Architectural technical debt: A grounded theory

Roberto Verdecchia*, Philippe Kruchten, Patricia Lago

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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Architectural technical debt in a software-intensive system is driven by design decisions about its structure, frameworks, technologies, languages, etc. Unlike code-level technical debt, which can be readily detected by static analysers, and can often be refactored with minimal efforts, architectural debt is hard to detect, and its remediation is wide-ranging, daunting, and often avoided. The objective of this study is to develop a better understanding of how software development organisations conceptualize their architectural debt, and how they deal with it, if at all. We used a grounded theory method, eliciting qualitative data from software architects and senior technical staff from a wide range of software development organizations. The result of the study, i.e., the theory emerging from the collected data, constitutes an encompassing conceptual theory of architectural debt, identifying and relating concepts such as symptoms, causes, consequences, and management strategies. By grounding the findings in empirical data, the theory provides researchers and practitioners with evidence of which crucial factors of architectural technical debt are experienced in industrial contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSoftware Architecture
Subtitle of host publication14th European Conference, ECSA 2020, L'Aquila, Italy, September 14–18, 2020, Proceedings
EditorsAnton Jansen, Ivano Malavolta, Henry Muccini, Ipek Ozkaya, Olaf Zimmermann
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783030589233
ISBN (Print)9783030589226
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event14th European Conference on Software Architecture, ECSA 2020 - L'Aquila, Italy
Duration: 14 Sept 202018 Sept 2020

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume12292 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference14th European Conference on Software Architecture, ECSA 2020


  • Grounded theory
  • Software architecture
  • Technical debt


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