A software requirements traceability matrix (RTM) is one of the most useful tools for product developers and managers when creating a new software application.
An RTM is designed to ensure that every requirement of a client is outlined and met while the product is being developed – and there are no use cases or other issues overlooked while developing the software. This results in a high-quality product that meets all client requirements.
So how can you improve software product quality through requirements traceability? Here are 4 steps that will help you achieve this goal!
1. Start with the Creation of a Software RTM
Every project you take on should begin with the creation of a software requirements traceability matrix. The RTM should be your baseline document, through which you trace every step of the development process.
The RTM is a bi-directional document. It tracks the requirements the original document “forward” by ensuring the output of the deliverables and it tracks the requirements “backward” by looking at the business requirements that were specified for a specific product feature. The RTM is also used to verify and identify changes to the scope.
When creating an RTM, it’s important to compile all documentation, client information, and records of meetings, to ensure that you have a comprehensive overview of what will be expected of the completed project. Not sure how to create your own RTM? This guide from Project-Management.com will help.
2. Dig Deep in Client Consultations to Understand Every Requirement
Here is a mistake many people make when creating an RTM – not asking questions! Asking as many questions to get a full picture of the project is the job of the client partner. There are no bad questions, the questions not asked that may impact the project often lead to the project not completing on time.
If you just assume that a client wants a specific feature, due to an email or business document they sent, and it turns out that it’s unnecessary, or implemented incorrectly, you’re wasting time and money. Requirements documents are there to guide the developers and the project manager to complete the project to the satisfaction of the client.
If you have any questions about the project and its scope, it’s best to ask them during the initial creation of the RTM. This ensures that the document is truly comprehensive, and reflects the client’s expectations.
3. Regularly Update the RTM
Your RTM is absolutely pointless unless you actually use it and update it regularly. It’s usually best to assign at least one person to oversee the RTM – usually, a product manager.
Then, developers and other software technicians can consult with the product manager to track changes, and confirm the addition of functionality throughout the development process.
This should help with ensuring the teams are communicating often to capture any challenges, changes and updates to the requirements.
4. Use the RTM to Avoid Scope Creep
One of the biggest advantages of using an RTM when developing a program or application for a third-party client is that it can defend you against scope creep.
Scope creep happens when clients begin to ask you to add additional functionality to the program – and it wasn’t originally agreed upon in your contract. Scope creep can cause serious project delays and cost overruns – and if you’re not careful, it can really eat into your profits.
An RTM is such as valuable tool because it prevents scope creep altogether. If you have created a truly comprehensive RTM, it will have every single use case and feature of a software product included.
If a client asks for a feature, and it’s not in the client approved RTM, there is an opportunity to ensure the necessary features are present in the product for your clients to have success. This would of course be adding to the scope of the project – and the cost may increase accordingly.
Don’t be Intimidated by the Requirements Traceability Matrix!
An RTM is an extremely valuable tool throughout the entire development process. With a proper RTM, you can avoid scope creep, ensure that all required features are present and operational, and create a better, more streamlined product.