Stop using Word and Excel to track requirements and tests
February 25, 2021

10 Signs You Should Not Track Requirements and Tests with Excel and Word

Traceability
Application Lifecycle Management

Some businesses can effectively use Word and Excel to track requirements, issues, and tests. But product and software traceability can become too complicated for manual tools. This is especially true when development becomes more complex, while you continue using old tracking methods.

If you're experiencing the following challenges, it may be time to switch to a modern traceability solution.
 

Top 10 Signs it's Time to Ditch Word and Excel Templates for Product & Software Traceability


1. Someone has Changed Your Work Without You Knowing
In Microsoft, it is easy for changes to go unnoticed. Another team could make changes and not know to tell you. While you can track changes, this is ineffective if the author forgets to turn this feature on, or if someone is working in the document at the same time as you. Unacknowledged changes to these important documents can make rework and proving compliance a nightmare.

See how Fractyl Achieved the CE Mark 12 months ahead of schedule >>

2. You Spend Significant Time Ensuring Test Coverage
Product teams often outline requirements in Word, and QA teams design test cases in Excel. Matching the two can be extremely difficult when there is a lot to cover. You basically have to manually map Excel rows to sections of unstructured text in Word — which makes it difficult to know whether you adequately tested the requirement.

3. You Cannot Find Old Assets
When you save in Microsoft, you are limited in the number of defining fields and granularity — making it impossible to sort in an efficient way. Furthermore, if anyone strays from naming or saving conventions, historical assets are even more disorganized. If you're mining hundreds of folders and documents, you may not ever find what you're looking for.

4. You’re Reinventing the Wheel Instead of Reusing Old Assets
You spend significant time writing requirements and tests. Some of them can hopefully be reused so you don't have to invest that time again. But, as stated above, if old assets are hard to find, you could waste additional time investigating whether you already did something — just to come up empty-handed. Then you have to rebuild something that you should have been able to simply reuse.

5. Your Formatting is Inconsistent (I'm looking at you, Word)
Team A builds product A; Team B builds product B. Both have their own way of building out their PRDs (product requirement documents) in Word. The formatting inconsistencies between the two make it excruciating to pull metrics. You can't know the efficiency of teams when one team uses requirements, the other writes user stories, and you don't know how granular either one is. The two PRDs (or MRDs, or SRSs, or Epics… you get the idea) are basically speaking different languages, making comparison impossible.

6. You Spend a Lot of Time Making Traceability Reports
For regulated industries in particular, traceability among requirements, issues, and test cases is must. When you do this manually, you are spending about 2 weeks every year on traceability. (Compare that to minutes a year when you automate tracing.)

7. Your Team is Working Remotely (Isn't this most of us?)
When a remote team relies on Word and Excel for tracking, communication and accountability can become both slow and confusing. You cannot assign tasks; you cannot automate notifications. You may even struggle to find instructions. Now you depend on emails, IMs, or even texts just to determine progress and who is responsible for what.

8. Your Team is Growing
In all honesty, manual processes work fine for most small teams. (Especially unregulated teams.) It's easy to trust ten people not to create a mess of your files. But what about when you have 50 people? The larger your team, the more likely it is that information is lost or unclear, and the development process as a whole slows down. 

9. You Need to Enforce Processes
Put plainly, there are no workflows in Word and Excel. So there is no way for you to enforce any kind of a process, like for reviews or change management. Here again, if you're working with a small team, this may not be very painful. But when you have to hold a lot of people accountable, this can derail your project.

10. You Need Top Down Reporting
While Excel has excellent reporting at a small scale, it is not designed to capture the effort of multiple projects. Free text in Word has no meaningful reporting at all! (Don’t even get me started on trying to consolidate Word + Excel for reporting purposes.) For example, you cannot generate status or progress reports that span multiple workbooks, particularly if your teams are organized differently. There are no efficiency or pass/fail metrics. You can't see how you've developed along certain themes, or how you're trending towards business goals.  None of these stats can be easily automated through manual tracking tools.
 

What is the Solution?

The good news is that when you replace manual processes with an automated tool, you can solve all of these problems. Which means you're going to save significant time — and headaches — in both development and compliance audits. We’ll even import your existing data!

And you can try our tool for free. See what you can gain using a single solution to manage requirements, issues, and test cases.  Don't want to replace Jira or some other tracking tool? Helix ALM integrates with most popular development tools. And you can use it in the cloud or on-premise.

Track for free in Helix ALM   Watch the Demo First