agile workflow in highly regulated environments
November 7, 2016

Requirements Traceability in Agile

Application Lifecycle Management

Organizations everywhere are adopting Agile. But can highly-regulated organizations adopt Agile — without compromising on their needs?

That's a risk many are hesitant to take. 

The reason? There are five big barriers to Agile adoption.

In this blog, we'll cover requirements traceability in Agile — and how to get it. 

Agile Development Lacks Traceability

Many regulated organizations believe Agile development lacks traceability. And they struggle to overcome this mindset: 

“We need to be able to show traceability from high-level requirements through design, development, and testing. That’s not possible if the design and construction is done in a development process that is ad hoc and not linked with our broader end-to-end development process.”

How Agile Organizations Handle Requirements

Many companies can’t create high-level design or requirements specifications with Agile user stories or epics. After all, user stories and epics simply aren’t suited to earlier-stage requirements gathering and high-level design activities, or they’re not a feasible cultural fit.

And the most common way to manage user stories and tasks in sprints is with sticky notes on a physical task board, or by using a standalone software tool — both of which break your end-to-end traceability.

Regulated Organizations Still Need to Prove Compliance

But you still need documents that subject matter experts can easily create and review — such as market requirements, high-level requirements, and so forth. User stories or epics aren't enough. 

And how do you track a bunch of pieces of paper stuck to a whiteboard (or digital cards in a standalone tool) in a way that will be compliant?

For that, you need requirements traceability in Agile. 

Getting Requirements Traceability in Agile

For requirements traceability in Agile, you need the right ALM tool — such as Helix ALM.

You Get Requirements Traceability

With Helix ALM, you can break down a requirement specification or test specification document into user stories and tasks. Helix ALM automatically links the user story to the requirement it was created from. And it links tasks to the user stories they were created from.

The magic of Helix ALM is that it allows you to create a user story that can be a part of your documentation set, while simultaneously appearing in your backlogs and sprints as required.

And You Still Get Task Boards

But what about that much-beloved whiteboard with all the sticky notes?

Helix ALM has you covered there, too, with task boards. Task boards are interactive, alternate views of folder contents that look and work just like a physical task board, only better.

Items in a Helix ALM folder are displayed as cards in a virtual task board. Cards are organized vertically in columns mapped to your workflow, and horizontally in swim lanes by folder, user, relationship, or requirement document.

You can drag cards between columns to change item status as work progresses, and perform other actions — such as creating new related items, entering hours, and viewing time-tracking information.

You can even set work in progress (WIP) limits for each column to help identify bottlenecks.

Here's how Helix ALM helps you create requirements traceability in Agile task boards.
Helix ALM task boards are interactive, alternate views of folder contents.


It's the Best of Both Worlds

With Helix ALM, you can have the best of both worlds.

Do your high-level requirements gathering in documents (where each paragraph is a traceable record).

And then create user stories, which can be automatically linked and added to backlog/sprints and to your document set at the same time.

Helix ALM takes the stress out of it all with a requirements traceability matrix — and frees you up to be Agile.

4 More Barriers to Agile Adoption

There are four other common barriers to Agile adoption in regulated environments. Learn how to overcome them:

Transition to Agile Successfully

Transitioning to Agile can be tricky for any organization. And it's trickier for organizations in highly-regulated industries. 

Until now. 

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