Delivering increasingly complex software-reliant systems demands better ways to manage the long-term effects of short-term expedients. The technical debt metaphor is gaining significant traction in the agile development community as a way to understand and communicate such issues. The idea is that developers sometimes accept compromises in a system in one dimension (e.g., modularity) to meet an urgent demand in some other dimension (e.g., a deadline), and that such compromises incur a "debt": on which "interest" has to be paid and which the "principal" should be repaid at some point for the long-term health of the project. We argue that the software engineering research community has an opportunity to study and improve this concept. We can offer software engineers a foundation for managing such trade-offs based on models of their economic impacts. Therefore, we propose managing technical debt as a part of the future research agenda for the software engineering field.
This paper was first published through the FSE/SDP Workshop on the Future of Software Engineering Research (FoSER).