How to create a requirement traceability matrix: theory, best practices, and template

Nadezhda Yushkevich
Updated on
Jun 17, 2024
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Requirements define what needs to be tested, ensure that testing is comprehensive and focused on critical areas, and provide a clear measure of success for the software project. A requirement traceability matrix (RTM) is a document that tracks project requirements. Today, we will explore what an RTM is in detail and how to create such a document.

What is a requirement traceability matrix?

A requirements traceability matrix is a document in software testing that systematically connects the project's initial requirements to the relevant test scripts or cases, ensuring all requirements are accounted for and none are overlooked. The RTM aligns project baseline documents to verify their complex interrelationships and completeness.

An RTM is more than a simple checklist. This is a comprehensive, dynamic document that tracks evolving project requirements. An RTM ensures the final product aligns with, and often surpasses, initial user expectations. Change requests can arise from users, stakeholders, or internal departments like sales.

RTMs are usually formatted as tables, detailing each requirement alongside its corresponding testing techniques.

Parameters of RTM

In a software testing project, the RTM incorporates various parameters essential for comprehensive requirement management. Tailoring these parameters to fit unique project characteristics ensures the effectiveness of the RTM. Here are the key parameters to consider when designing an RTM:

Design and specification. This parameter includes wireframes, design documents, and functional specifications. Linking requirements to design elements aligns specified features with implemented functionalities.

Source. Indicate the origin of requirements, whether from business documents, stakeholder interviews, or regulatory standards. Knowing the source provides context and facilitates tracing requirements back to their origins.

Requirement ID. Assign a unique identifier to each requirement for easy referencing and elimination of confusion during discussions and documentation.

Requirement description. Offer a clear and concise description of each requirement, conveying its functionality and purpose to stakeholders.

Parent requirement. Identify broader requirements for hierarchical structuring, fostering relationships among various requirements and maintaining proper hierarchy.

Priority. Assign priorities to requirements to guide resource allocation and decision-making, emphasizing urgent or critical features.

Status. Track the progress of requirements throughout the project lifecycle, indicating their current stage and facilitating effective project management.

Test case ID. Associate each requirement with one or more test cases to verify implementation and ensure comprehensive testing coverage.

Test result. Record the outcome of test cases executed for each requirement, providing insights into successful validation or outstanding defects.

Comments or remarks. Allow space for additional clarification, information, or discussions related to specific requirements, ensuring comprehensive documentation and communication.

Traceability matrix vs. Requirement traceability matrix

The requirement traceability matrix and Traceability matrix are essential in project management and software development. However, they play different roles.

A traceability matrix is a dynamic tool used to manage project scope, quality, and risks. It documents the relationships between various project elements such as requirements, deliverables, test cases, design specifications, and other artifacts. By mapping these connections, the TM ensures that all requirements are addressed through design, development, and testing activities. It helps identify gaps, manage dependencies, and track the status and progress of project components. Depending on the project’s complexity and scope, TMs can range from high-level matrices linking business objectives to deliverables to detailed matrices connecting test cases to code modules.

An RTM is a specific type of TM that focuses on tracking the project's requirements. It meticulously maps each requirement from its source – be it stakeholder needs, business goals, or regulatory standards – to the corresponding components or subsystems. The RTM also details how each requirement is verified through test cases and validated by acceptance criteria. This ensures that all project requirements are comprehensively addressed and meet stakeholder expectations. RTMs often include hierarchical relationships (e.g., parent-child requirements) or flat relationships (e.g., requirements to corresponding artifacts) and involve a wide range of stakeholders, including project managers, business analysts, system engineers, quality assurance engineers, and customers.

Parameter Traceability Matrix Requirements Traceability Matrix
Scope & focus Broad, linking various project elements such as requirements, design, development, and testing artifacts. Narrow, specifically tracking project requirements from their source to validation and verification.
Purpose Verifying requirements, mapping dependencies, analyzing coverage, and tracking status across various project elements. Ensuring each requirement is met, tested, and validated to meet stakeholder expectations.
Complexity Can range from simple to highly complex, depending on project needs and detail required. Usually detailed and specific, focusing on mapping requirements to corresponding artifacts and validation measures.
Stakeholders involvement Typically involves project managers, developers, testers, and sometimes business analysts. Involves a broader range of stakeholders, including project managers, business analysts, system engineers, quality assurance engineers, and customers.
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Types of RTM

You should effectively manage the relationships between requirements, processes, test cases, and project outcomes. Different types of RTMs provide various methods of tracing these relationships. The direction of tracing – whether forward, backward, or bidirectional – plays a key role in how these links are maintained throughout a project's lifecycle. Below are the three primary types of RTMs:

1. Forward traceability focuses on linking requirements to their corresponding test cases and project deliverables. This ensures that the project stays on track by confirming that all requirements are implemented and tested correctly. Forward traceability helps monitor the project's development from start to finish, ensuring that every requirement is accounted for in subsequent project stages.

