What is A Requirements Traceability Matrix?

The goal of any software development is to ensure that the client’s requirements are met and that the final product is free of issues or errors. The best way to ensure all requirements are met and to deliver a polished final product is by creating test cases and tracking them with a Requirements Traceability Matrix.

A Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) is a document usually in the form of a table or chart that maps and traces user requirements with their corresponding test cases. The RTM catalogs all requirements set forth by the client and tracks those requirements in one location so that all requirements are effectively validated via test cases. This document is usually finalized and delivered at the conclusion of the Software development lifecycle and serves as a way to ensure all functionalities are checked during testing and all requirements are met.

The software requirements provided by the client are broken down into different scenarios in order to run individually executed test cases. With so many requirements and test cases at play, it can be difficult to consider all possible scenarios and ensure no requirement is left out during the testing process.

To make absolutely sure that you haven’t missed or overlooked a requirement as the project has evolved, a Requirement Traceability Matrix can help you to trace the requirement with its corresponding test scenarios and catalog the outcome.

The RTM is typically a worksheet that contains the requirements and their corresponding test cases. When you start your project with an RTM, you can more easily track whether a test has currently passed or failed and give your testing team the data they need in order to understand the testing process so far and create a plan for further implementation.

Types of Traceability

Traceability matrices can be divided into three major components:

  1. Forward traceability: this matrix is used to check the project's progress in the desired direction. It makes sure that each requirement is applied to the product and tested thoroughly. This component comprehensively maps requirements to test cases and allows the user to see the forward trajectory of the project in order to keep the project on track for success.

  1. Reverse traceability: used to ensure the product remains on the right track by looking back at progress that has been made. This ensures that the project is not expanding beyond the scope of the original proposal by adding unnecessary design elements or other components that are not relevant to the original requirements. In this component, test cases are mapped to requirements -- the opposite of forward traceability.

  1. Bi-directional traceability: this matrix verifies that all requirements correspond to their own test cases. This makes it possible to analyze changes in requirements and their impact as the product evolves.

Benefits of Utilizing a Requirements Traceability Matrix

The Requirements Traceability Matrix is used to track high-level requirements and ensure the completeness of any given relationship between baseline components or documents. 

A configuration baseline is the fixed reference point in the development cycle that a product’s development depends upon. It is a documented basis that allows you to track and define changes in the product as it moves away from the baseline. 

An effective configuration management program depends on having a concrete starting point so that you can effectively trace back to that baseline as the project progresses and ensure all requirements are being met.

By utilizing an RTM, you are ensuring that your baseline components and requirements are being fulfilled successfully and with their original purpose in mind. You can trace changes, test cases, and scenarios from their origin point at the baseline all the way through development.

Creating a Requirements Traceability Matrix

It doesn’t have to be difficult! A Requirements Traceability Matrix is simply a chart or spreadsheet used for tracking requirements and their test cases. You can place requirements in the far left column and their corresponding test cases in the top row. This allows you to check off which test cases are complete where they intersect on the chart so that you have a clean, clear overview of which tests are complete and successful or require further review. A comprehensive chart allows you to calculate the overall completion status of the project.

By tracing requirements, testing, and application through to their implementation and completion, you are ensuring that all requirements for any given project are met. The RTM allows you to evaluate the relationships between the different components and generate the completion status of the project as it relates to requirements testing.

Requirements traceability can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet. By carefully tracking with an RTM, you’re ensuring that each requirement is covered by a respective test case or cases.

The RTM gives you an overview of all requirements, shows how they are linked to test cases, and makes sure all requirements are 100% covered. It is easy to prepare and no special tools are required, allowing you to easily ensure the success of your project throughout its development lifecycle.