IT Portfolio management as a framework for managing Technical Debt: Theoretical framework applied on a case study

Mille Edith Nielsen, Søren Skaarup

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Technical debt (TD) originally names the reoccurring phenomenon of shortcuts and quick fixes within IT development. TD saves time and resources in the short run but may cause problems and require additional resources in the long run. Managing TD is difficult, whether it is seen as a local phenomenon (residing in individual applications) or seen in a portfolio perspective. However, TD is not always caused by the individual developer and it does not always just affect one application. It may affect several parts of the IT portfolio; it may arise in the portfolio and it may be resolved by decisions on an IT-portfolio level. In this paper, we develop a theoretical framework that incorporates TD into IT portfolio management (ITPM). We apply the framework on a case study to explore how TD can be created, reside, resolved and managed in practice in a portfolio-perspective. This paper contributes with a framework integrating TD with ITPM. The paper also provides empirical insights on practice regarding ITPM and TD and highlights implications for research and practice.