Best Practices

How Adopting Modern Traceability Leads to Better Products

A product development team’s success or failure hinges on the many decisions it makes throughout a development cycle. Those choices are influenced by a myriad of factors, including balancing timing, regulations, production costs, customer feedback and benefits to the end user.

Given the complexity of products today, it takes multiple team members to weigh-in on key decisions. And the number of decision points are only growing as products get more complex, making it even tougher to adequately weigh all the options and trace their impacts.

Decisions under pressure: Making an already complex process even tougher

Those who have been through crunch time know the volatile element hanging over all decisions throughout development is pressure — whether it’s related to deadlines, complexity or the organization­. Here are some examples.

Decision Pressure = Not Enough Time

Depending on the number of stakeholders, their schedules, and level of involvement in the development process, receiving input on key changes or milestones can be an extremely tedious and time-consuming endeavor.

Getting multiple parties to sign off on a plan traditionally takes time, and it becomes nearly impossible if circumstances change while working through an especially sluggish sign-off process.

Decision Pressure = Not Enough Data

When debating decisions with team members — whether they’re executives, engineers or interns — good data strengthens the argument.

Running on instincts works for certain things, but if you’re constantly making tough calls without solid data, there’s a high probability of hitting problems— such as rework, delays and failures— later on.

Having visibility into the data used to define original requirements, as well as any new information causing requirements to change, is essential.

Decision Pressure = No Visibility Into Impact

Any new decisions must also take into account how they will impact the original requirements. One tweak to a requirement may cause ripple effects that impact the product in unintended ways.

Issues may be uncovered in the testing stage, but if one tiny change means a complete redesign, you’re going to miss market opportunities and blow past your budget.

Modern Traceability Relieves Decision Pressure

The practice of traceability was created to demonstrate that good decisions were made throughout development. While it’s a concept that has been around a while, it has had to evolve to keep up with a transforming, increasingly complex and time-sensitive product development process.

Building off the gains of the past, modern traceability is a new way of handling the process that’s built to support how people think and work.

Critically, it’s focused not just on the actions of an individual person, but entire teams over time. And this provides many benefits.

Less Pressure from Connected Data = Saved Time

Having a platform to power modern traceability is crucial. At a minimum, it needs to record, share and display data.

Crucially though, it also must be easy to use — so anyone on your team, from any experience level, can take advantage of it immediately with only a small learning curve.

Using modern traceability tools allows you to quickly show how the work being done is related to the company’s overall goals, which speeds up review cycles.

Less Pressure from Connected Data = On-Demand Context

Instead of data only being available at the end of a project or during major milestones (when people have the time), modern traceability’s data is continuously updated by the entire team and it’s always live and accessible.

For example, if all requirements have direct links to the original intent of the organization for a project, it’s easy to see whether a change is in alignment or deviating from that goal.

Simply look upstream from a requirement (or test, or design, etc.) to see why that piece of work existed. This provides valuable context ahead of any decisions to make a change. Have questions about why? Ask the person who added that upstream content directly.

Less Pressure from Connected Data = Clarity on Impacts to Requirements and People

While traceability practices have always connected test data to requirements, modern traceability delivers visibility into how people are connected to, and impacted by, changes to ongoing development work.

When a test fails, not only is it possible to see what requirements are impacted, modern traceability also offers the ability for affected parties to be notified immediately. No waiting for a major milestone review when pivots are costly. It amplifies the effectiveness of collaborative work already being done, and works best when you’ve got the right tool to utilize it.

The benefits of modern traceability are increasingly becoming essential for teams serious about creating better products with less waste and timelier cycles.

With modern traceability, you can connect data to make informed decisions faster and do your job better.

To learn more, check out our webinar, “Products Under Pressure: How to Leverage Traceability to Power Better Decisions.”

Robin Calhoun is Senior Product Manager at Jama Software and is responsible for supporting product vision and strategy. She has expertise in requirements management, behavior science, and agile methodologies.