In this chapter, we discuss recent progress and opportunities in empirical software engineering by focusing on a particular technology, Technical Debt (TD), which ties together many recent developments in the field. Recent advances in TD research are providing empiricists the chance to make more sophisticated recommendations that have observable impact on practice.
TD uses a financial metaphor and provides a framework for articulating the notion of tradeoffs between the short-term benefits and the long-term costs of software development decisions. TD is seeing an explosion of interest in the practitioner community, and research in this area is quickly having an impact on practice. We argue that this is due to several strands of empirical research reaching a level of maturity that provides useful benefits to practitioners, who in turn provide excellent data to researchers. They key is providing observable benefit to practitioners, such as the ability to tie technical debt measures to business goals, and the ability to articulate more sophisticated value-based propositions regarding how to prioritize rework. TD is an interesting case study in how the maturing field of empirical software engineering research is paying dividends. It is only a little hyperbolic to call this a watershed moment for empirical study, where many areas of progress are coming to a head at the same time.