Advice for selecting traceability matrices

Written by Rina Nir

Traceability in Jira

What qualities are crucial when selecting traceability matrices?

Without the right tools in place, traceability matrices can easily bring a project to the brink of collapse. Still today there are project managers who delay moving to production for a significant length of time while they put together a traceability matrix for the validation report. Fortunately, with the addition of appropriate plugins, Jira provides an excellent solution. Using it to manage your specifications and tests will eliminate the need for tedious manual work by integrating traceability throughout every stage of the project. As user requirements and other elements emerge and evolve, it will necessitate selecting new traceability matrices.

Figure 1. ‘Using Jira to build requirements traceability matrices’ by ALM Works, 2018

What are the elements of a traceability matrix?

  1. You analyse requirements to identify risks, and these risks needs to be mitigated. Those mitigations then become requirements. So a requirement will be connected with a related risk and that risk will be related to another requirement that mitigates it. When these links are all clearly documented we can describe this as bi-directional traceability.
  2. Functional specifications are prescriptive and specific. In the case of configurable computer system, configuration specifications will often be dictated by functional specifications. Each functional specification has to be triggered by, or traceable to a requirement.
  3. Tests are how you demonstrate that the system meets the specifications. You first need to plan the tests, and the plan will only be complete when all functional specifications can be traced down to tests.
  4. The system can be declared validated only when there has been a successful test run for each test.
Computer systems validation traceability matrix

Figure 2. Computer systems validation traceability matrix

How to go about selecting traceability matrices?

Anyone who has ever tried using Excel to manage traceability matrices can testify that it doesn’t scale well and is very tedious, even for the smallest project.

A good tool to manage traceability will:

  1. Be seamlessly integrated with your specification management. This eliminates duplication of effort.
  2. Offer strong reporting capability, showing the different levels of traceability in a clear format.
  3. Be flexible, allowing you to define the report layout and content.
  4. Make it easy to spot traceability gaps.

Managing traceability in Jira

Jira comes, out of the box, with the capability to link issues. So, if you have a requirement and a functional specification set up as Jira issues, you just need to link them to establish traceability.

It’s a good idea to use meaningful link names, like ‘traceability link’, to differentiate traceability links from other links that may exist between issues.

Requirement to functional spec in Jira

Figure 3. Requirement to functional spec in Jira

There are many add-ons available that provide powerful features to extend Jira’s core issue-linking capability. The additional capabilities available range from auto-calculating coverage status to visually displaying the hierarchy of links and reporting.

Here are some concrete examples:

  1. Links Hierarchy for Jira & Agile provides a visual tree of multilevel links for each issue, so you can see the complete path from requirement to test for each and every issue.
  2. Xray for Jira and Test Management for Jira are both test management suites that provide clear visibility of test coverage and offer several convenient traceability views. Test Management for Jira creates traceability reports, which can be easily exported.
  3. Xporter for Jira and PDF View for Jira are both report generation tools, which you can use to export traceability reports in almost any layout you want.

Using Test Management for Jira, each requirement displays its test and test run coverage

Figure 4. Using Test Management for Jira, each requirement displays its test and test run coverage

XRay for Jira reports traceability from requirements all the way to defects

Figure 5. X-Ray for Jira reports traceability from requirements all the way to defects

Links Hierarchy for Jira

Figure 6. The Links Hierarchy plugin creates a tree view of multilevel links


Blog posts in this series:

  1. Why you should manage requirements in Jira
  2. How to manage requirements and risk analysis in Jira
  3. Requirement specifications
  4. Digital health company? Here is your guide for risk management using Jira cloud

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