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What is a Traceability Matrix? The Complete Guide

Table of Contents

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 visual aid that combines two baseline documents that need a many-to-many relationship 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 at the completion of 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 and every 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 there are 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. 

There are various benefits that 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 while 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. 

Key elements of an RTM:

There are several things that an RTM must contain. They include:

  • Unique Requirements ID
  • Type of the requirements
  • Description of the requirements
  • A trace to design the specifications
  • References of integration test cases
  • References of unit test cases
  • References of system test cases
  • References of user acceptance test cases
  • A trace of the test scripts

Prerequisites for an RTM:

Several key elements of a requirements traceability matrix include:

  • Assessment of business requirements
  • List of the project objectives
  • Project scope
  • Design of the product to be developed
  • Plan for developing the product
  • Testing strategy
  • High-level requirements

Top Tools for RTM:

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

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 traceabilities 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.

Jama is a leading application for application lifecycle management that provides a great platform for risk and test management. Jama helps you minimize the risk of delay, defects, cost outrun, and the manual efforts that have been put in by the development teams. Jama assists you in building complex products and systems, improving cycle times, enhancing the quality, reducing the rework, and minimizing the efforts used for proving compliance. 

Spira Teams is a premium ALM platform that helps you in managing your requirements, releases, tests, issues, and tasks in a single integrated environment. It supports agile project management and methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban. It also offers an incorporated dashboard with important metrics of the project. 

Modern Requirements is a cloud-based requirement management tool that integrates with Azure DevOps, TFS, and VSTS. It offers strong traceability to project managers throughout each stage of the process. Modern Requirements works for various industries like healthcare, banking, and technology by managing their requirements for one or many projects. 

IBM DOORS is the next best requirements management tool in today’s market. The best thing IBM offers is great compatibility with other tools in the field. IBM offers flexible solutions suitable for large-scale enterprises along with a high-level granularity and configurability. 

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