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Identifying and Visualizing Architectural Debt and Its Efficiency Interest in the Automotive Domain: A Case Study

October 2015 Presentation
Ulf Eliasson (Volvo Car Group), Antonio Martini (Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg), Robert Kaufmann (Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg), Sam Odeh (Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg)

This presentation examines architectural technical debt at the Volvo Car Group and introduces a visual tool to communicate this debt and its interest to stakeholders.


Software Engineering Institute


This presentation was part of the Seventh International Workshop on Managing Technical Debt, held in conjunction with the 31th International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME 2015).

Architectural Technical Debt has recently received the attention of the scientific community as a suitable metaphor for describing suboptimal architectural solutions having short-term benefits but causing a long-term negative impact. We study such phenomena in the context of Volvo Car Group, where the development of modern cars includes complex systems with mechanical components, electronics, and software working together in a complicated network to perform an increasing number of functions and meet the demands of many customers. This puts high requirements on having an architecture and design that can handle these demands. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to manage Architecture Technical Debt in order to make sure that the advantages of suboptimal solutions do not lead to the payment of a large interest. We conducted a case study at Volvo Car Group, and we discovered that architectural violations in the detailed design had an impact on the efficiency of the communication between components, which is an essential quality in cars and other embedded systems. Such interest is not studied in literature, which usually focuses on the maintainability aspects of Technical Debt. To explore how this Architectural Technical Debt and its interest could be communicated to stakeholders, we developed a visual tool. We found that not only was the Architectural Debt highly interesting for the architects and other stakeholders at VCG, but also the proposed visualization was useful in increasing the awareness of the impact that Architectural Technical Debt had on efficiency.