What product made today isn’t a system?
As products get smarter, building them right becomes a matter of managing complexity. Products have more requirements and companies have globally distributed teams and more products in their portfolios.
But when a single new product, version or variant has thousands of requirements and interdependencies, the process of defining, engineering and managing them grows exponentially more complicated. Traceability becomes more challenging.
Gartner highlights one of the main reasons companies struggle to achieve the benefits of traceability:
“The most widely adopted tools for requirements continue to be general document software such as Microsoft Office or Google Docs (40% to 50% of the market) due to cost, availability and familiarity. Yet these often lead to poorly managed requirements, thus eliminating and exceeding any cost benefit the tools themselves have. Requirements end up captured in a variety of documents and spreadsheets supplemented by post-it notes in unmanaged versions with no traceability or reuse. This creates a more costly user acceptance testing cycle, both in the time to execute as well as remediation of issues found late in the process, where they are far more costly to address.”Gartner Market Guide for Software Requirements Definition and Management Solutions 2014
Document-centric tools might suffice—if all requirements are equal, and if your team, project and scope are so small that you’re the only person who needs to know how the system you’re building is impacted.
But it’s likely that these tools harm more than they help. Here’s what that spreadsheet on your desktop can’t do:
- manage the complex web of traceability to understand the relationships between requirements and the people who are responsible for them
- quickly find who and what are impacted by changes to the system
- ensure that each requirement is validated and verified, that the completed product delivers what was asked for and that the system has been thoroughly tested
The tool you choose and how you use it influences how efficiently and effectively you’re able to tackle complex challenges and support engineering and business.
The Top Three Bottom-Line Benefits of Traceability
- Connect test cases to requirements. If you can’t do this, you can’t be sure you haven’t overlooked something critical. Anything you miss at any stage can, and usually will, result in revisions that cost you time and money.
- Connect system requirements to business/stakeholder requirements. Same as above: Miss this connection and you’ll risk incurring unplanned expenses that can ultimately affect the launch date, stakeholders’ confidence and the bottom line—all three if the changes affect hardware.
- Improve decomposition. To make sure that components and sub-components all come together to make a useful, functional system, you need to relate the lower-level requirements to the higher-level requirements. Make a mistake here, and you’ll likely deal with delays as you scramble to put the pieces back together and make late-stage changes.
In many industries, especially those tied to regulatory compliance, traceability isn’t just a best practice, it’s a mandate. This paper outlines five ways Jama, a modern requirements management and validation and verification solution, helps systems engineers take control of traceability to keep engineering and business aligned.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? You just received feedback from your best customer mid-project, and a high-level business requirement needs to change. How will this change impact the system specification your engineers are working on right now? How will it impact scope for the upcoming release?
Your QA team just found a show-stopping bug in your most popular new feature and you’re two weeks away from launch. Do you ship with the known bug or delay the launch? Who is working on that feature? Who else needs to be notified and weigh in on the decision? What else does
These scenarios occur daily for engineering teams. So,
how do you deal with them? Traceability—but if the path
of connections isn’t easy to create and follow, it adds to your problems.
The Advantages of Intuitive Traceability
Traceability should never, ever add complexity. Jama makes it easy to perform and report on traces so that you stay on time, on budget and within scope.
For most organizations, the benefits outweigh the time required to set up traceability by at least 2x. With a consistent process, structured templates and a modern requirements management tool, you benefit from an automated and streamlined process:
- Minimize Risk
- Grow Productivity
- Control Scope Changes
- Complete Test Coverage
- Improve Quality
- Increase Visibility
- Reduce Development Costs
- Accelerate Innovation
Before we get into best practices, we’d like to clarify some basic definitions. Systems engineers know these well, but we want to make sure you understand our references.
As defined by INCOSE (International Council of Systems Engineering): “Traceability documents how the formal requirements are intended to meet the stakeholder objectives and achieve stakeholder agreement.”
Trace relationships are the links between items within the scope of a project, used to help assess impact on other items when a change occurs.
Upstream relationships, aka “backward traceability,” looks at the links between detailed functional requirements back up to the original customer need and high-level requirements captured. Using upstream relationships ensures that the evolving product remains on track to meet product goals and customer needs. Upstream relationships help to avoid scope creep.
Downstream relationships, aka “forward traceability,” looks at the links between detailed functional requirements, test cases, tasks, defects and other items that support it. Downstream relationships ensure that you’re building the right product.
A Coverage Report associates requirements with the work products that satisfy them. Often it’s used to track tests associated with the requirements on which they are based and the product tested to meet the requirement.
Using Impact Analysis, you can capture the traceability links between requirements, specifications, design and tests. You can analyze relationships to determine the scope of an initiating change.
Used for change control, a detailed history of each requirement and other items is documented and stored in a unified system of record, enabling complete audit trails used over the life cycle of the requirement. Version histories are required for industry compliance in specific industries.
Suspect Links help manage the impact of requirement changes. A trace relationship (or link) becomes suspect after an upstream requirement in the relationship changes. A Suspect Links report is often used along with Impact Analysis for assessing impact before making a change.
ISO 9001 concerns the management of the requirements that your systems’ standards must satisfy. According to the International Organization for Standardization, this standard “helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.”
