What Is A Requirements Traceability Matrix? Requirements Traceability Matrix In A Nutshell

A requirements traceability matrix (RTM) is a vital part of the lifecycle of any embedded system, helping organizations ensure their products are safe and meet intended standards. While the matrix has long been associated with medicine, technology, and engineering, the approach works well for any project regardless of industry. A requirements traceability matrix is a tool used to identify and maintain the status of project requirements and deliverables.

Understanding a requirements traceability matrix

Organizations use the RTM matrix to ensure project scope, requirements, and deliverables remain true to the established baseline.

In most cases, this means documenting the links between the user requirements proposed by the client to the system being built.

Each requirement is traced with a test case to ensure an adequate level of testing is accomplished. 

The process of reviewing the test cases for each requirement is called traceability.

This process in turn enables the organization to determine which requirements caused the most number of defects during a testing cycle.

While this highlights areas for improvement, it also helps address process weaknesses and future roadblocks.

What’s more, RTMs are used to counter the growing complexity seen in product development.

How to create a requirements traceability matrix

The needs of every business will be different, but most RTMs will have the following column headings for each requirement:

  1. Requirement ID – a unique identifier given to each requirement so it can be easily traced over the project lifecycle. 
  2. Category – where the requirement is classified into a broad category such as functional, non-functional, security, performance, usability, and so forth.
  3. Priority – teams can use a low-medium-high scale or use mandatory, should have, and nice to have. 
  4. Source – the name of the stakeholder who identified the requirement.
  5. Business objective – or the objective the requirement will help the business meet. This typically comes from the project charter or business case.
  6. Deliverables – here, list the deliverables that comprise the requirement. 
  7. Verification – how will each requirement be tested satisfactorily? In software development, verification may depend on 99.9% uptime. 
  8. Validation – detailing how the requirement will be validated or tested. This is usually via user acceptance tests, achieving milestones, or meeting KPIs.

Most RTMs can be created in an Excel spreadsheet.

However, businesses can also use requirements management tools such as Visure Requirements, Modern Requirements4DevOps, and ReQtest.

Various types of requirements traceability matrices

There are three different types of RTMs according to the traceability strategy used:

Forward traceability

These matrices map the requirements to the test cases and ensure the project progresses in the desired direction via thorough testing. 

Backward traceability

In contrast, these matrices map the test cases to the user requirements. This helps the project team avoid scope creep.

Bidirectional traceability

Essentially, a combination of forward and backward traceability.

The most robust RTMs incorporate bidirectional traceability because it establishes a relationship between two artifacts that can be traced from one to the next and back again.

Ideally, the business should also be able to trace back from requirements to business goals to answer why the requirement exists in the first instance.

Key takeaways:

  • A requirements traceability matrix is a tool used to identify and maintain the status of project requirements and deliverables. Organizations use the RTM matrix to ensure project scope, requirements, and deliverables remain true to an established baseline.
  • A requirements traceability matrix can be created by using a spreadsheet or dedicated requirements management software. Each requirement should have information pertaining to a unique identifier, category, priority, source, business objective, deliverables, verification, and validation.
  • There are three types of requirements traceability matrix depending on the traceability approach used: forward, backward, and bidirectional. Most businesses prefer bidirectional RTMs because they are more robust.

Key Highlights

  • Definition and Purpose:
    • An RTM is a crucial component in the lifecycle of embedded systems and other projects.
    • It ensures products meet intended standards, remain safe, and adhere to the established baseline.
  • Applicability Across Industries:
    • While initially associated with medicine, technology, and engineering, RTMs are versatile and suitable for projects in any industry.
  • Role of an RTM:
    • The RTM is a tool that helps identify, monitor, and manage project requirements and deliverables.
    • It maintains alignment between user requirements proposed by the client and the system being developed.
  • Traceability Process:
    • Each requirement is linked to a test case to ensure comprehensive testing.
    • Traceability involves reviewing test cases for each requirement to identify areas for improvement and address process weaknesses.
  • Managing Complexity:
    • RTMs counter the complexity in product development by establishing clear links between requirements, testing, and defect identification.
  • Creating an RTM:
    • RTMs are customized to business needs, commonly containing columns such as Requirement ID, Category, Priority, Source, Business Objective, Deliverables, Verification, and Validation.
    • Excel spreadsheets or dedicated requirements management tools can be used to create RTMs.
  • Types of RTMs:
    • Forward Traceability: Maps requirements to test cases to ensure project progression through testing.
    • Backward Traceability: Maps test cases to user requirements, preventing scope creep.
    • Bidirectional Traceability: Combines forward and backward traceability, establishing relationships between artifacts in both directions.
  • Benefits of Bidirectional Traceability:
    • Bidirectional RTMs are more robust, allowing tracing from one artifact to the next and back again.
    • The business can trace requirements back to business goals, enhancing understanding and justification.
  • Tools for RTMs:
    • Excel spreadsheets are commonly used for creating RTMs.
    • Specialized requirements management software such as Visure Requirements, Modern Requirements4DevOps, and ReQtest are also available.

