Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)

Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)

Requirements Traceability Matrix is a document that traces and identifies user's requirements with test cases. RTM captures all the requirements proposed by a client and requirement traceability in one form. With the help of the Requirements Traceability Matrix, you are showing the relationship between requirements and other artifacts. RTM is used to prove that all the requirements have been fulfilled. In most cases, it documents issues, test results, tests, and client's demands. Now, let's break down this term even more and explain its purpose!

What does the requirement traceability matrix include?

RTM includes several things:

  1. Requirement ID: each requirement needs to have a unique ID, which you can later decompress into smaller pieces.
  2. Short description: write a brief description of a requirement, be concise, and use a title to describe it.
  3. Project objectives and business needs: again, you need to be short, describe business needs and add a couple of project objectives.
  4. The name of the person who requested a requirement: we recommend you put the source of the requirement.
  5. Connect requirement with WBS elements: the project team will use the WBS element number to implement the requirement.
  6. Link requirements to test cases: even RTM requires list-related test cases.

The purpose of a requirements traceability matrix

We could say that the primary purpose of RTM is to monitor project demands throughout a project's life cycle. Additionally, it's often used to check the status of ongoing requirements. This document connects the project requirements from the beginning till the end. It records every requirement, its source, and monitors how it will be delivered throughout the project.

Types of requirements traceability

Forward traceability. We use forward traceability to link the requirements and test cases. In this case, we will make sure that every requirement is tested thoroughly. For instance, when a customer requires to see progress, you may need to adjust requirements. By making these adjustments, your team members can keep pace with changes.

Backward traceability. You can make backward traceability by linking test cases with the requirements. By doing so, you get to avoid scope creep. Also, backward traceability enables you clarity into the origin of each derived requirement.

Bidirectional traceability. Last but not least, bidirectional traceability combines the previous two into one document. This type is beneficial when you want to establish that each requirement has a relating test case.

Creating a traceability matrix

Set up your goals. This is the first step when creating a traceability matrix. Decide why do you want to make RTM? For instance, you may need RTM to prove that you have met all the requirements for the particular product.

Collect artifacts. Decide which artifacts to include, in most cases, RTM features issues, test results, tests, and requirements. Once you define artifacts, you will need to collect them. This means locating the most recent requirement documents.

Create an RTM template. Once you have gathered and defined your documents, you are ready to create your template. For each artifact, you will need one column. For example, column 1: requirements, column 2: tests, and so on.

Use requirements document to copy/paste requirements. Open your requirements document and begin copying and pasting your requirements IDs into the first column.

Use the test case document to copy/paste test cases. The next step would be to enter test case IDs into the second column. Make sure that test cases are in the same row as the requirements they are linked to.

Copy/paste test issues and results. A test indicates that the requirement has been implemented. So, you'll need to run test results into your RTM, as well as issues that may appear.

Update the matrix continuously. While it takes a bit of effort to create a requirement traceability matrix, it's a full-time job keeping it updated.

The responsible person for the requirements traceability matrix

The question of the day, who is going to create and maintain RTM? The best person to do this job within your organization should be the one performing configuration control. Usually, every item or product in the requirement traceability matrix refers to an entity that must undergo configuration control.

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The information placed in the RTM has the goal of helping you interact with team members whenever you can to check the project's progress. To prepare for those interactions, you will need players to participate in those inspections. If you can't find different people for each role, at least provide clear instructions to people who will play several functions at once.

Managing requirements traceability

Connect contributors and stakeholders to the requirements. This way, you ensure that the right people can make the right decisions at the right time. Traceable relationships aren't only about connecting requirements but about connecting people as well. Each team member is associated with a particular requirement – quality assurance, verification, development, architecture, and analytics among them and customers and stakeholders who manage its status.

Bidirectional requirements to minimize the risks. If you decide to automate bidirectional requirements traceability, it will decrease risks and improve quality. Manually updating RTM isn't only tiresome but time-consuming and prone to mistakes, and in safety-critical products such as airplanes or medical tools, this risk isn't acceptable.

Link decisions, conversations, and data into a single system. It's crucial to be able to trace decisions, conversations, and data. But what happens if you encounter a gap or a test is failing? If you can discuss and work with people linked to the requirement right in the system, you will capture actions and decisions and keep that information connected to the requirement.

Perform formal evaluations. If you want to prove compliance with regulations, you have to present requirements to trace them to test plans and verify that all tests have passed. Therefore, if you use a requirements management solution that features built-in formal reviews and can make reports for auditors, this process becomes more reliable and less tiresome.

What every project manager need to know about a Requirements Traceability Matrix

Suppose a project manager wants to ensure that deliverables and project activities align with business requirements. They need to find a way to capture and locate all relevant information and compare it to the baseline. RTM is a valuable tool that helps project managers measure and capture the project's accuracy to business needs or stakeholders. RTM analyzes the client's requirements, ensuring there is no defect or flaws in deliverables. This is probably one of the most important things every PM needs to know about RTM.

The benefits of a Requirements Traceability Matrix

You can never go wrong with the requirement traceability matrix since it helps the team stay focused on accurate execution, goals, and tasks. Here are a couple of the most essential RTM benefits to consider:

  • It will highlight any missing pieces, document inconsistencies, or requirements.
  • It will ensure that test coverage is completed.
  • It will point out execution status and all defects while focusing on business requirements.
  • It will analyze the QA expert's work in the context of re-working or revising the test cases.

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