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Balancing software maintenance effort as a technical debt management strategy : the design and implementation of a novel algorithm

Gijsen, Niels (2020) Balancing software maintenance effort as a technical debt management strategy : the design and implementation of a novel algorithm.

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Abstract:With the average lifetime of software systems increasing rapidly, the process of software maintenance becomes a ever more important part of the product life-cycle. Something that is inherent to software maintenance is technical debt, many find this an intangible concept which is difficult to manage. Technical debt can accumulate quickly when neglected, which has a deterrent effect on productivity, making it even harder to reduce the debt in the first place. In this research we propose a method which enables managers to make strategic resource allocation decisions, to keep software at an optimum debt level. We started by conducting a systematic literature review into the concepts of software maintenance, technical debt and productivity. We found theoretical evidence that TD can be manipulated by adjusting the software maintenance effort allocation. Literature suggested that by reducing technical debt, the productivity of developers could improve. Based on this literature review, we constructed a process-model which incorporates all the components necessary to manage technical debt by allocating resources. We defined measures for each component that are not software specific so the method can be easily implemented in multiple different projects and organizations. Thereafter we created an artifact which is build on this processmodel with the goal of constructing a tool which can be used in practice. We thoroughly documented the design part of this artifact, explaining the design choices made by the researcher. In the final stage of this research, we build the actual algorithm and implemented it in a medium size IT company. While only being a proof of concept version, the preliminary results are very promising. The evidence suggest that technical debt management strategies can have a large influence on average productivity when considering longer horizons. This means our method can save costs, time and improve productivity with the same amount of effort.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:EEMCS: Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science
Subject:54 computer science, 85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Information Technology MSc (60025)
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