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What is a Requirement Traceability Matrix? Definition, Importance, and Fundamentals

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What is Requirement Traceability?

O. Gotel and A. Finkelstein define requirements traceability as, “Requirements traceability refers to the ability to describe and follow the life of a requirement, in both a forward and backward direction”.

In other words, requirements traceability is the process of tracking requirements throughout the development cycle. During this, a thread of documents is prepared that provides complete bi-directional visibility of all the activities surrounding each requirement. Requirements traceability is considerably helpful in minimizing the potential risk of negative outcomes and maximizing productivity. 

What is the Requirement Traceability Matrix?

A traceability matrix is a document that combines two baseline documents that need many-to-many relationships to check the completeness of the relationship. A traceability matrix is used for one to keep a record of requirements and two to ensure requirement fulfillment. 

The requirement traceability matrix is another document that traces the user requirements with the test cases. It considers all the proposed requirements by the client and the requirement traceability in a single document and delivers it after the software development lifecycle. The main aim of RTM is to validate that all the requirements are cross-checked through test cases so that the no-functionality is ticked during the software testing process.

Types of Traceability Matrix:

Technically, there are three types of traceability matrix. Forward Traceability, Backward Traceability, and Bi-directional Traceability. 

  • Forward Traceability – Forward Traceability is traceability from requirements to test cases. It is performed to ensure that the project moves in the right direction and that each requirement is tested properly. 
  • Backward Traceability – Backward Traceability is traceability from test cases to requirements. It is performed to ensure that the project moves in the desired direction and that no extra or unspecified features are added to the product.
  • Bi-directional Traceability – Bi-directional Traceability is traceability in both forward and backward directions. Here, the test cases are mapped to requirements and vice versa. It is performed to ensure that all the test cases are traceable to each requirement and all the requirements specified are accurate and there are valid test cases for each of them. 

Importance of Traceability Matrix?

The main target of every tester is to understand the client’s requirements properly and ensure that the developed product is up to the mark and as defect-free as possible. Creating negative as well as positive test cases is what is required here. An RTM is a worksheet that contains all the information related to the client’s requirements. It also contains information about possible test cases and scenarios and at what stage they are currently. 

Various benefits are provided by requirements traceability. They include:

  • It makes impact analysis easier.
  • It helps in making changes properly. Hence, improves product quality.
  • It also helps define the traceability links in a way that it records the reverse engineering knowledge as well. 
  • In case a team member with vital knowledge leaves the company, having complete information transparency helps a lot. It majorly reduces the risk of incorrect development. 
  • It confirms 100% test coverage via an appropriate verification process. 

What are the different ways that can be used to create traceability?

  1. Free Text – When we have a set of requirements, in the end, we can just add a small section to add a set of names or codes that can help relate with the particular one. While this remains an option, it can get out of control pretty fast if you are to manage more than a few requirements. It also makes the impact analysis process almost impossible. 
  2. Traceability Table – We can also create a table that can have all the data of all the requirements. We can represent each requirement with a unique identification number and add the data accordingly. But this can be hard to maintain in the long run as the amount of data will only rise.
  3. Traceability Matrices – Matrices are a form of tables that are used to determine the completeness of the relationship between two baselined documents using many comparisons and visualizing the whole traceability matrix. Though it is a bit hard when hundreds of elements are involved in the process.
  4. Traceability Tool –  Using an effective requirement management tool like Visure Solutions with specific features to establish traceability, ensure full coverage of your requirements, and visualize them in the most efficient way possible would be a good idea. 

Top Tool for RTM:

The top tools that you can use for managing your requirements traceability matrix include:

Visure Solutions – 

Visure is one of the most trusted ALM platforms that specialize in requirements management for organizations of all sizes across the globe. It is flexible and completely capable of streamlining the requirements processes allowing a better, efficient, and more collaborative work environment. Data analysts can create relationships, generate hierarchies, manage traceability and automatically capture requirements from MS Excel, Outlook, and MS Word. Visure supports standard compliance templates for ISO 26262, IEC 62304, IEC 61508, CENELEC 50128, DO-178B/C, FMEA, SPICE, CMMI, etc. The platform integrates with several third-party solutions, such as Accompa, Jira, MS Sharepoint, and Salesforce.

Generating a Traceability Matrix in Visure Requirements:

The process of creating a Requirements Traceability Matrix should begin with goal setting to specify what the RTM should deliver. As we explained earlier, there are different types of RTM, and it’s important to gather the right information for the right matrix.

The next step is requirements tracing. These days, requirements tracing is done with the help of a requirements traceability tool, like the one provided by Visure Solutions. It is easier to gather requirements from MS Word, MS Excel, ReqIF, and other sources, manage changes in the different phases of the lifecycle with the help of a traceability tool and segregate the requirements as tested or untested.

Designed to provide integral support to the complete requirement process, Visure Requirements is a state-of-the-art requirements management software tool that stands out with its customizability and ease of use. Visure Requirements comes with several RTM reports that can be customized and generated with just a few clicks.

Requirements Traceability Matrix Software

A typical RTM generated by Visure Requirements contains product requirements, system requirements, components requirements, risks, and tests. Visure Requirements can export RTMs to multiple different formats, including PDF and XLS.

Managing the entire requirements process in a single tool makes it easy for stakeholders to understand, follow, and participate, and it also helps ensure that the collected requirements define the system required by the users.

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Louis Arduin

Louis Arduin

Senior Consultant, Visure Solutions

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Senior Software Quality Consultant, Razorcat Development GmbH

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