How to Create Requirements Traceability Matrix – Exact Process with Sample TM Template

Traceability Matrix – How to Create and Use It

Today’s session is about an important QC tool, that is either over-simplified (read overlooked) or over-emphasized – Traceability Matrix(TM).

Most often, the making, reviewing or sharing of a Traceability Matrix is not one of the primary QA process deliverables – so it is not majorly concentrated on, thus causing the under-emphasis. On the contrary, some clients expect a TM to reveal earth-shattering facets about their product (under test) and are disappointed.

“When used right, a Traceability Matrix can be your GPS for your QA journey”.

As is a general practice at STH, we will see the “What” and “How” aspects about a TM in this article.

What is a Traceability Matrix?

The focus of any testing engagement is and should be maximum test coverage. By coverage, it simply means that we need to test everything there is to be tested. The aim of any testing project should be 100% test coverage.

Requirements Traceability Matrix, to begin with, establishes a way to make sure we place checks on the coverage aspect.  It helps in creating a snapshot to identify coverage gaps.

How to Create a Traceability Matrix?

To being with we need to know exactly what is it that needs to be tracked or traced.

Testers start writing their test scenarios/objectives and eventually the test cases based on some input documents – Business requirements document, Functional Specifications document and Technical design document (optional).

Let’s suppose, the following is our Business requirements document (BRD): (Download this sample BRD in excel format)

(Click any image to enlarge)

Business requirements document

The below is our Functional Specifications document (FSD) based on the interpretation of the Business requirements document (BRD) and the adaptation of it to computer applications. Ideally, all the aspects of FSD need to be addressed in the BRD. But for simplicity’s sake, I have only used the points 1 and 2.

Sample FSD from Above BRD: (Download this sample FSD in excel format)

Functional Specifications document

Note: the BRD and FSD are not documented by QA teams. We are mere, the consumers of the documents along with the other projects teams.

Based on the above two input documents, as the QA team, we came up with the below list high-level scenarios for us to test.

Sample Test Scenarios from the Above BRD and FSD: (Download this sample test Scenarios file)

Sample Test Scenarios

Once we arrive here, now would be a good time to start creating the requirements traceability matrix.

I personally prefer a very simple excel sheet with columns for each document that we wish to track. Since the business requirements and functional requirements are not numbered uniquely we are going to use the section numbers in the document to track. (You can choose to track based on line numbers or bulleted-point numbers etc. depending on what makes the most sense for your case in particular.)

Here is how a simple Traceability Matrix would look for our example:

simple Traceability Matrix

The above document establishes a trace between, the BRD to FSD and eventually to the test scenarios. By creating a document like this, we can make sure every aspect of the initial requirements has been taken into consideration by the testing team for creating their test suites.

You can leave it this way. However, in order to make it more readable, I prefer including the section names. This will enhance understanding when this document is shared with the client or any other teams. The outcome is as below:


simple Traceability Matrix 1

Again, the choice to use the former format or the later is yours.

This is the preliminary version of your TM but generally, does not serve its purpose when you stop here. Maximum benefits can be reaped from it when you extrapolate it all the way to defects.

Let’s see how.

For each test scenario that you came up with, you are going to have at least 1 or more test cases. So, include another column when you get there and write the test case IDs as shown below:

simple Traceability Matrix 2

At this stage, the Traceability Matrix can be used to find gaps. For example, in the above Traceability Matrix, you see that there are no test cases written for FSD section 1.2.

As a general rule, any empty spaces in the Traceability Matrix are potential areas for investigation. So a gap like this can mean one of the two things:

  1. The test team has somehow missed considering the “Existing user” functionality.
  2. The “Existing user” functionality has been deferred to later or removed from the application’s functionality requirements. In this case, the TM shows an inconsistency in the FSD or BRD – which means that an update on FSD and/or BRD documents should be done.

If it is scenario 1, it will indicate the places where test team needs to work some more to ensure 100% coverage.

In scenarios 2, TM not just shows gaps it points to incorrect documentation that needs immediate correction.

