less attention to their IT systems' internal quality. TD prevention should be preferred over TD repayment because subsequent refactoring and re-engineering are expensive. Objective. This paper evaluates a framework focusing on both TD prevention and TD repayment in the context of agile-managed projects. The framework was developed and applied in an IT unit of a publishing house. The unique contribution of this framework is the integration of TD management into project management. Method. The evaluation was performed as a comparative case study based on ticket statistics and two structured surveys. The surveys were conducted in the observed IT unit using the framework and a comparison unit not using the framework. The first survey targeted team members, the second one IT managers. Results. The evaluation shows that in this IT unit, the TAP framework led to a raised awareness for the incurrence of TD. Decisions to incur TD are intentional, and TD is repaid timelier. Unintentional TD incurred by unconscious decisions is prevented. Furthermore, better communication and better planning of the project pipeline can be observed. Conclusions. We provide an insight into practitioners' ways to identify, monitor, prevent and repay TD. The presented framework includes a feasible method for TD prevention despite tight timelines by making TD repayment part of project management.


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