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Measuring and Managing Technical Debt with CAST AIP

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Technical Debt is a risk to the cost and operational performance of critical business applications. Left unaddressed, Technical Debt can so degrade an application that its benefits to the business …

Technical Debt is a risk to the cost and operational performance of critical business applications. Left unaddressed, Technical Debt can so degrade an application that its benefits to the business cannot be justified by its growing costs or operational risks. CAST has pioneered the measurement of Technical Debt, allowing it to be a critical tool for IT executives held accountable for governing the costs and risks of application portfolios.

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  • 1. Questions? Email us at contact@castsoftware.com 1 Technical Debt is created when developers write software that violates good architectural or coding practices resulting in structural flaws in the code. It is enumerated as a calculation of the cost to fix these structural quality problems that the organization knows must be eliminated to control development costs or avoid operational problems. The reasons for these violations can vary from simple explanations like an inadvertent cod- ing mistake to intentional shortcuts to get a product released quickly. Business at Risk First and foremost, Technical Debt is a risk to the cost and operational performance of criti- cal business applications. Left unaddressed, Technical Debt can so degrade an application that its benefits to the business cannot be justified by its growing costs or operational risks. CAST has pioneered the measurement of Technical Debt, allowing it to be a critical tool for IT executives held accountable for governing the costs and risks of application portfolios. CAST AIP analyzes five types of Technical Debt—we call them Health Factors. Figure 1 shows how each of these Health Factors affects either IT costs or business risks and how you can assess the effect of Technical Debt with measures that mean something to the business. With CAST AIP, Technical Debt not only becomes visible—it becomes measurable. Measuring and Managing Technical Debt with CAST AIP Figure 1. How Different Types of Technical Debt Affect IT and the Business
  • 2. Questions? Email us at contact@castsoftware.com 2 Estimating Technical Debt CAST estimates Technical Debt by analyzing the source code of an application across its constituent layers, languages, and technolo- gies to enable a thorough evaluation of its structural quality. With CAST Highlight, you get an overview of Technical Debt and related KPIs within an application portfolio for monitoring of Technical Debt trends. For more detailed management of Technical Debt, CAST Application Intelligence Platform (AIP) reports on individual violations of good architectural coding practice weighted by the severity of their impact so you can develop a specific remediation plan. There is not a single method of measuring Technical Debt, and based on significant re- search with industry leaders CAST Research Labs has devised a method for calculating Technical Debt based on three variables—the number of must-fix problems in an applica- tion, the time required to fix each problem, and the cost for fixing a problem (as shown in Figure 2). With limited budgets, an IT organization will never fix all of the violations of good architectural coding practice so each defect is weighted by its potential severity to determine what percentage of problems are must-fix. In the normal course of maintaining an ap- plication, it is assumed that 100% of high severity problems and 50% of moderate severity problems will ultimately be corrected. Although defect fix times usually take longer, and in a few instances much longer, we assume a very conservative 3 hours to fix a complex high severity violation and 1 hour to fix a less complex medium severity violation. Finally, it appears that a reasonable aver- age cost per developer hour is $75 per hour when averaged across all the geographically dispersed sources of development activity utilized by most IT organizations. The result- ing calculation based on setting parameters at these levels is a very conservative estimate of Technical Debt, and we believe that in most cases the amount of Technical Debt is much higher. Organizations are encouraged to adjust the parameters in this formula to best fit their own maintenance and structural quality objectives, experiences, and costs. Appmarq Benchmark Study Appmarq is the software industry’s first ap- plication quality benchmarking repository. The Appmarq database is designed using CAST technology to help organizations manage their application software quality to reach both operational and business goals. Appmarq contains software quality statistics, trend data and best practices collected from a number of industry sectors and geogra- phies. Each year, CAST Research Labs publishes a detailed report as a baseline of software trends found in our Appmarq repository. The executive summary of the CRASH report (CAST Report on Application Software Health) can be downloaded free of charge by clicking here. The full report can be pur- chased by contacting the CAST Information Center at +1 (877) 852 2278. Figure 2. CAST’s Formula for Calculating Technical Debt
  • 3. www.castsoftware.com Europe 3 rue Marcel Allégot 92190 Meudon - France Phone: +33 1 46 90 21 00 North America 373 Park Avenue South New York, NY 10016 Phone:+1 212-871-8330 Questions? Email us at contact@castsoftware.com Copyright © CAST All Rights Reserved • 00013 3 About CAST CAST is a pioneer and world leader in Software Analysis and Measurement, with unique technology resulting from more than $100 million in R&D investment. CAST introduces fact-based transparency into application development and sourcing to transform it into a management discipline. More than 250 companies across all industry sectors and geogra- phies rely on CAST to prevent business disruption while reducing hard IT costs. CAST is an integral part of software delivery and maintenance at the world’s leading IT service provid- ers such as IBM and Capgemini. Founded in 1990, CAST is listed on NYSE-Euronext (Euronext: CAS) and serves IT intensive enterprises worldwide with a network of offices in North America, Europe and India.