Trade-off Decisions Across Time in Technical Debt Management: A Systematic Literature Review

Christoph Becker, Ruzanna Chitchyan, Stefanie Betz, Curtis McCord

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

6 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Technical Debt arises from decisions that favour short-term outcomes at the cost of longer-term disadvantages. They may be taken knowingly or based on missing or incomplete awareness of the costs; they are taken in different roles, situations, stages and ways. Whatever technical or business factor motivate such decisions, they always imply a trade-off in time, a ‘now vs. later’. How exactly are such decisions made, and how have they been studied? This paper analyzes how decisions on technical debt are studied in software engineering via a systematic literature review. It examines the presently published Software Engineering research on Technical Debt, with a particular focus on decisions involving time. The findings reveal surprising gaps in published work on empirical research in decision making. We observe that research has rarely studied how decisions are made, even in papers that focus on the decision process. Instead, most attention is focused on engineering measures and feeding them into an idealized decision making process. These findings lead to a set of recommendations for future empirical research on Technical Debt.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Technical Debt,Gothenburg, Sweden, May 27-28, 2018
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
ISBN (Print)9781450357135
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2018


  • technical debt
  • decision making
  • time
  • intertemporal choice
  • naturalistic
  • rationalistic
  • behavioral software engineering

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