Product complexity is growing at an exponential rate. As it does, requirements move between more and more departments and stakeholders throughout the course of the development process. Requirements traceability helps product teams overcome one of the biggest challenges they face with requirements management.
The number of decision points is higher than it’s ever been. Each decision needs to be made understanding the impact on the requirement itself and on the product overall. It is essential to maintain visibility into the activity taking place and to be able to tie it all together.
That’s where requirements traceability comes in. What follows is a look at the definition of requirements traceability, as well as its purpose, importance, and benefits. You’ll also find common challenges of requirements traceability, along with a few ideas to help you start overcoming those obstacles today.
If all this sounds like traceability is too difficult, fear not. While there are some challenges to requirements traceability, there are also many templates and tools you can use to streamline the process (more on that below). For now, let’s tackle some of the challenges so you can see how they can be overcome.
Differing organizational viewpoints.
Not everyone has the same understanding of why and how traceability should be performed. Stakeholders in sponsor or management positions may only view requirements traceability from a standard or regulatory perspective. They see it as a “must-have” but may not understand the additional benefits of requirements traceability (as discussed above) in the way a project or systems engineer might.
One way to tackle this obstacle is to educate stakeholders on what can be achieved if end-to-end traceability is achieved. Share this article with everyone involved in your development process so they can have a basic understanding of why requirements traceability is an essential part of requirements management, beyond simply knowing they need it to cover their bases.
There are a variety of reasons a company might be slow to adopt traceability. Training is one such example. As considered regarding stakeholders, not all teams or individuals working on a project know why traceability is so crucial, or they simply may not know how to execute proper traceability correctly. Additionally, some people may be worried that traceability data from their decision points could come back to bite them.
If this is a challenge for your organization, again, education is imperative. But even beyond that, you need to create a culture in which traceability is seen as an inherent part of the development process. Start by creating clear policies regarding how the organization manages traceability. Then develop a positive training program for all new and existing employees to complete. If you choose a requirements management tool, make sure it has a strong track record of being intuitive and easy to use software that adapts to your process—not the other way around.
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Cost of implementation.
Getting an entire development organization on the same page regarding requirements traceability, then ensuring proper execution, can be a costly endeavor. The time spent developing policies, conducting training, and creating/maintaining traceability data add up and can even make folks feel less productive. Additionally, you may choose to adopt a traceability tool to streamline your process, which means upfront costs will be higher than previous projects.
Overcoming this obstacle requires a mindset change. We urge you to consider the cost of doing nothing. Unproductive work time, lengthy time-to-market, rework, and defects are all extremely expensive symptoms of inadequate requirements traceability. Each of these carries a hefty price tag. For a look at exactly how much these complications could be costing your organization, check out the calculators on pages 9-11 in our Buyer’s Guide. While there are costs to implementing requirements traceability and management tools, the amount saved throughout the development process far outweighs the short-term investment.
When building complex products, change is inevitable. It is essential that team members know about the changes and scope their impact across the product development lifecycle. That means looking closely at any related system requirements, downstream requirements, and verification tests that may be affected.
Performing this activity can be cumbersome and time consuming with manual requirements traceability tools. And the associated risks are similar to doing nothing, simply because you cannot be sure you’ve accounted for everything when dealing with static documents and human error.
If you’ve experienced this setback in your organization, it may be time to explore automated requirements management tools that enable live traceability with living requirements.
Jama Connect’s Requirements Management Enables Live Traceability™ Across Your Development Process
Bridge engineering siloes across development, test, and risk activities. Provide end-to-end compliance, risk mitigation, and process improvement with our intuitive, award-winning requirements management platform. Learn more!
Improper management tools.
Some development teams are still tracing requirement relationships using Word or Excel documents and collaborating via email. A Requirements Traceability Matrix is one example of a document that manually traces elements of requirements management including, business requirements, objectives, design elements, and test cases via a spreadsheet. Teams input the list of requirements and fill in the related data. The spreadsheet is static but is updated manually by the team throughout the development lifecycle.
There can be advantages to using a Requirements Traceability Matrix if you are developing a product that doesn’t have many requirements. And it is better than not tracing at all. You can even use a template to create a Requirements Traceability Matrix. However, if your product is complex, with many requirements, you’ll likely experience many of the challenges discussed above.
In the case of complex products, a Requirements Traceability Matrix does not have the functionality you’ll need to keep up with the pace of change and create a quality product in the timeframe required by stakeholders. Flexible requirements management tools like Jama Connect can even capture trace relationships across teams and toolsets, further enhancing the benefits of traceability.
Insufficient compliance framework.
Regulated industries need requirements management to demonstrate compliance with industry standards. There are specific ways reviewers and regulators must receive regulatory submissions. To pass an audit you must present proof of comprehensive traceability.
If comprehensive traceability wasn’t performed throughout your development process, a lot of time will be committed to gathering the necessary information after the fact. Even if traceability was meticulously maintained in Word or Excel, there will still be time spent compiling it into an acceptable format for regulatory submission. In the meantime, competitors that make traceability inherent to their process will be first to market.
Sound familiar? Luckily, there are tools that perform end-to-end traceability and come with frameworks aligned with industry standards. Requirements management tools like Jama Connect simplify the audit process with export templates, thus speeding up the compliance presentation process.
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Templates and tools to streamline the requirements traceability process
There are numerous tools available to assist with the requirements traceability process. It’s important to assess your needs to know what is best for you.
Are you creating a straightforward product that doesn’t have functional safety or regulatory requirements? If so, a Requirements Traceability Matrix may suffice. Download this Requirements Traceability Matrix template to get started today.
Are you creating a multifaceted product with both software and hardware components? Will you be required to prove functional safety or regulatory compliance? In these cases, you’ll need a requirements management tool with bidirectional traceability and compliance templates you can easily export.
Here’s some additional recommended content on traceability you might find helpful:
- UK Regulators Name 3 Approved Bodies to Ease Device Certification Bottleneck - September 28, 2023
- Unlocking the Potential: The Importance of Software Defined Vehicles Explained - September 12, 2023
- Best Practices for Verification and Validation in Product Development - September 7, 2023