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In Search of a Metric for Managing Architectural Technical Debt

Abstract

In attempts to expedite the delivery of stakeholder value, software developers sometimes engage practices that result in unexpected rework costs; these can degrade the flow of value over time. The technical debt metaphor conceptualizes this tradeoff between short-term and long-term value: taking shortcuts to optimize the delivery of features in the short term incurs debt, analogous to financial debt, that must be paid off later to optimize long-term success. This paper describes an architecture-focused and measurement-based approach to developing a metric that will assist in strategically managing technical debt. The approach is demonstrated through its application to an ongoing system development effort. 

This paper was published as part of the 2012 IEEE Working Conference on Software Architecture and 6th European Conference on Software Architecture.