What every project manager needs to know about a Requirements Traceability Matrix

Project success relies on leveraging the power of a Requirements Traceability Matrix to capture and analyze the requirements. Learn more about the components and benefits of RTMs.

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To ensure that your project activities and deliverables align with the business requirements, you need to find a way to capture and trace all of the relevant information and to compare it to a baseline. 

A Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) is a widely used tool that helps your project or Quality Assurance (QA) teams capture and measure the accuracy of projects in relation to stakeholder or business needs. It analyzes the requirements of a client to ensure that there is no defect in the deliverables. 

Every QA tester needs to fully understand all requirements and generate test cases accordingly. The requirements provided by the client have to be categorized into different test cases and different scenarios and each has to be dealt with separately.

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The RTM is, in fact, a worksheet containing the requirements and all possible test scenarios, test cases, and their current status; this helps the QA team to understand and analyze the testing activities done for a particular product.

What are the components of an RTM?

  • Requirement ID 
  • Requirement descriptions
  • Module name
  • Test specification
  • Test case ID
  • Verification status 

Depending on the nature of your industry or project goals, a traceability matrix can have more than these components or parameters. An RTM can show the required coverage in the number of test cases, design status, as well as execution status for the particular test case. 

With systems implementations, various types of test phases will be required, including User Acceptance Testing (UAT), Systems Integration Testing (SIT), and Application-Under-testing (AUT); the status of all types of tests should be included in the same traceability matrix. The current state and related defects would be displayed in the same traceability matrix.

This is what an RTM might look like (Figure A).

Figure A

rtm.jpg

What are the types of traceability matrices?

There are three key types of requirement traceability matrices used in requirements tracing. 

  1. Forward RTM: Forward matrix is used to check if a project is progressing in the right direction and relating to the right product. It maps the requirements to test cases, ensures that each requirement is applied to the product, and is tested thoroughly.
  2. Backward RTM: Backward traceability matrix focuses on ensuring that the current product is on the right track. The goal is to confirm that project scope is not changing or growing through the addition of codes, design elements, tests, or other work that has not been specified in the requirements. It also maps the requirements to test cases.
  3. Bi-directional RTM (Forward/Backward): Bi-directional RTM ensures that all requirements have been covered by test cases. It also analyzes the impact of changes in requirements in relation to defects in a product and vice versa. 

What are the benefits of a Requirements Traceability Matrix?

The Requirements Traceability Matrix benefits teams by helping them to stay focused on tasks, goals, and accurate execution, and helps to:

  • Highlight any missing requirements or document inconsistencies; 
  • ensure test coverage is complete; 
  • highlight all defects and execution status, focusing on the business requirements; and
  • analyze the impact of the QA expert's work in the context of revisiting or re-working on the test cases.

Leveraging the power of a Requirements Traceability Matrix can help your project team to effectively meet a client's business needs by reducing the risk of defects and missed objectives. 

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By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...