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Best Practices for Requirements Traceability

Best Practices for Requirements Traceability

Table of Contents

What is Requirements Traceability?

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. 

According to the IEEE 830, 1998 standards, “A software requirements specification is traceable if (i) the origin of each of its requirements is clear and if (ii) it facilitates the referencing of each requirement in future development or enhancement documentation”. 

Challenges during Traceability

There are various difficulties that are faced while creating traceability among the requirements. They include:

  • Cost – Since the whole traceability process is mostly manual and less automated, specialized tools and techniques are required. This makes full traceability quite expensive. 
  • Delayed Gratification – Some fruits take time to rip. Full traceability is one such process. Its true benefits come late during the development cycle. 
  • Time-Consuming – Huge range of different documents, tools, etc are used for full traceability. Complete information is provided to each and every stakeholder. Hence, this whole procedure can be a bit time-consuming.

What are the Benefits of Requirements Traceability?

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. 

5 Best Practices to Adopt Traceability

Practice 01: 

Ensure proper Bi-directional traceability to lower the risks & enhance transparency:

Bi-directional traceability is a combination of forward and backward traceability. That means, from requirements to the end product and also, the other way around. When the requirements are managed properly, traceability can be established from source requirements to all their lower-level requirements and vice versa. Such a type of traceability helps ensure that all the requirements have been completely addressed and all the lower-level requirements can be traced to a valid source.   

Practice 02:

Update your RTM on time to mitigate any confusion: 

A traceability matrix can only help if it is properly updated and has appropriate information. Now, imagine updating this traceability matrix manually. Yep, that would be extremely exhausting and time-sapping work and would leave a lot of space for human mistakes. When working in a critical industry such as medical devices, mistakes are not something you can afford. In such situations, you might wanna consider an automated RTM tool. This will help in the proper and timely updation of your traceability matrices. 

Practice 03:

Proper review and documentation for regulatory compliance is a must: 

In case your project is subject to compliance with a set of rules and regulations, proper review and reporting of requirements traceability stand to be quite essential. Using a requirements management system with a built-in feature for conducting reviews and generating reports comes quite in handy. 

Practice 04:

Make sure all the contributors and stakeholders are on the same page with all the decisions:

Establishing traceability within artifacts is important. Similarly, establishing a strong relationship among all the stakeholders and contributors is also essential to ensure that they are all on the same page. Having all the architects, developers, stakeholders, and other team members together helps in faster and better decision-making. 

Practice 05:

Using unique requirement IDs is a sound practice:

Having a unique identifier for each business and software requirement makes things a hell lot easier and alleviates any sort of confusion or mixing up of requirements. Usually, a unique combination of letters and numbers works things up.

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