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An initial Theory to Understand and Manage Requirements Engineering Debt in Practice
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering. (DIPT)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3995-6125
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering. (DIPT)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0679-4361
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering. (DIPT)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0619-6027
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA.
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2023 (English)In: Information and Software Technology, ISSN 0950-5849, E-ISSN 1873-6025, Vol. 159, article id 107201Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Context

Advances in technical debt research demonstrate the benefits of applying the financial debt metaphor to support decision-making in software development activities. Although decision-making during requirements engineering has significant consequences, the debt metaphor in requirements engineering is inadequately explored.

Objective

We aim to conceptualize how the debt metaphor applies to requirements engineering by organizing concepts related to practitioners’ understanding and managing of requirements engineering debt (RED).

Method

We conducted two in-depth expert interviews to identify key requirements engineering debt concepts and construct a survey instrument. We surveyed 69 practitioners worldwide regarding their perception of the concepts and developed an initial analytical theory.

Results

We propose a RED theory that aligns key concepts from technical debt research but emphasizes the specific nature of requirements engineering. In particular, the theory consists of 23 falsifiable propositions derived from the literature, the interviews, and survey results.

Conclusions

The concepts of requirements engineering debt are perceived to be similar to their technical debt counterpart. Nevertheless, measuring and tracking requirements engineering debt are immature in practice. Our proposed theory serves as the first guide toward further research in this area.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2023. Vol. 159, article id 107201
Keywords [en]
Requirements Engineering; Requirements Engineering Debt; Interview Study; Online Survey; Theory
National Category
Software Engineering
Research subject
Software Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-23945DOI: 10.1016/j.infsof.2023.107201ISI: 000982204000001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85151526874OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-23945DiVA, id: diva2:1711743
Part of project
SERT- Software Engineering ReThought, Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2022-11-18 Created: 2022-11-18 Last updated: 2023-05-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Towards good-enough Requirements Engineering: a theoretical Foundation for Requirements Quality
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards good-enough Requirements Engineering: a theoretical Foundation for Requirements Quality
2023 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Context: Requirements Engineering (RE) research has established a common agreement on the impact that the quality of requirements has on subsequent software development activities and artifacts. Furthermore, empirical investigations suppose that RE quality defects tend to scale in cost for remediation when left unattended. This motivates the need for requirements quality assurance.

Problem: This need has been met with requirements quality research, which abounds with publications proposing writing rules and guidelines that are meant to ensure requirements of high quality. However, recent studies have questioned the rigor and relevance of these publications, which would undermine the practical applicability of requirements quality research: requirements quality is a means to an end and serves a specific purpose (i.e., minimizing the emitted risk on downstream activities), but when this purpose is not met due to lack of a rigor and practical relevance, the approach to researching requirements quality needs to be rethought.

Aim: The notion of good-enough requirements engineering constitutes a context-sensitive, activity-based perspective on requirements quality. In this thesis, we aim at both (1) understanding and (2) exploring possibilities of operationalizing this notion.

Methods: We employ a mixed-methods approach to achieve our aim. We use theory adoption in order to provide a theoretical foundation for requirements quality research, conduct a survey to understand the level of theory adherence in the requirements quality literature, and perform subject-based classification to generate an overview of theory-related elements proposed in literature. 

Results: Through theory adoption we derive a harmonized, activity-based requirements quality theory that frames requirements quality according to its impact on subsequent activities and hence ensures its relevance. The subsequent survey confirms that there is a lack of rigor and relevance in previous requirements quality publications, which likely explains the lack of adoption of the research in practice. The overview of quality factors in a subject-based classification is a first step to centralize requirements quality research for visibility and effective reuse.

Conclusion: The notion of good-enough requirements engineering has the potential to re-focus requirements quality research on a more profound notion of rigor and relevance. In this thesis, we report on a first requirements quality theory. Through adherence to this requirements quality theory and contribution to the central repository of subject-based classification, the operationalization of the concept of good-enough requirements engineering can effectively support predicting the impact that requirements quality has on subsequent software development activities in the future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2023. p. 184
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Licentiate Dissertation Series, ISSN 1650-2140 ; 1
Keywords
Requirements Engineering, Requirements Quality, Theory Development
National Category
Software Engineering
Research subject
Software Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-23948 (URN)978-91-7295-447-2 (ISBN)
Presentation
2023-01-13, J1630 och Zoom, Campus Karlskrona, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2022-11-21 Created: 2022-11-18 Last updated: 2022-12-08Bibliographically approved

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Frattini, JulianFucci, DavideMendez, DanielGonzalez-Huerta, Javier

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