What is Requirement Traceability Matrix and Why You Should Use it in Project Management

What is Requirement Traceability Matrix

The Standish CHAOS Report states that 71% of software projects fail due to poor requirements management. We can imagine this number being much higher when we consider all industries. Project failure leads to wasted investments and time, frustrated employees, a bad reputation, and lost revenue. 

Project managers often play the blame game and say things like “we couldn’t get all the information” or “The requirements kept changing.” But that’s the reality — in any project, there are multiple stakeholders and the requirements may change on the go because of the evolving business environment. 

So, how can we make sure the project you’ve made works, meets all the agreed upon requirements, and is able to accommodate changes along the way? The easiest way to go about this is by building a requirement traceability matrix. 

Read more to learn about what a requirement traceability matrix is and how you can create one for your business. 

What is the Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM)? 

The easiest way to define a requirement traceability matrix (RTM) is that it’s a scientific tool, often in the form of a document or chart, that serves as a record of all project specs. This document tracks project scope, deliverables, and demand from the start to the end of a project cycle. 

Managing a project is stressful and trying to catch every “what-if” situation to ensure the project doesn’t derail adds more burden on the shoulders of a project manager. The RTM decreases the stress and pressure of managing and executing projects because it captures all demands from all stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. 

A company can use a traceability matrix in any of the following scenarios:

  • To develop project/product requirements
  • To test quality and ensure the final product is error free and does what it’s supposed to do
  • To conduct a risk analysis 
  • To create a proposal or project plan 
  • To meet compliance protocols
  • To create testing standards 

In the software and manufacturing industries, it’s common to develop a requirement matrix to ensure that the software or product is tested at the appropriate level. For instance, in a medical device company, the RTM can be used to check if the equipment is functioning correctly and meeting the standards of the medical industry. 

What an RTM does

An RTM performs the following functions in a project: 

  • Demonstrates the relationship between requirements and other artifacts
  • Document requirements, tests, test results, and issues
  • Tracks the requirement, its source, shifts, and how the requirements will be delivered throughout the project life cycle
  • Tracks requirements across all stages of the project 
  • Assess the success of the project

Different Types of Traceability 

There are three types of requirement traceability most commonly used in project management: forward, backward, and bidirectional. We will explain each type in more detail. 

  • Forward Traceability: Most commonly used to trace a requirement to a test or future movement. It ensures that the project is tested thoroughly. Let’s take an example of a new type of running shoe that is supposed to increase your speed by 2%. Each feature and design of the shoe will be tested to make sure it’s meeting the specs. 
  • Backward Traceability: This is exactly the opposite of forward traceability, where you are mapping each test case to a requirement. This type of traceability is favored in scenarios where there is a risk of “over-doing” the initial requirements and scope. An example of this can be found in the baking industry, where once a unique recipe is developed, it’s then taken back through the chain to identify the steps, ingredients, suppliers, etc, utilized. 
  • Bidirectional Traceability: As the name states, this form of traceability combines both forward and backward methods. So each requirement or spec can be linked to a forward test case and vise-versa. We recommend bidirectional traceability to ensure the highest chance of project success. 
Resource management and allocation

Various Components Requirement Traceability Matrix

As mentioned earlier, the RTM is typically a table or chart that lists each spec in a separate row, against its testing process. The RTM is designed as per the company’s specific standards, however, there are some essential components that are applicable in all frameworks. 

  • Requirement Identification (ID) - A numerical identification of the specification. Using a standardized code system makes it easy to manage this. 
  • Requirement Type - Which department or function does this specification fall under? 
  • Requirement Description - Brief description of the requirement. It could be “send automated e-mail” or “running shoes should dry in X time” 
  • Test Case Identification (ID) - Much like the requirement ID, assign a numerical or alphabetical test ID code to each spec. 
  • Test Results - Document whether the test case ID passed, failed, or is in-process against each requirement ID. 
  • Notes - A column to add any specific notes. You can choose to include Details about why the test failed or passed in this part. 

In some cases, a company might decide on including the following fields in their traceability matrix as well: requesting department/client, project objective, and/or design status. 

The following table gives an example of a Requirement Traceability Matrix. 

Requirement ID

Requirement Type

Description

Test Case ID

Test Results 

Notes 

AD1

Customer Login Page

Customers need a page where they can login or create an account

Test04

Passed

AD2 

Landing page

Starting page for customer

Test01

Passed

AD3

Forget password 

A link on customer login page

Test06

Failed

Forget password link isn’t coming


Advantages of a Requirement Traceability Matrix

What does having a requirement traceability matrix bring to your organization and project management? First of all, an RTM is an important component of project documentation that helps you deliver projects that meet the end-goal. If you want to consistently deliver high-quality solutions for clients, you’d want to create a RTM. 

Other benefits of creating a RTM are: 

Helps You Stay On Track

One can look at the RTM as a document that dictates project direction and timing. The process of mapping out the requirements and related testing processes keeps the project on track. For project managers, the RTM aids in managing the scope of requirements. They can also assess if the requirements are realistic in comparison to the deadline. Another benefit of the RTM is that it eliminates the scenarios of adding too many unnecessary bells and whistles to a product as that can impact the delivery deadline. 