  • Objective: to ensure every requirement is tested and properly implemented.
  • Direction: from requirements to test cases/deliverables.

2. Backward traceability, also known as reverse traceability, involves mapping test cases and deliverables back to their originating requirements. This type of traceability ensures the project does not deviate from its initial scope by preventing the addition of unnecessary features. Backward traceability verifies that each test and project element aligns with the specified requirements, maintaining the integrity of the project scope.

  • Objective: to ensure no unnecessary features are added and to verify alignment with initial requirements.
  • Direction: from test cases/deliverables to requirements.

3. Bidirectional traceability is a comprehensive approach that incorporates both forward and backward traceability. It ensures that each requirement is linked to corresponding test cases and that each test case maps back to its requirement. This method supports thorough verification and impact analysis, ensuring that any changes in requirements are accurately tracked and reflected in the test cases.

  • Objective: to ensure complete alignment between requirements and test cases, supporting thorough verification and impact analysis.
  • Direction: from/to requirements – and from/to test cases/deliverables.

RTM and project life cycle: how to connect

The RTM serves as a vital link throughout the project life cycle. Here's how you can effectively connect the RTM with various phases of the project life cycle:

Planning phase

During the planning phase, the RTM becomes a cornerstone for defining the project scope and objectives. It assists in prioritizing requirements based on business needs and feasibility, allowing project managers to allocate resources efficiently. By mapping requirements to components or subsystems, the RTM lays the foundation for a structured and organized approach to project execution.

Execution phase

As the project progresses into the execution phase, the RTM continues to be a guiding force. It supports the design, development, integration, and testing processes by providing a clear roadmap of requirements. Teams can refer to the RTM to ensure that each requirement is meticulously addressed in the system or product being developed. Through rigorous verification and validation, the RTM helps maintain quality standards and ensures that the final deliverables meet stakeholder expectations.

Monitoring and control phase

Throughout the project life cycle, the RTM serves as a valuable tool for monitoring and controlling project progress. Project managers can leverage the RTM to track the status of each requirement and its corresponding artifacts. Any deviations or issues can be promptly identified and addressed, ensuring timely corrective actions. By maintaining an up-to-date RTM, project teams can effectively manage changes and mitigate risks, thus minimizing project disruptions.

Delivery and deployment phase

During the delivery and deployment phase, the RTM ensures customer satisfaction. By validating that each requirement has been successfully fulfilled, project teams can confidently deliver a product that meets customer expectations. Furthermore, the RTM serves as a documentation artifact, providing a comprehensive record of the project's requirements and their implementation. Conducting a lessons learned session allows project teams to reflect on their experiences, identify best practices, and explore opportunities for improvement in future projects.

Requirement traceability matrix template

The process of creating an RTM can vary based on the methodology and tools used in the project. However, the following general steps can guide you. Here, you can download the template for the requirements traceability matrix.

Step 1. Define the scope and objectives of the project

Understanding what you want to achieve with your requirements traceability matrix will guide your efforts and ensure you collect the necessary information.

You can consider these example goals:

  • Compliance verification. Creating a traceability matrix to demonstrate that your product meets compliance requirements.
  • Requirement validation. Developing a traceability matrix to ensure all requirements have been tested and approved before shipping.
  • Impact analysis. Utilizing a traceability matrix to identify which tests and issues are affected when a requirement changes.

So, at the very beginning of creating an RTM, identify the sources of requirements, such as stakeholders, documents, and standards. Prioritize these requirements based on their importance and urgency. Utilizing a project scope template can help streamline this process.

Step 2. Identify the requirements

RTM encompasses four key components:

  1. Requirements
  2. Tests
  3. Test Results
  4. Issues

To initiate the creation process, gather project requirements from the identified sources using various techniques, including interviews, surveys, workshops, and observations. This entails retrieving the latest version of the requirements document. Each requirement must be assigned a unique ID, maintaining consistency even if the requirements undergo reordering.

