Manifestation of technical debt in information system selection problems of small companies

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
The concept of technical debt, first described by Ward Cunningham (1992), is predominantly researched in a software development -related context. The concept, which is universally understood as metaphorical to a cost of postponement or compromise in the technological world, can also arguably be adopted to serve meaningful purpose in different technical topics such as information system selections. The existing literature on the topic, albeit vast, has a gap in terms of research approaches that venture outside the traditional context, which sparked the idea of writing this thesis. This thesis studies the manifestation of technical debt in these selection problems through a literature review followed by an empirical project study which has been conducted as part of a real-life corporate project. The organization with which the study has been conducted in collaboration with, is a Finnish SME which operates in the mining sector. The main value-focus is to generate practical information on the subject, without forgetting theoretical contribution towards filling the gap in existing literature. The study suggests that the concept of technical debt indeed manifests in these information system selection problems, by both assuming a role in deliberate utilization via specifications, decision-making frameworks and as a guiding concept which is inherently intertwined into these parts of the process. The key findings also indicate that companies that are resource constrained in addition to not having the needed technical expertise, may significantly benefit from utilizing technical debt in their information system selections but for the above-mentioned reasons, may be unable to do so. To fortunately counterweight this phenomenon, technical debt may assume an invisible and involuntary role in these processes – meaning that while it may not be utilized by decision, the concept may still manifest in these processes if certain level of rigorousness is met.
Thesis advisor
Penttinen, Esko
information system, strategy, technical debt, SME, selection problem
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