The Ultimate Guide to Creating and Exporting Traceability Matrices in Jira

Written by Rina Nir

Guide to Creating and Exporting Jira Traceability Matrices

Jira is where your development happens, period. As time passes, your Jira use expands, and along with it, your issue types list. At first, it’s stories, bugs and tasks. Later, product risks, requirements, test cases, and test runs are added. To get the real picture you want to view issues not as a disconnected list but rather as an hierarchical structure; i.e. traceability matrix. Jira doesn’t make it easy or convenient to create and export traceability matrices.

A large installation may easily have dozens of issue types and while these items, each have their own life cycle — from creation to resolution and done — they are also linked together in a rich web of links. The linking mechanism in Jira is one of its core strengths, and it’s used extensively.

For example, Jira links have a type and direction, and just these two attributes alone allow express loads of relations:

  • A story issue → is related to → a bug
  • A story issue → is linked by “epic link” to → an Epic (aka, part of the epic)
  • A story issue → is tested by → a test issue
  • A requirement issue → is implemented by → a story
  • A risk issue → is triggered (or mitigated) by → a requirement

You get the picture.

Although, for medtech, pharmaceutical, and engineering companies, you need a comprehensive overview of the interplay of issues to get the *big* picture of your Jira data. Unfortunately, this isn’t an out-of-the-box Jira feature.

What is a traceability matrix?

Because of the proliferation of links, the trick is to view issues not as a disconnected list but rather as a tree or a hierarchical structure.

In other words, traceability matrices. Examples include:

As mentioned, Jira doesn’t make it easy or convenient to create and export traceability matrices. This is problematic because critical points along the product development lifecycle — for example, release documentation — require capturing and displaying traceability matrices.

Let’s look at the leading ways to export traceability reports from Jira, including cloud, server, and data center installations.

Options for exporting traceability from Jira

Translating traceability information into usable documentation is possible from several sources —from Jira’s own (limited) functionality to specialized applications designed to make this process as simple and painless as possible.

  • Jira’s built-in export

You can use Jira’s export function of search results if the traceability information you need is relatively basic. The following columns can be added to a regular “issue navigator” search view in Jira:

  • Linked issues: Displays a list of linked issues (without the linked type)
  • Epic link
  • Parent link (available only in Cloud)

If this is sufficient traceability information, you can export this data directly into any supported format (i.e., CSV or Word).

  • Test management app
    If you are using a test management app, such as Zephyr Squad or Xray for Jira, there may be built-in functionality to export traceability matrices related to the tests (i.e., requirements traceability to test cases and test executions). The level of customization and configuration will vary by app.
  • A specialized export generator app

Apps like Better PDF Exporter, Better Excel Exporter (server and data center only), or Xporter for Jira allow you the flexibility to program an export that fits your needs. To define how the export is generated, you’ll use a scripting language (i.e., the layout, the criteria for included issues, etc.). Most exporter apps come with a rich set of examples, which provide a helpful baseline. Once a template is created, you can use it repeatedly across your Jira.The main drawback to using an exporter app is that someone on your team must learn the scripting language and develop your templates. Also, you’ll need to maintain the templates over time as you adapt the traceability parameters to your ever-evolving needs.

  • Jira Snapshots for Confluence app
    If you have Confluence connected to your Jira, Jira Snapshots makes it simple for you to create traceability reports with as many levels as you need. And it empowers you with complete flexibility on the issues and fields that are included. Jira Snapshots are a macro on a Confluence page, which means the rest of the content on the page (i.e., overview, analysis, conclusions, etc.) can be added using Confluence editing options and requires no technical know-how.

Other benefits include:

  • It can be configured easily by anyone minimally familiar with Jira Query Language (JQL), so there’s no need to develop a template or learn another scripting language.
  • It provides a DIFF view, which compares the current traceability with previous ones. (Typically, traceability tables are regularly issued, for example, with each release.) This is a big time-saver when reviewing the traceability.
  • Each new traceability is linked to a Confluence page version — when taking a new Snapshot, a new version of the page is created. Older versions are available in the older versions of the Confluence page.
  • There is no need to export from Jira and create an independent document -— the traceability document is neatly organized in Confluence.

The main drawback of using Jira Snapshots is you must have Confluence. The good news is if you don’t have Confluence but are on the cloud, you can download the free tier, which is sufficient to use the app.

Which option is right for you?

Jira’s built-in exportTest management appSpecialized export generator appJira Snapshots for Confluence app
Data CenterYesYesYesYes
ServerYes (Contact RadBee for details)YesYesYes
Include any Jira field from linked itemsNot supportedLimitedYesYes
Export any multilevel traceability — based on Jira linksNot supportedLimitedYesYes
Easy to set upYesYes, if using a template (customizing is limited & more complex)Yes, if using a template (customizing is more complex)Yes
Export outputFile in a supported format (i.e., CSV)Mainly PDF (varies by app)PDF, Excel, or Word (differs per app)A Snapshot is part of a Confluence page
Versioning for traceability matricesNot availableNot availableNot available


Comparison view between traceability versions (DIFF view)Not availableNot availableNot availableYes
Hosting platformJira Cloud, Server and Data CenterJira Cloud, Server and Data CenterJira Cloud, Server and Data CenterConfluence Cloud or Data Center

In conclusion

In heavily regulated industries, in particular, Jira is a critical workflow and project management tool. Unfortunately, capturing and exporting detailed traceability matrices can be complicated. By understanding your options for this crucial function, you can minimize the burden on your team and maximize your success in creating safe, compliant products that release on time and boost your competitive edge.

Have more questions about creating and exporting traceability matrices? We’re here to help, so contact us.

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