Technical debt and waste in non-functional requirements documentation: an exploratory study

Gabriela Robiolo*, Ezequiel Scott, Santiago Matalonga, Michael Felderer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


It is important to pay attention to non-functional requirements (NFRs). To adequately attend to NFRs, they must be documented - otherwise, developers would not know about their existence. We assume that there exists a positive correlation between the level of importance of an NFR and its documentation.

The goal is to explore the relationship between the level of importance and degree of documentation for NFRs.

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 comprising Compatibility, Maintainability, Performance, Portability, Reliability, Safety, Security, and Usability how often respondents state they document a specific type of NFR when they also state that this type of NFR is important. In addition, we calculate the occurrence of potential Technical Debt and Waste.

Our analyses based on 398 survey responses indicate that for four NFR types (Maintainability, Reliability, Usability, and Performance), more than 22% of the 398 survey respondents who labelled those NFR types as important stated that they did not document them. We interpret this as an indication that these NFR types have a higher risk of Technical Debt than other NFR types. Regarding Waste, the problem is less frequent, with the exception of Security with 15% of respondents stating that they document requirements which they do not consider important.

There is a clear indication that for a fixed set of NFRs lack of documentation of important NFRs occurs often, suggesting a risk of Technical Debt. The potential risk of incurring Waste is also present but to a lesser extent.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProduct-Focused Software Process Improvement
Subtitle of host publication20th International Conference, PROFES 2019, Barcelona, Spain, November 27–29, 2019, Proceedings
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783030353339
ISBN (Print)9783030353322
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019
Event20th International Conference on Product-Focused Software Process Improvement - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 27 Nov 201929 Nov 2019

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISSN (Print)0302-9743


Conference20th International Conference on Product-Focused Software Process Improvement
Abbreviated titlePROFES 2019
Internet address


  • Non functional requirements
  • Technical debt
  • Waste


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