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Introduction to Requirement Traceability Matrix

Today's world of software development is fast-paced and complex. Modern enterprises have many software applications and tools to manage their business processes and data. Every department has its own set of standards, protocols, and procedures that govern how they function daily. Keeping track of all the different software solutions, APIs, documents, tests, requirements, and other artifacts can be challenging. If you work in an organization with multiple departments or teams that build software applications or services (or if you are part of such a team), you know it's challenging to coordinate all the stakeholders involved in developing new features or fixing bugs in existing code. If your company uses multiple third-party vendors for various functions – such as accounting software, CRM programs, HRIS systems, e-commerce packages, etc. – it can be even more challenging to manage everything effectively from a single source.

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This blog post introduces you to the concept of requirement traceability matrix (also known as RTM). It explains why using an RTM is essential to your success as a software developer, project manager, or QA engineer. Finally, it provides guidance on creating one for your organization based on real-life examples from several companies that have successfully implemented this practice.

What is a Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM)?

A requirement traceability matrix (RTM) is a table that tracks which requirements were used to build each deliverable item – such as user stories, tasks, bugs, or requirements for other types of deliverables such as test cases, design documents, code modules, or user manuals. A requirement traceability matrix identifies the source of each requirement or other artifact used for building the deliverables. It can also track the traceability of deliverables back to their source (such as the requirements that were used to build the deliverable).

The goal of an RTM is to show which requirements or other artifacts were used to build a deliverable and vice versa. Each cell in a requirement traceability matrix represents one of these relationships.

  • An RTM is usually created as a table that has the following fields:
  • Artifact (such as a requirement, user story, or test case)
  • Source (such as a business requirement, functional requirement, design document, code module, or another artifact)
  • Relationship (such as "uses," "implements," "refers to," or "built on")
  • Target (such as a requirement, user story, or test case)
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Why is a Requirement Traceability Matrix so important?

Keeping track of requirements is one of the most critical aspects of product development. The information about each requirement should be easily accessible to everyone on the team – developers, designers, product managers, or QA engineers. A requirement traceability matrix is the most effective way of managing and tracking requirements across the product development lifecycle. It will also help you manage changes to requirements by providing a clear picture of how each requirement was built.

This information can be essential if you ever need to re-architect or re-design a large-scale product. The RTM also helps you identify gaps in your requirements.
You can use it to audit existing artifacts (such as user stories or test cases) and check whether they correlate with your requirements or not. You can also use it to audit requirements to ensure there are no gaps in your code. Having an RTM in place will help you quickly identify missing or incorrect requirements and close gaps in your project.

What is an Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM) Tools?

If you are new to creating an RTM, you may find that it's not easy to get started. You will most likely spend a lot of time researching tools, templates, and best practices that will be helpful to your team. One of the best ways to create an RTM is to use a tool that makes it simple to create a visual representation of your project and import data from your source control system.

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How to use a Requirement Traceability Matrix in Agile Projects?

ou are part of an Agile team, you may be wondering how you can use an RTM effectively. A requirement traceability matrix can be helpful in Agile projects. Still, it's essential to keep in mind that it is different from an Agile product backlog. The Agile product backlog is an organic, ever-changing list of requirements that will be delivered in the next release of your product. On the other hand, the requirement traceability matrix is a static list of requirements that were used to build the feature or product backlog item.

The requirement traceability matrix can be created once, but the feature or product backlog can be updated frequently. You can use the requirement traceability matrix to audit existing artifacts (such as user stories or test cases) and check whether they correlate with your requirements or not. You can also use it to audit requirements to ensure there are no gaps in your project.

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Best practices for creating and using a requirement traceability matrix

Here are some best practices for creating and using an RTM:

  • Define a clear relationship between the fields in the table
  • Source and Relationship fields should be self-explanatory. The Target field should be linked to the artifact that the field represents. The Target field should represent a specific item (a user story or test case) and not a group of items. 
  • Make sure the table has all the required fields. There may be some fields that are specific to your organization.
  • Build the table with your team during the project's planning phase.
  • Create a separate table for each project or product. You can also create a separate table for each major release or phase of the project.
  • Add new entries to the table as you work on new requirements, deliverables, and changes to existing items.
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Conclusion

This article introduced you to the concept of requirement traceability matrix (also known as RTM). It explained why an RTM is essential to your software developer, project manager, or QA engineer's success. It also provided guidance on creating one for your organization based on real-life examples from several companies that have successfully implemented this practice. This article also explained that an RTM is the most effective way of managing and tracking requirements across the product development lifecycle. An RTM also helps you identify gaps in your requirements and identify missing or incorrect requirements. No doubt creating and using an RTM will help you and your team succeed!

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