Let us now expand the TM to include test case execution status and defects.

The below version of the Traceability Matrix is generally prepared during or after test execution:

Requirements Traceability matrix

Download requirements traceability matrix template here: Traceability Matrix in excel format

Important Points to Note About Traceability Matrix

The following are the important points to note about this version of the Traceability Matrix:

1) The execution status is also displayed.  During execution, it gives a consolidated snapshot of how work is progressing.

2) Defects: When this column is used to establish the backward traceability we can tell that the “New user” functionality is the most flawed. Instead of reporting that so and so test cases failed, TM provides a transparency back to the business requirement that has most defects thus showcasing the Quality in terms of what the client desires.

3) As a further step, you can colour code the defect ID to represent their states. For example, defect ID in red can mean it is still Open, in a green can mean it is closed. When this is done, the TM works as a health check report displaying the status of the defects corresponding to a certain BRD or FSD functionality is being open or closed.

4) If there is a technical design document or use cases or any other artifacts that you would like to track you can always expand the above-created document to suit your needs by adding additional columns.

To sum up, a requirements traceability Matrix helps in:

  1. Ensuring 100% test coverage
  2. Showing requirement/document inconsistencies
  3. Displaying the overall defect/execution status with a focus on business requirements.
  4. If a certain business and/or functional requirement were to change, a TM helps estimate or analyze the impact on the QA team’s work in terms of revisiting/reworking on the test cases.

Additionally,

  1. A TM is not a manual testing specific tool, it can be used for automation projects as well. For an automation project, the test case ID can indicate the automation test script name.
  2. It is also not a tool that can be used just by the QAs. The development team can use the same to map BRD/FSD requirements to blocks/units/conditions of code created to make sure all the requirements are developed.
  3. Test management tools like HP ALM come with the inbuilt traceability feature.

An important point to note is that the way you maintain and update your Traceability Matrix determines the effectiveness of its use. If not updated often or updated incorrectly the tool is a burden instead of being a help and creates the impression that the tool by itself is not worthy of using.

Have you created a Traceability Matrix in your projects? How similar or different is it from what we have created in this article? Please share your experiences, comments, thoughts and feedback on this article through your comments.

About Author: This is an article by STH team member Swati Seela.




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93 comments ↓

#1 Mohsin

Good Articel, which gives clear picture on TM !

#2 Akshayaa

nice…. but steps to maintain traceabiltiy matrix in QC can be added…

#3 VISHAL M

thanks for sharing….!!!

#4 True Testers

Thank you..Now i got the clear idea about Traceability Matrix..

#5 Ram

Excellent and detailed post.

#6 olayinka shola

Good material. Thank you.

#7 Aarthi

Got clear picture of RTM, thank you for the post

#8 will smith

Thanks for the great post.This post helped me a lot to understand the TM.
Can you please post on the Test scenarios.How to identify the Scenarios in an web application.does all the methods of testing(FT,IT,ST) come under a one scenario.

#9 Shruti K

this is very simple and effective method to track requirements.
thank you for sharing

#10 Keilla

very nice material

#11 Swati Seela

@Akshayaa: QC does not create a traceability Matrix. it just makes sure that traceability is an integral part of the entire test management process. Please check out our QC tutorials for how to achieve that:
http://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/learn-hp-quality-center-qc-in-4-days/

#12 jayashree

very nice article.

#13 Devi

I am new to Software Testing. I got a clear picture of TRM.
Thanks for your post. Please provide some more….

#14 Satish

Thanks for sharing the artical. Can you plz share the Smoke test case format?

#15 Prachi

Now i got clear understand about TM .
Thanks for sharing .

#16 Sangram Kumar Das

Nice article..good contents and easy to understand.

#17 Ahmed fathi

Really so thanks for these valued articles and waiting for more …

#18 Kiran J

superb in simple words. I saw so many complex TMs but this one is the simplest.

#19 Martin Bogdanov

Great topic. It describes the correct way of creating and maintaining a TM.

#20 Niti Soni

Very helpful material. Thanks!