“Jama is instrumental in allowing us to document requirements and define the scope of our projects. It’s allowed us to formally document our applications from change requests to formal functional/performance requirements and ensure traceability of requirements.”Jonathan Kobaly,
CDG-Inmedius, a Boeing Company
The Five Best Practices for Simplifying Traceability
- Trace relationships to represent systematic decomposition and test coverage
- Ensure traceability reporting and proper coverage using Coverage Explorer
- Assess the impact of change before it occurs with Impact Analysis
- Document changes for complete visibility and a detailed audit trail with Version History
- Stay synced with Stream communication. By referencing people and items through @mentions, you can easily track comments through filters and history
1. Trace Relationships
As in many aspects of life, your product and system development success is highly dependent on relationships. All details such as user requirements, functional requirements, test cases and other items that define the scope of what you’re building are related in some fashion, either directly or indirectly. Here’s an example of a common process flow:
Trace relationships to connect artifacts together to map out interdependencies between the different items. These relationships are the foundation for effective traceability. Below is an example of traceability showing both upstream and downstream trace relationships.
Traceable relationships are as much about connecting the people involved as they are about connecting all items. Each requirement in the system has members of your team associated with it—analysts, architects, development, verification and quality assurance among them—and stakeholders and customers who care about its status.
When one item changes, it has a ripple effect on other related items and the people associated with the items. Keeping track of this ripple effect is crucial to the success of your projects. It’s one of the primary reasons organizations need
Specifically, tracing relationships identifies the individuals and teams affected by change and allows them to discuss and make decisions in context.
2. Coverage Explorer
“Reviews are tremendously valuable in Jama. Likewise, the user interface is very intuitive for 90 percent of the features that users must quickly access. These are among the top reasons why we selected Jama as the official Shure RM Tool. The excellent customer support that we get makes the Jama team (business, sales and technical staff) feel like an extension of our Shure staff.”Tony Branch,
Product Platform Planning Staff Systems Engineer, Shure Incorporated
Traceability reporting through Jama Coverage Explorer visually represents the coverage of your product and system, helping you align users, maintain quality, meet compliance regulations and understand the impact of change.
Users can view related items and understand the status of those items. For example, users can verify that their requirements have downstream test cases and see what percentage of those test cases have passed.
In the simple example below, a list of requirements are shown along with their state in the first column. In the second column, the downstream verification tests are listed for each requirement. From this view, teams can see what verification coverage they have, where verification tests are missing and get high-level verification results.
Every test case has a comment and activity stream accessible to all users. Testers and contributors can capture decisions, answer questions and resolve issues transparently and responsively.
3. Impact Analysis
What if you could anticipate the impact of a change on your project and the entire team before it occurred? Will this change request send the development team over the edge? What if you could predict the whether? These insights are possible with Impact Analysis. Impact Analysis relies on the trace relationships you set up, and it reports on the complete picture of all the items that are directly and indirectly affected.
Here’s an example of an automated impact analysis report for a high-level business requirement. If this requirement changes, three directly related system requirements, downstream software requirements and numerous verification tests would all be affected.
4. Version History
Capturing a complete and detailed record of all changes is a critical element for reaching higher levels of requirements maturity within your process, such as ISO 9001.
Version History is for those among us who like to (or have to) roll up our sleeves and get deep into the details of every change. It also helps companies meet regulatory compliance standards in fields such as aerospace and medical devices.
One of the benefits of traceability is having a comprehensive audit trail of changes, so you can analyze the who, what, when and why of every change made. At the same time, you can easily roll back to an earlier version because it’s all stored in the definitive system of record and action.
Here’s an example of a side-by-side comparison of two versions, using an automated process within Jama. For efficiency gains, the specific field that changed is highlighted in yellow, so you don’t have to spend time hunting around the full requirements specification document to pinpoint and understand precisely what changed.
5. Real-Time Communication
“Consider Jama if you need to support ideation and requirements workflow… Jama’s product drives traceability from requirements to validation, with support for planning and management of tests. The focus of the vendor has been on ease of use and collaboration, and a key capability is the Jama Review Center functionality. Jama offers a strong solution in requirements management, including traceability to test management and product delivery.”Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Application Development Life Cycle Management, 2015
How often have you been involved in a project where “change notice paralysis” sets in after a couple of weeks of inbox overload? Usually it occurs when the entire team is on a project-wide distribution list, and the project manager is on the hook to send out an email with the complete 200-page software requirements specification document attached for every time a minor change occurs. Right intention, wrong solution.
What happens next? People either waste time hunting around in the document trying to determine if the latest change is relevant to them, or, they tune out the email “noise” and miss an important change, which is even more costly.
There are smarter ways to keep everyone on the same page.
You need to be sure that everyone impacted by a change is in the loop. At the same time, you don’t want to flood the entire organization with irrelevant emails. What do you do?
In the example above using Jama, you can instantly send a direct link to the specific requirement that changed, with version notes, to only the relevant groups or individual users affected. Notification is part of the overall change management workflow. Stay in the loop. Avoid noise.
Organize and Visualize Data As You Like It
The complexity of most systems engineering projects requires a far more powerful, elegant and modern solution than inadequate and inflexible manual and legacy tools.
Jama was designed and built to be an intuitive user experience for engineering and business collaboration and communication. It’s a web-based platform to help teams solve requirements management challenges and automate traceability. In the process, you save time and money, accelerate development cycles, reduce the risk of error and improve quality and compliance.
Jama improves how you deal with data. The ability to organize and visualize data is one of the key differentiators for systems engineering, as shown in the example below.
Picture this: Traceable communication. Documented decisions and actions. All product and systems info organized and contextualized from concept to launch. With Jama, it’s your reality. Try Jama and see how we can help you solve your team’s systems engineering challenges.