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Live Requirements Traceability

Achieving Live Traceability™ of product requirements, as necessitated by industry standards, across siloed engineering teams and tools, is the #1 unsolved problem for most product development organizations. One of the main barriers is that each engineering discipline (systems, software, hardware, electrical, risk, verification and validation) has optimized its own process and tools. When looking at the end-to-end product development process siloed teams, tools, and data make it very challenging to trace development activity from initial requirement definition through development and testing. 

As a result, requirements traceability becomes a time-consuming, error-prone, frustrating, and manual, after-the-fact process. The inability for the product development organization to continually trace ongoing development efforts and changes back to user and system requirements results in missed requirements, defects, rework, delays, audit letters, and cost overruns. 

RECOMMENDED READING: Requirements Traceability: How to Go Live

No common platform exists 

The typical approach to solve this generic process problem with software is to force every user onto a single platform and follow one common process. This works for standard business processes in HR, Sales, and Finance, but engineering disciplines across systems, software, hardware, electrical, risk, test, verification, and validation each follow different methodologies and use multiple tools including spreadsheets, desktop, and homegrown applications. Each engineering discipline has optimized their own development environment and strongly resist any attempts to change. Engineering leadership defers to each engineering discipline to define how to best do their work and is loath to dictate processes and tools that will negatively impact the performance and morale of each engineering team.  

In addition to the organizational barriers to standardization, no single platform is even close to currently existing which replaces these dozens of tools. A single platform would need to cover all of the following software categories AND address all functionality in spreadsheets (Excel), scripts, desktop, and homegrown tools: Requirements Management, CAD, MBSE, DFMEA/FMEA, software task management, software code management, automated software testing, hardware bench test tools, ALM, PLM, and more. Current efforts by legacy vendors to create a common SaaS platform to span all these software categories and reach parity with best-of-breed tools is moving very slowly.   

RECOMMENDED READING: Benefits of End-to-End Traceability

How to achieve Live Traceability™ without forcing change on engineering teams 

So how does an organization achieve Live Traceability across a best-of-breed tool environment supporting disparate methodologies, terminologies, fields, and statuses? The answer is a 3-step approach: 

Step One | Live Traceability Model 

Define a Live Traceability model across the end-to-end product development process with relationship rules for the traceable data elements across best-of-breed tools. An automotive functional safety example is shown below. Here you can see the operational instantiation of functional safety standards requirements in a relationship model within Jama Connect®. All necessary traceable information is included with continuous syncs to best-of-breed tools within engineering teams to deliver Live Traceability.  

Step Two | Adaptive Data Field Mapping 

To achieve Live Traceability, integrations with best-of-breed tools (such as those shown in the example) are required. The typical integration approach standardizes field names and statuses to ensure consistency across the connected tool, but this does not achieve the dual objective of Live Traceability with no changes required in how each engineering team works. Alternately, the proven approach is to apply adaptive data field mapping to ensure no change to engineering teams’ fields and statuses which simultaneously ensures a consistent, process wide, Live Traceability model. This is achieved through robust mapping and normalization logic functionality to easily address the various approaches taken by each engineering team. 

RECOMMENDED READING: Requirements Management Guide: Requirements Traceability

Step Three | Management by Exception 

Once Live Traceability is achieved, engineering organizations can — for the first time — manage the end-to-end product development process in real time, identify exceptions to the process early, and take action to significantly reduce defects, rework, delays, and cost overruns.  


requirements traceability live traceability

Requirements Traceability – How to Go Live

Requirements traceability is required by many industry standards to ensure product quality and safety. The industry standards are based on decades of progress made in systems and quality engineering research with requirements traceability at the core. Benefits from requirements traceability are achieved if and only if traceability is used as a tool during the product development process. These benefits include greatly reduced or eliminated delays, defects, cost overruns, and rework. Here is an overview of the best practice approach to achieve Live Traceability™.

Live Traceability vs. After-the-fact Traceability

Let’s start with some definitions to make sure we are all on the same page. Requirement traceability is defined as tracking the development progress of product requirements from definition and design through development, testing, verification, and validation. There are two forms of requirement traceability: after-the-fact traceability and Live Traceability.