#21 Yogesh Koshti

You wrote : “Ideally all the aspects of FSD need to be addressed in the BRD.”

I think it should be exactly opposite statement :)

#22 Michael Wharton

After reading this article, I wanted to ask a question. We just switched from QC to JIRA and we now house our tests in there as well. Now, I right my Test Cases in an excel spreadsheet and import them into JIRA once they have been signed off as complete by Development and the Business owner. Can the TM take the place of my Test Case spreadsheet or should I still use both to make sure I have maximum test coverage. Seems like both are kind of a waste of time.

Thanks,

Michael W

#23 Amit Tanwar

Very nice article….Gives a clear understanding on TM

#24 Rajesh

Nice one

#25 Geetanjali Negi

Thanks for this article. It gives me a clear picture of the TM. A mystery of TM got solved for me now. The exmaple is very good.

#26 Dilip Singh

Nice Articles, its really help me.. Thanks

#27 Robert Dunlop

Nice to verify that the TM I use is similar in layout and logic to others. I liked the colour coding, that illustrates an instant “health check”.
I also use the data to input into charts that are used for weekly / monthly management reports.
Only suggestion would be fill in the gaps in BRD and FSD columns to allow sorting and filtering, without corrupting the data.

#28 baliruno ivan

thank you for TM ITS GOOD

#29 Asif

The way it is define it is easy to understand. Thanks

#30 faraaz

Hi Vinay,

So in given excel sheet if in QC i think no need to prepare Traceability Matrix right as everything it is covered by Test Coverage analysis and only if we are not using the tool we need the above Traceability Matrix.
tHANKS

#31 Pradeep

Nice Post

#32 Siddhant Raut

i yet not created TM but this will help me a lot to understand create for my projects….

#33 Sunil

Good article . Started with QC steps but they are not added

#34 Swati

@Sunil: The QC in the first line stands for Quality control not HP Quality center – thats why you did not find any QC steps- sorry about the confusion. We tried to keep this generic. I hope you found the rest of the article helpful.

#35 Niketa Bihani

Very informative and explainatory post.Thanks for posting it.It gives me clear picture about RTM.

#36 priyanka

Brilliant!!
thanks a tonne, i needed this information badly….:)

#37 Domnic

I stumbled on your site while searching for traceability matrix. Really Nice article, thank you Swati Seela and than you to STH team

-Domnic

#38 Jitendra

Very nice article. Informative and very useful.
thanks a lot for writing this article

#39 Testing_Ratz

Excellent Article on TM. Its helps me to create Tm for my project.
Tnx

#40 sasi

well explained…. good one..

#41 keerthan

Really very good article .. cleared all my doubts which I had on ‘key purpose of writing TM’ .. :)

#42 Sahil

Nice post…
Just a thought after reading the post..

When a project is using HP Quality centre, is there still a need to create and maintain this RTM as QC it self has a Req tab and most often Req are uploaded in QC and a link is establisted between REQ and Test scripts that we create.

#43 Saroja

Hi, Thank you very much for posting valuable article. I learned so much about TM. Keep up your good work.

#44 Renuka

Good one. One suggestion- We could even provide link to the test case id and defect id to in the TM make it more user friendly.

#45 Chandrashekhar

Thank you so much for this…

#46 PP

Really easy to understand

#47 ss

Now i got the clear idea about Traceability Matrix..thanks :)

#48 Ganesh Kiran

Great post!!!

I did this part of the test management, but never thought am doing testing traceability.

You exactly explained what we do….

#49 Anup

Good post…

#50 Anup

great post!!!

#51 priya

Really great information to understand TM.

Thanks a Lot.

#52 Ishrat

Got the clear idea about Traceability Matrix….

Thanks.

#53 Dheeru

Awesome site……Everything is very clearly explained….Nice work

THANKS

#54 Rohit

Nice article and also a very nice site…

#55 Girish Govind

Good one. Very nicely protrayed.

#56 sunandha

Very well explained.Thanks

#57 sumit

Its exactly what i require..!! Thanks alot

#58 Mubashir

Good explanation. Thank you!

