How to Create a Requirements Traceability Matrix — With Examples
To build the highest quality product, you need to make sure requirements are met, tests are run, and issues are resolved. And, optimally, you want to tie all of these items together so you can trace test results to requirements, requirements to issues, and so on. This requirements traceability is particularly important if you're in a highly regulated industry and need to prove compliance.
What's the best way to achieve all of this? By creating a requirements traceability matrix.
👀 Read the guide: What is a requirements traceability matrix >>
For many organizations, a traceability matrix is first attempted in Microsoft Excel, but there's an easier way. Continue reading to learn how to create a requirements traceability matrix, or jump ahead to the section that interests you most:
- Create a Requirements Traceability Matrix Template
- How to Create a Traceability Matrix in Excel
- Example Traceability Matrix in Excel
- 3 Problems With a Traceability Matrix in Excel
- Why a Traceability Matrix Tool Is Better Than Excel
- Video Tutorial: Sample Traceability Matrix in Helix ALM
- Create a Free Traceability Matrix With Helix ALM
Create a Requirements Traceability Matrix Template
The first step to build a requirements traceability matrix is to create the template, or shell, of your matrix. This is where you'll determine what you want to trace and why, and collect the necessary documents.
1. Define Your Goal
Your first step when creating a traceability matrix — whether you're using Excel or a dedicated requirements management tool — is to define your goal.
Ask yourself: What do I want to deliver with my requirements traceability matrix?
Here are some example goals:
- I want to create a traceability matrix to prove that I’ve met compliance requirements for my product.
- I want to create a traceability matrix to make sure that my requirements have been tested and passed before I ship.
- I want to create a traceability matrix so that I know which tests and issues are impacted if a requirement changes.
By setting your goal before you begin, you’ll make sure you’re gathering the right information for your traceability matrix.
2. Define and Gather Your Artifacts
Next, you’ll need to define which artifacts should be included, based on your goal(s).
At its most basic, a traceability matrix should include:
- Test results
Once you’ve defined your artifacts, you’ll need to gather them. This might mean tracking down the most recent requirements document. Each requirement listed should have a unique requirements ID. And this ID should not change if your requirements are reordered.
You’ll also need to track down your test cases and results. If testing is in progress or completed, you’ll need to find test statuses.
If any tests have failed, you’ll also need to gather any issues that may have been detected.
3. Create Your Requirements Traceability Matrix Template
Once you’ve defined and gathered your documents, you’re ready to make your template.
You’ll need to add a column for each of your artifacts. For a basic traceability matrix, your columns will be:
- Column 1: Requirements
- Column 2: Tests
- Column 3: Test Results
- Column 4: Issues
Then, you’ll be ready to start adding your artifacts in the columns you’ve created.
Wish this process was easier? It can be!
With Helix ALM, your traceability matrix is created at the click of a button.
Watch the on-demand demo to see how it works >>
How to Create a Traceability Matrix in Excel
Creating a traceability matrix in Excel is going to take some time and sleuthing. If you’ve already tracked down the details of which artifacts you want to trace, the process will go much more smoothly.
1. Copy and Paste Requirements From Your Requirements Document
Now it’s time to open up your requirements document and start copying and pasting your requirement IDs into your first column of the traceability matrix template.
This may take a while, depending on how many requirements you have.
2. Copy and Paste Test Cases From Your Test Case Document
Next, you’ll enter your test case IDs into the second column. Test cases should be in the same row as the requirements they are tied to.
This may take a while — especially if your test cases aren’t stored in a central spot.
👀 Looking for a test case template in Excel? Read this first. How to Succeed (and Fail) at Test Case Management >>
3. Copy and Paste Test Results and Issues (If You Have Them)
A test implies that a requirement was implemented. So, you’ll also need to have the results of your test runs in your traceability matrix, as well as any issues that may have come up.
You might have test run results tracked in a spreadsheet. And you might have issues in Jira. Both of those will need to be copied over to the traceability matrix — and put in the same row as their related test cases and requirements.
You can indicate whether a test run passed or failed by changing the background color of the cell (e.g., green for passed and red for failed).
4. Update the Traceability Matrix — Constantly
It’s one effort to create a traceability matrix. But it’s a full-time job to keep it updated and do it right.
If a requirement changes, you’ll need to update the traceability matrix. Or there might be requirements you decided not to fulfill — you’ll need a way to indicate that, too. If someone adds a test case, you’ll need to update the matrix. When a test run passes or fails, you’ll need to update it again. If an issue found in testing is resolved, you’ll need to update it yet again.
Remember to keep a close eye on your requirement IDs. Those should stay the same, even if you reorder your requirements list or reuse a requirement.
