What is traceability and what types exist?
Understanding relationships between artefacts
Traceability is an term which is composed of “trace” and “ability” and refers to the ability to trace. Different works emphasise different aspects of traceability. ISO/IEC/IEEE24765:2017 defines traceability in the area of system and software engineering as “a distinguishable link between two or more logical entities such as requirements, system elements, verifications and tasks”. Traceability is therefore the ability to understand relationships between artefacts in the development process.
The BABOK Guide of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) defines traceability as “the ability to track the relationship between requirements and designs from the initial stakeholder need to the solution actually implemented. BABOK also defines other forms of requirements traceability:
- Pre-Requirements Traceability refers to the traceability between requirements and their source. Example: Which stakeholder is interested in which requirement? Which specific requirement covers the needs of a stakeholder? Traceability thus functions in both directions (also referred to as forward or backward traceability).
- Post-requirements traceability refers to requirements and their relationship to other artefacts, such as design, code, test cases, etc. Example: How was a requirement implemented? Which test case validates which requirement? Here, too, traceability works in both directions, e.g. from the requirement to the test case or from the test case to the requirement.
- Inner traceability refers to the relationship between requirements such as business, stakeholder or solution requirements and their documentation, e.g. in the requirement specification.
- Requirements-to-Task Traceability describes the connection between requirements and project management tasks. This type of traceability makes the requirements implementation process comprehensible and answers questions about the complexity of a requirement, the developer who implements it, or the specific status.
Traceability via software
Traceability should not be confused with the terms revision security and IT compliance. Organisations have to decide individually how it is to be produced – e.g. manually or automatically. However, the creation of a manual traceability matrix is too time-consuming for many organisations; they rather rely on lean traceability, i.e. the tracking of requirements and their artefacts as required. Database-supported software solutions are useful here.
Traceability is supported by practically all current programmes in the field of requirements management, requirements engineering or application lifecycle management. Of course, it is recommended to take a close look at the propagated features if necessary.