Improves Planning 

One increases the chance of project success when things are planned well. With an RTM, each job specification is accounted for, tested, and improved upon. The matrix also highlights interdependencies amongst the tasks. This can provide insight into how the entire project will be impacted if there’s a change to any of the requirements. 

Provides Better Documentation

The RTM provides a complete and succinct documentation of the entire project cycle and performance. The chart can make it easier to identify and rectify errors. Also, the data captured in the RTM can be presented to a client or even used for future planning. 

Aids in Understanding Test Requirements

With an RTM, you know what you’re testing, how, and why. The document also helps you ensure the tests are valid and reliable. The documents also logs testing bugs and solutions which can again be used for future project planning. Through testing of all features reduces defects and improves product quality. All of this leads to greater customer satisfaction. 

Fosters Communication and Collaboration

The RTM also serves as a single source of truth for project information that can be shared with all stakeholders. The clear listing of each requirement eliminates communication and confusion. It also identifies which person or team is responsible for that feature so any concerns can be taken up with the right resource. 

4 Steps to Create a Requirement Traceability Matrix

Eager to create a requirement traceability matrix and eliminate confusion, build accountability, and increase project efficiency? Follow our simple four steps, and you will be on your way to experiencing the benefits of the RTM. 

Step 1: Identify RTM Goals

Before you start using an RTM, you should know why you are gravitating towards it. What is it that the RTM will help you achieve? Reduce product defects? Ensure thorough testing? Or make sure that the final product meets the requirements put forth by the customer? 

Step 2: List out Client Goal and all Requirements

Now it’s about knowing the client’s goal and listing out all requirements pertaining to it. Is your client a clothing brand and they want you to create an app for a seamless shopping experience? In this case, the key points will be having all products listed along with pictures and detailed description, quick loading app, and a functioning payment gateway. 

Speak to the customer, customer’s clients, and other experts to build a detailed list of requirements. Each requirement should include an unambiguous description of its functionality and purpose. 

Step 3: Create a Chart or use a Template

Use a dedicated RTM tool, like a software or app, or a template, to create your chart. A quick Google search will yield free templates that can be downloaded and customized. 

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A requirement traceability matrix can also be built on Excel, just remember to include all the relevant components (mentioned earlier in the blog) in it. The only issue with using Excel to manage your RTM is that all changes need to be entered in manually which can be an administrative headache. Excel sheets are also prone to human error. 

This YouTube video on creating the RTM on Excel has some helpful tips.

Step 4: Complete, Track, and Modify Matrix as per Needs 

Once you have created the chart, complete all the fields with as much detail as possible. As the project progresses and requirements evolve, update the RTM to reflect the changes. This includes adding new requirements, modifying existing ones, and linking them to the appropriate artifacts. Regularly review and maintain the RTM to ensure it remains accurate and up-to-date.

We would again like to point out that the RTM is a live document that should be updated throughout the project's lifecycle to reflect changes. This will keep the document as a single source of truth and maintain the integrity of the traceability links. Keeping the document updated ensures that requirements are not overlooked, are implemented correctly, and are adequately tested. All these factors contribute to the successful delivery of the project.

Timesheet management

Pairing Requirement Traceability Matrix with Resource Management Software

To gain even more insights and advantages, it can be wise to pair your RTM with a resource management software. Here’s how combining the two can be beneficial to your project outcomes: 

Enhanced Project Visibility:

  • By integrating them, you gain a comprehensive view of the project, linking requirements with the resources needed for their fulfillment. This allows for better planning and allocation of resources based on prioritized requirements.

Improved Resource Management:

  • Knowing which requirements need what resources, allows for efficient allocation of personnel, skills, and time. As a project leader, you can quickly identify resource gaps. For instance, if a project requires a data analyst, but you don’t have another analyst on the team, you know it’s time to hire one or increase training initiatives. 
  • Also, if a crucial resource is unavailable, the integrated RMT and resource allocation platform will highlight alternative resources or adjust the project schedule to mitigate any potential impact.

Increased Efficiency:

  • With employee management software, you will first be able to identify the best resource for each specific requirement. Not only that, but you will get a gauge on how many resources will be required. With this information, you can estimate project timelines and budgets more accurately. The combination of RTM and resource allocation tools reduces waste and improves project delivery efficiency.

Reduced Risk:

  • Visibility of resource utilization against requirements helps identify potential bottlenecks and risks early on. With this knowledge, you can take corrective actions before project completion is jeopardized. For instance, you will be able to see if a specific resource is overloaded with multiple testing requirements. Straining one resource can create errors, reduce productivity, and increase stress. As a project manager, you can step in and reduce their workload. 

Enhanced Collaboration:

  • Integrating RTM with resource management software facilitates communication and collaboration between team members. Each member can easily see what resources are assigned to which requirements, and who has expertise in certain areas. This visibility fosters team communication and accountability.

The RTM and resource management software, when paired together, create a powerful synergy that enhances project visibility, optimizes resource allocation, improves decision-making, and delivers projects on time and within budget.

eRS — The Complete Resource Management Solution

eResourceScheduler is a reputed, cloud-based resource management tool with GANTT chart capabilities that lets you identify and allocate resources to tasks. It highlights task interdependencies and has real-time reports that track project progress, financial budgets, and resource utilization rates. The best part is that eRS can easily be synced with any requirement traceability matrix. 

So, to satisfy all your project and resources needs, start your 14-day free trial of eRS today.

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