#59 mahadev

Excellent it’s very helpful for me thank you very much

#60 soumya

Good document on RTM.

#61 Harish

“Requirements Traceability Matrix to begin with, establishes a way to make sure we place checks on the coverage aspect. It helps in creating a snap shot to identify coverage gaps.” It definitely did create a snapshot of the Traceability Matrix concept in my memory.

#62 parul

Got clear picture of RTM, thank you for the post

#63 Sudhindra Deshpande

Hi, who is responsible for RTM?
who all can view it?
suppose there are 3 modules and 3 test engineers are working on them,
then how they will update the RTM ?
or everyone will prepare there own of perticular module and then it get collborated?

Thanks in advance

#64 Rizwan

Great job.

#65 Anand

It is a nice article.
It will be further useful, if the details of recording metrics version wise – how to add. And also few more lines about ‘Forward TM’ & ‘Backward TM’.

#66 Meghana

It really good and informative…

#67 Rohit K

Really very very helpful…

#68 karthik vedam

good job…thank u

#69 Shailesh Pachori

really good information. this is very useful to understand technical jargon and easy to adoptable.

#70 neeraj

good example…

#71 abhay

Very Good Article

#72 good one

good one very helpful

#73 Toshi Jain

Very well explained.
Thank ew. :-)

#74 pranay

This website and the articles you are providing is quite fantastic. Very useful in gaining the real time knowledge. The tutorials your website covered is more helpful for experts and freshers as well.
Thank you so much. :)

#75 Shahnaz

Very clear!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#76 Katrine

Thank you for explanation on clear examples. On my projects I have used the same approach but until today I even don`t asked myself that this approach for managing all the requirements is called TM. And always thought that I don`t know the term TM))))

#77 Raghu

Good one

#78 Joe

Re: #27

I made a copy of the TM tab, and did as Robert suggested.

I can eMail it, if necessary.

Joe

#79 Tejeshwar jaiswal

Thanks for the post. Its really a good & helpful article.
I would like to ask the question same as Sudhindra i.e.
who is responsible for RTM?
who all can view it?
Suppose there are 3 modules and 3 test engineers are working on them, then how they will update the RTM ?
or everyone will prepare there own of perticular module and then it get collaborated?

#80 Sania

Very precisely-written, thanks Swati!

#81 sulabh

very good article, got the clear overview of RTM

#82 Bala

Article is very good , we got full picture on TM.

#83 Pritesh Adulkar

Plz ,Plz answere me this question,
Thanks for the post. Its really a good & helpful article.
I would like to ask the question same as Sudhindra i.e.
who is responsible for RTM?
who all can view it?
Suppose there are 3 modules and 3 test engineers are working on them, then how they will update the RTM ?
or everyone will prepare there own of perticular module and then it get collaborated?

#84 Roshan Alimohamed

Just Brilliant . You cannot ask for a better expalnation.

#85 Nandakumar

Useful information.

#86 Lakshmi

Good article, concise and to the point. Please continue the good work of sharing knowledge

#87 SudhirS

@Swati Seela,

Nice & Easy article on TM.

Kindly suggest!

If continous change request suggested by Client OR Onshore team while project is in development then how should we maintain TM for effective test coverage?

Regards,
Sudhir

#88 Boris

Nice article !

we implemented similar approaches in our enterprise projects and it worked out nice. But how can you maintain a matrix by hand in typical safety-critical projects which come with > 10k requirements / test-cases, etc? In this case, you’ll need specialized tools.

BR,
Boris

#89 ompraksh

Very useful guide for learning Tracebility Matrix even the person does not have background of testing.

#90 VEnkat

Very Good Expalnation,Got a very good idea About TM

#91 Dikshit Mallaidi

This is the gratest article ever! i cutn even believe my own niknuds.

#92 Praveen

Hi, Looking Testing deliverable docs. Can anyone please provide complete deliverable docs to me.

it will be grateful for me.

#93 Yogesh

good article & better example to understand the TM fundamental

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