Case Study

Requirement IDCategoryPrioritySourceBusiness ObjectiveDeliverablesVerificationValidation
REQ001FunctionalHighStakeholder AImprove User ExperienceUser Interface Redesign, Faster Page LoadingUser Testing, Performance TestingAchieving KPIs, User Satisfaction
REQ002SecurityMediumStakeholder BEnsure Data PrivacyEncryption Mechanism, Access ControlsSecurity Audits, Penetration TestingCompliance with Data Protection Regulations
REQ003PerformanceHighStakeholder CReduce Page Load TimeImproved Server InfrastructureLoad Testing, Response Time AnalysisAchieving Target Response Times
REQ004UsabilityMediumStakeholder DEnhance User FriendlinessIntuitive Navigation, Clear LabelsUsability Testing, User FeedbackImproved User Satisfaction
REQ005FunctionalLowStakeholder EAdd New FeatureNew Feature ImplementationFunctional Testing, User TestingFeature Adoption and Usability
REQ006Non-functionalHighStakeholder FEnsure ScalabilityScalability EnhancementsScalability Testing, Performance MetricsHandling Increased User Loads

Related Business Matrices

Connected Analysis Frameworks

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Monte Carlo Analysis

The Monte Carlo analysis is a quantitative risk management technique. The Monte Carlo analysis was developed by nuclear scientist Stanislaw Ulam in 1940 as work progressed on the atom bomb. The analysis first considers the impact of certain risks on project management such as time or budgetary constraints. Then, a computerized mathematical output gives businesses a range of possible outcomes and their probability of occurrence.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

CATWOE Analysis

The CATWOE analysis is a problem-solving strategy that asks businesses to look at an issue from six different perspectives. The CATWOE analysis is an in-depth and holistic approach to problem-solving because it enables businesses to consider all perspectives. This often forces management out of habitual ways of thinking that would otherwise hinder growth and profitability. Most importantly, the CATWOE analysis allows businesses to combine multiple perspectives into a single, unifying solution.

VTDF Framework

It’s possible to identify the key players that overlap with a company’s business model with a competitor analysis. This overlapping can be analyzed in terms of key customers, technologies, distribution, and financial models. When all those elements are analyzed, it is possible to map all the facets of competition for a tech business model to understand better where a business stands in the marketplace and its possible future developments.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Comparable Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

Business Analysis

Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

Financial Structure

In corporate finance, the financial structure is how corporations finance their assets (usually either through debt or equity). For the sake of reverse engineering businesses, we want to look at three critical elements to determine the model used to sustain its assets: cost structure, profitability, and cash flow generation.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Value Investing

Value investing is an investment philosophy that looks at companies’ fundamentals, to discover those companies whose intrinsic value is higher than what the market is currently pricing, in short value investing tries to evaluate a business by starting by its fundamentals.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Financial Analysis

Financial accounting is a subdiscipline within accounting that helps organizations provide reporting related to three critical areas of a business: its assets and liabilities (balance sheet), its revenues and expenses (income statement), and its cash flows (cash flow statement). Together those areas can be used for internal and external purposes.

Post-Mortem Analysis

Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.

Root Cause Analysis

In essence, a root cause analysis involves the identification of problem root causes to devise the most effective solutions. Note that the root cause is an underlying factor that sets the problem in motion or causes a particular situation such as non-conformance.

Blindspot Analysis


Break-even Analysis

A break-even analysis is commonly used to determine the point at which a new product or service will become profitable. The analysis is a financial calculation that tells the business how many products it must sell to cover its production costs.  A break-even analysis is a small business accounting process that tells the business what it needs to do to break even or recoup its initial investment. 

Decision Analysis

Stanford University Professor Ronald A. Howard first defined decision analysis as a profession in 1964. Over the ensuing decades, Howard has supervised many doctoral theses on the subject across topics including nuclear waste disposal, investment planning, hurricane seeding, and research strategy. Decision analysis (DA) is a systematic, visual, and quantitative decision-making approach where all aspects of a decision are evaluated before making an optimal choice.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Read Also: RAPID FrameworkRACI Matrix3×3 Sales MatrixValue/effort MatrixSFA matrixValue/Risk MatrixReframing MatrixKepner-Tregoe Matrix.

Main Free Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top