  • After-the-fact traceability occurs after the product has been developed and is typically a highly manual effort to try and re-create artifacts to demonstrate traceability that should have occurred during the development process but did not. This effort is undertaken solely for complying with industry standards and satisfying auditor requests for demonstration of process maturity.
  • Live Traceability occurs in real time as the product development process progresses to improve overall productivity (by ensuring engineers across disciplines are always working off the most recent and correct versions) and to reduce the risk of negative product outcomes (delays, defects, rework, cost overruns, recalls, etc.) through early detection of issues. The benefits of early detection of issues are significant. Research by INCOSE found that issues not found until verification and validation are 40 to 110 times more costly than if found during design. For this reason, most companies want Live Traceability but are stuck with legacy tools and spreadsheets that do not support it. Since each engineering discipline is allowed to choose its own tooling, the result is a large number of tools with no relationship rules or mechanisms to create Live Traceability across them.

RELATED POST: Requirements Management Guide: Requirements Traceability

So how do you achieve Live Traceability?

Step 1: Define a Traceability Model

Live Traceability requires a model of the key process elements and their relationship rules to monitor during the development process. The systems engineering V Model is a useful framework to start with for data object and relationship definition. Jama Connect® uniquely provides a point and click, configurable, relationship rule capability to enable Live Traceability. Below you see a sample relationship rule diagram from Jama Connect. Relationship rules vary by industry and company-specific requirements. Best practice templates are provided to comply with industry standards and configured to meet client-specific needs. The definition of a traceability model forms the foundation for model-based systems engineering since it defines model elements and their relationship to each other in a consistent manner across the entire system architecture.

Step 2: Setup Continuous Sync for Siloed Tools/Spreadsheets

Once the relationship rules are defined, the next step is to set up continuous sync with best-of-breed tools and spreadsheets used by the various engineering disciplines. The traceability diagram below shows a typical example of best-of-breed tools and where they sync in the Jama Connect relationship model to deliver Live Traceability.

Most companies prioritize the areas of the traceability model that are most prone to lead to costly issues in the absence of a continuous sync. Most commonly, these areas are:

  • Software task management – directly linking the decomposition of requirements into user stories enables Live Traceability through the software development process through testing and defect management. The most common best-of-breed tools used are Jira and Azure Dev Ops.
  • Test automation – test cases are managed in Jama Connect to align to requirements and ensure traceability across all engineering disciplines with the test automation results sync’d to the traceability model at the verification step. The most common test automation tools are TestRail and qTest.
  • Risk analysis (DFMEA/FMEA) – is most often conducted in multiple Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and the assumption has been that Live Traceability was not possible with Excel. Jama Connect is the first requirements management solution to enable Live Traceability with Excel functions and spreadsheets. Risk teams can now work in their preferred spreadsheets AND for the first time achieve live traceability to stay in sync with changes made by any engineering team. Ansys Medini is also a supported integration.
  • Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) – the first step in MBSE is to define a relationship model between all product requirements. Once a relationship model is defined, then specifications can be determined through modeling. Jama Connect uniquely provides model-based requirements to sync logically with a SysML modeling tool like Cameo No Magic. Other requirements management tools do not ensure a model-based approach, which most often leads to inconsistent and conflicting fields across teams and projects and provides no coherent relationship model.

Step 3: Monitor for Exceptions

Live Traceability provides the ability, for the first time, to manage by exception the end-to-end product development process across all engineering disciplines. The traceability model defines expected process behavior that can be compared to actual activity to generate exceptions. These exceptions are the early warning indicators of issues that most often lead to delays, cost overruns, rework, defects, and recalls. Below is a sample exception management dashboard in Jama Connect.

Benefits of Live Traceability

The main benefits of Live Traceability across best-of-breed tools are as follows:

  • Reduce the risk of delays, cost overruns, rework, defects, and recalls with early detection of issues through exception management and save 40 to 110 times the cost of issues identified late in the process.
  • Comply with industry standards with no after-the-fact manual effort.
  • No disruption to engineering teams that continue working in their chosen best-of-breed tools with no need to change tools, fields, values or processes.
  • Increase productivity and satisfaction of engineers with the confidence that they are always working on the latest version, reflective of all changes and comments.