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traceability matrix
Iryna Kravchenko Iryna KravchenkoChief Editor
Technology·

What is a traceability matrix?

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 worry about food quality and safety. Huge exporters are facing pressing issues from the consumers’ side. Thus, they 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 should 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 was 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 gather customer requirements. Once the team has got the requirements, it 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 gave the requirements 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.  

Traceability matrix template

What is a traceability matrix? According to Technopedia’s definition, it is a document 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.  

Traceability matrix template

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Traceability matrix template

We need a traceability matrix to understand how one requirement affects another. Ultimately, all the requirements are presented as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The latter 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 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.  

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

Read more about the business analysis phase.

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

Quality assurance (QA) teams also use a traceability matrix to understand what should be tested. This enhances the coverage of test cases to requirements. Ultimately, traceability can prove 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.  

A software 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.  

Requirement traceability in software testing

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

Using a 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 as follows: forward traceability, backward traceability, and bi-directional traceability that combines two previous types.  

Bi-directional traceability

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Bi-directional traceability

Fundamental parameters of the traceability matrix in software testing include the following things: 

Test execution report

A test execution report is another area where we can use traceability proactively. 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. Developers use these tools 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 convert 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?

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 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, so it is good to consider all 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: 

Along with traceability matrix templates, you must 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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