Following the collection of requirements, proceed to locate the corresponding test cases along with their respective outcomes. Whether the testing phase is ongoing or concluded, documenting the current statuses of tests is imperative.

Additionally, in cases where tests have yielded unfavorable results, it's essential to collate and record any associated issues. This comprehensive approach ensures that all potential challenges are meticulously tracked and managed within the matrix.

Step 3. Analyze the requirements

Ensure that all requirements are complete, correct, feasible, testable, and traceable. Resolve any conflicts or ambiguities. Categorize the requirements into different types (functional, non-functional, system, subsystem) and levels (high-level, low-level).

Step 4. Allocate requirements

Allocate each requirement to one or more components or subsystems responsible for implementation. Define the interfaces and interactions among these components. Document this information in a design specification using diagrams such as UML or SysML.

Step 5. Verify and validate requirements

Verify that each requirement is met by corresponding design elements through methods such as inspections, reviews, and walkthroughs. Document this in a verification plan using matrices like V&V matrix or V-model. Validate requirements against acceptance criteria through testing, demonstrations, and simulations, and document these in a validation plan using test plans, test cases, and test reports.

Step 6. Create a requirement traceability matrix

Develop the RTM to link each requirement to its source, allocation, and verification and validation artifacts. Use a tool that supports traceability and collaboration, such as Creately. Ensure the RTM is updated as the project progresses and changes occur.

Step 7. Review and audit the RTM

Conduct periodic reviews and audits of the RTM to ensure its accuracy, consistency, and completeness. Identify and address any gaps, inconsistencies, or errors. Use metrics like traceability coverage and traceability completeness to measure and improve the quality of the RTM.

Best practices for creating an RTM

Crafting an effective RTM requires adherence to best practices to ensure its efficiency in facilitating traceability and managing project requirements. Here's how to create an RTM that seamlessly integrates into your project life cycle:

Systematic requirement listing. Begin by systematically listing all project requirements, ensuring they are well-written and logically arranged. This approach aids in identifying traceability gaps during testing and aligning test scenarios with project requirements.

Distinct identifiers. Assign unique identifiers to each requirement in the RTM to facilitate easy connectivity between requirements and test cases. Unique codes streamline change management, error detection, and relationship tracing across project components.

Prioritization. Prioritize requirements based on project constraints, customer needs, or business value. Focusing on high-priority requirements first allows for efficient resource allocation, risk mitigation, and high-quality product delivery.

Regular updates. Keep the RTM up to date throughout the project life cycle to track progress, manage modifications, and reduce the risk of data inconsistencies. Regular updates ensure accurate tracking of requirement status and project progress.

Team collaboration. Encourage collaboration among project stakeholders, including testers, developers, business analysts, and customers. Transparent communication fosters efficient requirement validation and ensures alignment with project goals.

Clear RTM structure. Define a clear and consistent structure for the RTM, including terminology, formats, and column headings. Clarity in structure enhances understanding and eliminates confusion among stakeholders and team members.

Maintain unique identifiers. Maintain uniqueness in identifiers for entities included in the RTM, such as test cases, design elements, and requirements. Clear identifiers facilitate traceability links and straightforward referencing of project components.

Establish traceability relationships. Define and maintain clear traceability relationships between test cases, design artifacts, and requirements. Accurate representation of relationships ensures comprehensive coverage and effective requirement validation.

Consider dependencies and assumptions. Document dependencies and assumptions between requirements and project components. Identifying and documenting dependencies helps stakeholders understand the context and potential impact of changes.


An effective RTM is essential for ensuring that all project requirements are systematically tracked and validated. By understanding the different types and parameters of RTMs, and following a structured creation process, teams can enhance their project's traceability and quality. Best practices such as maintaining clear and unique identifiers, regular updates, and strong collaboration among stakeholders are crucial for the RTM's success. Ultimately, a well-maintained RTM ensures that all project requirements are met, contributing to successful project outcomes and high stakeholder satisfaction.

About the author

Nadezhda Yushkevich

Content Writer and Tech Journalist

With 11 years of work experience in journalism, media management, PR, and content marketing, she has specialized in IT and startup areas for the last five years. Interested in practices, trends, and approaches in the field of quality assurance.