Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1243-3335

Date of Award

12-16-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Computer Information Systems

First Advisor

Dr. Mark Keil

Second Advisor

Dr. Lars Mathiassen

Third Advisor

Dr. Likoebe Maruping

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Narayan Ramasubbu

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Yolande Chan

Abstract

One of the key reasons that agile software development methods have gained popularity in recent years is because they enable organizations to produce software quickly to meet the needs of various stakeholders. However, this focus on delivering software quickly often encourages practitioners to incur technical debt – design or implementation constructs that are expedient in the short term but set up a technical context that can make future changes more costly or impossible. Worldwide, technical debt is estimated to be a trillion-dollar problem. This has prompted significant interest from both researchers and practitioners. In this dissertation, I present two essays that advance our knowledge of the causes of technical debt in agile software development projects and that offer potential solutions to manage the most important of these causes of technical debt. In my first essay, I conduct a ranking-type Delphi study of information technology (IT) project managers and software developers to identify and prioritize the most important causes of technical debt in agile software development projects. The findings from this study provide a verified list of 55 causes of technical debt in agile software development projects and offer 13 potential techniques to manage the causes of technical debt that were most important to the IT project managers and software developers in this study. In my second essay, I conduct a randomized experiment to examine the impact of software developers’ construal level, a cognitive process, on the unintentional accumulation of technical debt in software development projects. The findings from this experiment suggest that software developers at a high construal level are more likely to focus on developing the architecture or design than software developers at a low construal level. Collectively, the findings from these two essays deepen our understanding of the intentional and unintentional causes of technical debt in agile software development projects. Further, the findings offer potential techniques to manage the most important causes of technical debt for IT project managers and software developers.

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