There's an easier way to keep your traceability matrix updated, without all the manual labor.
Start your Free Trial of Helix ALM today >>
Example Traceability Matrix in Excel
3 Problems with a Traceability Matrix in Excel
Why is creating your traceability matrix in Excel not the best idea? Here are three problems with this method.
1. Creating a traceability matrix in Excel is labor-intensive and time-consuming.
As you probably gathered from the explanation of how to build a traceability matrix in Excel above, it's not easy. It takes a lot of time do pull everything together from disparate sources. And even more time to tie it all together. Doing these things manually is a lot of work!
Who on your team has enough time on their hands to do all of this work? Probably no one. So it's likely to fall to the side, and you'll end up with an incomplete traceability matrix -- which isn't of much value to anyone. For your traceability matrix to work, it needs to be comprehensive. Otherwise, items can easily fall through the cracks, which leads to confusion around requirements, communication issues, and ultimately poor product quality.
2. Your spreadsheet can easily fall out-of-date.
It's important that your traceability matrix shows the current status of your requirements, test cases, and issues. But if you build your traceability matrix in Excel, keeping everything up-to-date becomes a nightmare of manual labor.
Did a requirement change? Better remember to go back to the traceability matrix and update it, along with any associated tests. Did a new issue come up that requires new test cases? Again, you'll need to manually update your spreadsheet. And if you're running automated tests, it will be pretty much impossible to manually incorporate the thousands of test case results you're likely to receive. You're going to want a tool that can handle all of these updates for you automatically.
3. It might not be enough to prove compliance with industry regulations.
Because of the extensive manual labor required to maintain a traceability matrix in Excel, there's a high risk of introducing human error. As mentioned above, there's also a high likelihood of your traceability matrix falling out of date if the person or people responsible for updating it fall behind or miss a change to a requirement.
If you can't be certain that your traceability matrix is accurate and up-to-date, it's going to be very difficult to use it to demonstrate compliance with industry regulations, or to use it to pass an audit.
Why a Traceability Matrix Tool is Better Than Excel
Using a dedicated traceability tool — such as Helix ALM — is faster, more efficient, and more reliable than using Excel to create a traceability matrix.
It’s Easy to Create a Traceability Matrix
Creating a traceability matrix in Helix ALM is easy.
You write requirements. You do your testing. And every step of the way, Helix ALM is adding underlying links across the system that tie requirements to tests to issues. The relationships are set up as you go.
That means your testers can focus on testing and developers can focus on building the product. No one needs to spend hours updating an Excel traceability matrix.
Your Traceability Matrix Will Be Accurate
Your team will be working on artifacts right within Helix ALM. So, your traceability matrix will always represent the current status of all requirements, test cases, and issues.
Any time a requirement changes, you can easily rerun a traceability matrix report to get the latest results. You won’t have the added step of going back to update it. And you won’t have the nightmare of trying to track down the latest status of every last artifact.
Best of all? You'll always have a current, comprehensive 'single pane of glass' view of your requirements and test coverage.
You’ll Get More Mileage Out of Your Traceability Matrix
You can see an up-to-date traceability matrix report any time you want to. That means you can use the traceability matrix to make informed decisions throughout development.
You can use the traceability matrix to meet critical goals, such as proving compliance. Validating that the product you’re shipping has been thoroughly tested and fulfilled all requirements is easy. All you need to do is run a report when your project is complete and you’ll have the proof you need in case of an audit.
But let’s say you want to do risk management. There are different types of project artifact relationships you’ll need to define to understand risk, such as the relationship between risk and requirements. But with Helix ALM, that's no problem. All of your artifacts are stored in one system, which means you can easily address risk management — without jumping through extra hoops.
At the end of the day, you’ll have flexibility to use the traceability matrix any way you want it.
Video Tutorial: Sample Traceability Matrix in Helix ALM
Watch how Helix ALM streamlines the creation of a traceability matrix.
Want to see more? Our 20-minute on-demand demo shows you how Helix ALM automates traceability and streamlines all aspects of your product workflow.
Access the demo now >>
Create a Free Traceability Matrix With Helix ALM
With Helix ALM, traceability happens automatically. And you can create an up-to-date traceability matrix can be created at the click of a button. You can use your traceability matrix to prove compliance, improve product quality and safety, and understand the impact of change.
But don’t just take our word for it. Try Helix ALM today — and see how easy it can be to create a traceability matrix and achieve end-to-end traceability.
Create a traceability matrix now
Note: This blog was first published on May 16, 2018 and was updated for quality and accuracy in April 2023.