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What is a traceability matrix, and how to use it? Read how changes in requirements impact the project progress and how RTM could help you.

Author:

YURI KARPENKO

Position:

VP of Engineering

Over 25 years of experience in project/program management for financial institutions, software development, systems architecture, design, implementation, and integration. Managed delivery organization of 3500 engineers.

Traceability Matrix for Your Project Can Save Millions 

Food manufacturers all over the globe treat traceability as a top priority approach to the quality monitoring of their products. Since there occurred a lot of accidents recently, consumers are worried about food quality and safety. Huge exporters are facing pressing issues from the consumers’ side and need to continually prove that their food is safe to consume.  

Like in food manufacturing, traceability helps software development companies to adhere to international quality standards and be able to trace the connections between software requirements, security, cost of ownership and budget, while assessing and considering all the possible risks. To gain a complete understanding of what’s going on within the system, you must be able to track any tiny change and how it affects the entire composition.   

In software development, dozens of other functional and non-functional requirements should be appropriately defined, described, and finally communicated to the customer. Next, the customer should get a software architecture document. If you don’t have this documentation, you might get poor quality software. 

What’s Traceability and Why It Matters? 

Very often, CTOs get themselves into such a bind when they get scolded for spending more money than it was initially expected for software development. Could they spend less? They could. Concurrently, they face a lot of risks like the need to hire more people, delays, loss of control over the quality.  

The first thing that software development companies do is gathering customer requirements. Once the requirements are collected, the team proceeds to the development. However, the planning phase remains undervalued. During development and testing, it often occurs that the team hasn’t considered a lot of critical things. That’s how it goes. There’s always a difference between what we expected and what we get. How to close this gap? There is a bunch of methodologies to do things differently, but from our experience, traceability works best.  

What’s traceability? Imagine, you have requirements that are given to the team. However, once, these requirements may disappear. You make one change, then – another. As a result, it’s becoming a daunting task to evaluate how long it will take and how much it will cost to implement change requests. Different requirements impact the entire project workflow, and its outcomes, consequently. To mitigate these adverse effects caused by changes in requirements, we use a traceability matrix.  

What is a traceability matrix? According to Technopedia’s definition, it is a document designed to monitor business, system, security, and other requirements during the project’s implementation, testing, and release. This paper helps evaluate the relationship between different system parts and assess the status of requirements. The main goal of using traceability is to verify that the requirements are appropriately met.  




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A traceability matrix is needed to understand how one requirement affects another. Ultimately, all the requirements are presented as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that defines all the activities needed to deliver the expected business value. Traceability helps during the development and testing phases by making it clear what should be changed and how it will impact the rest of functionalities. When we test the change, we get to know what implications it will bring. Why is traceability important? It is needed to reduce the overall financial and software quality risks related to the project.  

Traceability matrix helps trace the implications caused by any changes applied to the project requirements that may affect performance, team composition, duration, etc.  

Traceability Benefits 

You don’t want your project changes to be a mere fluke, do you? Traceability excludes the influence of random effects. Every change can be accurately planned while considering every possible risk. Below are the main benefits of traceability: 

Reaching Objectives 

When created correctly, traceability allows tracing the full cycle of every single requirement. The requirement lifecycle starts when it originates and continues while it is being fulfilled. Matrix helps quickly find out if the requirement meets its goals. For example, it provides you with evidence that regulatory compliance of the system is met.  

Running Tests 

Traceability matrix is also used by quality assurance (QA) teams to understand what should be tested. This enhances the coverage of test cases to requirements. Ultimately, traceability is used as proof that your requirements have been appropriately realized.  

Decision Making 

The ability to trace any change allows you to see how the system design and architecture will be impacted by the requirements. Thus, you can timely react to these changes and make the right decision.  

Project Management 

Traceability is a perfect way to track the progress of the project. Your requirements relate to the test cases, so you are always aware of how far you have progressed.  

Your vendor must deliver end-to-end risk assessment services by informing you of what you need from your side, as well. Your outsourcing partner must clearly understand what you need. Only then can you reach your goals.  

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Requirement Traceability in Software Testing 

Another way of using the traceability matrix: test cases, execution of test cases report. 

Using requirements traceability matrix (RTM) in testing helps teams make sure that each of the customer requirements is included in SDLC as well as see if all these needs are covered by test cases. RTM in testing allows expediting the identification of any functionality missing. 

Traditionally, types of traceability matrix are divided into forward traceability, backward traceability, and bi-directional traceability that combines two previous types.  

Fundamental parameters that are usually included in the traceability matrix in software testing include the following things: 

  • Requirement ID, its type, and a short description 
  • Test-case number 
  • Number of test cases where requirements are covered 
  • Test status 
  • Unit / integration / system test cases 
  • Risks 
  • The status of user acceptance tests 
  • Any bugs, defects, issues, along with their status 

A test execution report is another area where traceability is proactively used. It is a document that reports to the testing team, PM, and PO the status of software testing. This report includes test plan status, test documentation status, and defects status and can be sent daily or weekly.  

Test execution report is crucial for understanding the results and making decisions on a release or further testing. When finishing the scope and preparing for release, the traceability matrix helps browse through thousands of issues and select the most relevant ones to be fixed. It also allows us to easily manage versioning (changes made in each version of the product) and integrations with third-party applications. 

Simply put, matrix tools work like a visual map used to capture the requirements, tests, and defects. It can be used both for project management and quality assurance to ensure the highest visibility and accounting of efforts required to complete the project successfully.  

Your vendor has provided the project estimation in man-hours. But how to converts these into dates? How to understand if the proposed team composition is suitable for the project’s needs (like dates and budget)?  Do you have a WBS? Do you know how each of the requirements changes affects the other functionalities? Have you got a critical path calculated? 

Traceability allows you to control the time and budget of the project. This approach to project management ensures the most transparent cooperation between a customer and a vendor. You, as a customer, get all the needed documentation and regular reports, which show how requirements change impact on the workflow and project budget, ultimately.  

Effects caused by any change shouldn’t be your headache. Your vendor must know how to solve these issues. Your requests mustn’t cost lots of money. They must be taken into consideration as possible risks in advance.  

How to Use Traceability? 

Traceability is not a piece of cake. It isn’t easy to use, but any budget owner can master it.   

Diceus offers technical guidance in teaching you how to use traceability and traceability matrix for your development processes.  

Conducting traceability can facilitate work in the following areas: 

  • Trace progress of the project from conception till delivery 
  • Plan and run software testing better 
  • Reduce efforts for non-priority tasks 
  • Receive adequate documentation on a regular basis 
  • Integrate third-party applications in an efficient way 
  • Analyze data and forecast time and budget accurately 
  • See all the dependencies and sequences of the project execution 
  • Save costs and time for core business activities 
  • Receive transparent reports on a budget use 
  • Achieve high quality of the final product 
  • Consider and mitigate most of the possible risks 

Below you will find a free requirements traceability matrix example for downloading. Along with traceability matrix templates, it is required to be an expert in filling in these documents. Otherwise, it makes no sense. So, we provide free consulting on how to use our sample and how to create a matrix on your own.  

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