Looking for Peace of Mind? Manage Your (Technical) Debt: An Exploratory Field Study

Hadi Ghanbari, Terese Besker, Antonio Martini, Jan Bosch

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

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In the last two decades Technical Debt (TD) has received a considerable amount of attention from software engineering research and practice. Recently, a small group of studies suggests that, in addition to its technical and economic consequences, TD can affect developers' psychological states and morale. However, until now there has been a lack of empirical research clarifying such influences. Aims: In this study, we aim at taking the first step in filling this gap by investigating the potential impacts of TD and its management on developers' morale. Method: Drawing from previous literature on morale, we decided to explore the influence of TD and its management on three dimensions of morale called affective, future/goal, and interpersonal antecedents. In so doing, we conducted an exploratory field study and collected data from software professionals active in different industrial domains through eight qualitative interviews and an online survey (n=33). Results: Our results indicate that TD mainly has a negative influence on future/goal and affective antecedents of morale. This is mainly because the occurrence of TD hinders developers from performing their tasks and achieving their goals. TD management, on the other hand, has a positive influence on all the three dimensions of morale since it is associated with positive feelings and interpersonal feedback as well as a sense of progress. Conclusions: According to the results of this empirical study, the occurrence of TD reduces developers' morale, while its management increases developers' morale.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 11th ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, ESEM 2017
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781509040391
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2017
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventInternational Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 9 Nov 201710 Nov 2017
Conference number: 11

Publication series

NameInternational Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement
ISSN (Print)1949-3770
ISSN (Electronic)1949-3789


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement
Abbreviated titleESEM


  • Behavioral Software Engineering
  • Exploratory Field Study
  • Mixed-method
  • Morale
  • Technical Debt

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