Technical Debt and Waste in Non-functional Requirements Documentation: An Exploratory Study

  • Gabriela RobioloEmail author
  • Ezequiel Scott
  • Santiago Matalonga
  • Michael Felderer
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11915)


Background: To adequately attend to non-functional requirements (NFRs), they must be documented; otherwise, developers would not know about their existence. However, the documentation of NFRs may be subject to Technical Debt and Waste, as any other software artefact. Aims: The goal is to explore indicators of potential Technical Debt and Waste in NFRs documentation. Method: Based on a subset of data acquired from the most recent NaPiRE (Naming the Pain in Requirements Engineering) survey, we calculate, for a standard set of NFR types, how often respondents state they document a specific type of NFR when they also state that it is important. This allows us to quantify the occurrence of potential Technical Debt and Waste. Results: Based on 398 survey responses, four NFR types (Maintainability, Reliability, Usability, and Performance) are labelled as important but they are not documented by more than 22% of the respondents. We interpret that these NFR types have a higher risk of Technical Debt than other NFR types. Regarding Waste, 15% of the respondents state they document NFRs related to Security and they do not consider it important. Conclusions: There is a clear indication that there is a risk of Technical Debt for a fixed set of NFRs since there is a lack of documentation of important NFRs. The potential risk of incurring Waste is also present but to a lesser extent.


Non functional requirements Technical Debt Waste 



The authors would like to thank all practitioners who took the time to respond to the NaPiRE survey as well as all colleagues involved in the NaPiRE project. The authors further acknowledge Dietmar Pfahl’s contribution to research process described in this paper. Ezequiel Scott is supported by the Estonian Center of Excellence in ICT research (EXCITE), ERF project TK148 “IT Tippkeskus EXCITE”. Gabriela Robiolo is supported by Universidad Austral.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriela Robiolo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ezequiel Scott
    • 2
  • Santiago Matalonga
    • 3
  • Michael Felderer
    • 4
  1. 1.LIDTUA (CIC), Facultad de IngenieríaUniversidad AustralBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Institute of Computer ScienceTartu UnviersityTartuEstonia
  3. 3.School of Computing, Engineering and Physical SciencesUniversity of the West of ScotlandPaisleyUK
  4. 4.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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