An Empirical Study on Technical Debt in a Finnish SME

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement (ESEM), Brazil (2019)


Background. The need to release our products undertough time constraints has required us to take shortcuts during the implementation of our products and to postpone the correct implementation, thereby accumulating Technical Debt.
Objective. In this work, we report the experience of a Finnish SME in managing Technical Debt (TD), investigating the most common types of TD they faced in the past, their causes, and their effects.Method.We set up a focus group in the case-company, involving different roles.
Results.The results showed that the most significant TD in the company stems from disagreements with the supplier and lack of test automation. Specification and test TD are the most significant types of TD. Budget and time constraints were identified as the most important root causes of TD.Conclusion.TD occurs when time or budget is limited orthe amount of work are not understood properly. However,not all postponed activities generated ”debt”. Sometimes the accumulation of TD helped meet deadlines without a majorimpact, while in other cases the cost for repaying the TD wasmuch higher than the benefits. From this study, we learned that learning, careful estimations, and continuous improvement could be good strategies to mitigate TD These strategies include iterative validation with customers, efficient communication with stakeholders, meta-cognition in estimations, and value orientation in budgeting and scheduling.