Software Testing 101

Traceability

One term used quite frequently in the context of software development and testing is Traceability.

In general, traceability means the ability to trace something. It is a widely useful term in various sectors and not just healthcare. It is used across verticals for compliance to regulations and risk assessment.

But in the context of software testing, it is the ability to trace tasks/test cases items across the software development lifecycle. Traceability allows teams to keep track of what’s going on and what’s happened. And like elsewhere, traceability enables teams to achieve regulatory compliance too.

How traceability works?

It works by linking two or more assets in application development to establish a dependency and link between items. Typically, it is requirements and test cases that are traced.

Traceability is also used to trace test cases and test runs. You get further insight into your SDLC by tracing forward or backward from any item.
Requirements Traceability

Requirements Traceability enables teams to trace the requirements back to the tests and to ensure that requirements are fulfilled. It is basically the ability to describe and trace the life cycle of a requirement in both the directions (from the source, through its development and specs, to the final deployment and then into the product cycle of ongoing iteration).

It is achieved by using techniques like cross referencing or using specialized templates and integration or transformation documents
is the ability to trace any requirement in the development lifecycle. Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) is used to trace the requirements to the tests that are needed to verify whether the requirements are fulfilled.

Requirements traceability can be defined as the ability to describe and trace the life of a requirement, in both a forward and backward direction (e.g. from its source, through its development and specification, to its actual deployment, and then into the product cycle of ongoing refinement and iteration in any of these phases). Requirements Traceability can be achieved by using one or more of the following techniques:

For forward traceability, other development /testing artifacts, including test cases, test runs, and issues are used. Whereas requirements are traced backwards to the source of the requirement, such as a stakeholder or a regulatory compliance mandate.

The goal of requirements traceability is to manage requirements better and ensure that the original requirements are met. It also helps accelerate development and testing as it provides better visibility.

From the perspective of analysis, traceability is again very important. Because when requirements change then you can use traceability to verify the impact of the change. Traceability enables you to see the change in requirement impacts related assets and issues.

A common practice these days is to create a requirements traceability matrix. This builds an audit trail that is very useful.

Essentially, the Requirement Traceability Matrix or RTM keeps track of all requirements set out by the client or software development team and their traceability in one single document delivered at the conclusion of the life-cycle.

This document maps and traces end user requirements to test cases and ensures that all scenarios and test cases are covered. That is, no functionality is amiss while testing.

Various organizations have different ways of creating and maintaining their RTM but some common parameters are:

  • Requirement ID
  • Risks
  • Requirement Type and Description
  • Trace to design specification
  • Unit test cases
  • Integration test cases
  • System test cases
  • User acceptance test cases
  • Trace to test script

The RTM allows you to see the forward and backward traceability for each component.

Benefits of traceability Higher visibility and clarity on whether the app development is built on specified requirements

  • To ensure that requirements are included in the test cases.
  • Avoids unnecessary or irrelevant features getting added to the project
  • Mitigating risks and meeting compliance and regulation standards.
  • Identifying missing functionalities and fixing them before release
  • Ease of updating and maintaining test cases when requirements change
  • Simplification of defects triage for larger backlogs
  • Adequate documentation for future reference and improvement
  • Confirms 100% test coverage.

Test management tools can make the process of managing requirements and traceability much easier, thereby increasing efficiency and coverage. Many modern test management tools like QMetry offer a single view through requirements/user stories, test assets and defects so that managers can plan optimally and avoid risks. This can help avoid resource leakage and ensure just the right amount of coverage across environments.

Traceability and continuous testing

In the context of DevOps, where software teams use several project managements, issue tracking and test management tools, it becomes a little more complicated. An advanced test management tool can offer end-to-end traceability across manual, automated, Selenium, CI-CD tools, Jira and much more.

Finally, traceability in software testing makes it easier to move forward with a strategic approach. It helps in establishing links between requirements and test and helps keep track of the software development.  Requirements traceability can be used for both manual and automated test cases through the entire testing life cycle – from risk analysis, requirement analysis, test design, execution, defect management and test closure.

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