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ECSA 2020
Mon 14 - Fri 18 September 2020 L'Aquila, Italy

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.