How to Make a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)


Requirements are the tasks that must be done in order to deliver a final project. That includes the features, functions and so forth. Tracing those features can ensure that none slip through the cracks, a process that’s best completed by using a requirements traceability matrix.

If you’ve never heard of a requirements traceability matrix and you’re managing a project, you’ll need a crash course. We’re going to explain what requirements traceability is, how to make a requirements traceability matrix and explore the different types to help you ensure all of your project requirements are fulfilled by the end of the project.

What Is Requirements Traceability?

As products become more complex, so do requirements. The requirements can move across departments in an organization as they go through the development process, and that doesn’t include involved stakeholders.

Requirements traceability is a way for the product team to keep track of these requirements and make sure they’re fulfilled. Not only that, but each decision made over the course of the project will impact the project’s requirements. Understanding that impact is crucial and requires transparency in the activities taking place.

Requirements traceability ensures that each critical project requirement and the delivery of a viable product has been fulfilled. Tracking these variables over the life cycle of a project can be difficult over the product development life cycle, and having documentation solidifies that you’re not missing any vital points.

Having the visibility of requirements traceability into requirements such as design, development, testing and support, minimizes negative outcomes and maximizes productivity. Other benefits include improving team efficiency, easier compliance with regulations and higher-quality products.

Project management software helps you track every step of your product development and make sure you’re fulfilling your requirements along the way. ProjectManager is online software with features that help you track requirements in real time. Kanban boards can be customized for requirements tracing, providing transparency into each step and automation to move to the next status. Task approvals can be set to ensure that quality expectations are met throughout the process. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's kanban board
ProjectManager has kanban boards for requirements traceability. Learn more

What Is a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)?

A requirements traceability matrix is the document used to track the requirements as it moves through product development. It’s the documentation that confirms that all product requirements have been fulfilled. It lists the requirements, tests, test results and any issues that may have come up over the course of testing that needs to be addressed to bring the project to a successful close.

The requirements traceability matrix is a document that maps user requirements with test cases. The document captures all client requirements and traces those throughout the product development. This document is then delivered at the end of the software development life cycle. The main purpose is to ensure all requirements are accounted for and have been checked with test cases. No functionality should be left unchecked at the end of this process.

How to Create an RTM

Used in software testing and product development, a requirements traceability matrix is an important tool to make sure you fulfill every user requirement. No project should be without one, which is why we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide to making your own requirements traceability matrix.

1. Define Goals

The goal of a requirements traceability matrix is to track the user requirements for the project, and it’s easiest to list them on a spreadsheet. But an RTM can be used for a variety of things. For example, you can make sure your requirements have been tested or are compliant. You can also determine which requirements are impacted if something changes. Regardless, the first step is to define the goal.

2. Collect Artifacts

Based on your goal, you’ll start to collect relevant artifacts that include at least the requirements, tests, test results and issues. After you’ve collected the artifacts, you’ll want to get the most current requirements documents. Each requirement should have a unique ID number that doesn’t change, even if the requirement is reordered. Test cases also need to be defined and given a status. For example, they might be started, done or blocked. If the test fails, then whatever issues led to that failure should be detailed.

3. Create Requirements Traceability Matrix

Now you’re ready to build the RTM. Use a spreadsheet and make four columns. Each column will be for an artifact. The first column outlines the requirements lists, the next has the tests and following that are the test results. You’ll also have a column for issues. This is the bare minimum and you can add more as needed for your project. For instance, a column that numbers each of the requirements would be useful.

4. Copy and Paste

You’ve done the work and now you have to add it to the requirements traceability matrix. Simply add the requirements, test cases, test results (if you have them at this point) and issues to the spreadsheet.

5. Revive the RTM

The requirements traceability matrix is a living document that’ll you’ll often reference for updates. As requirements change, so does the RTM. Some requirements might drop from the project or another test case may be added; all of these changes need to be reflected in the requirements traceability matrix. The requirements ID number, however, should stay the same even if the requirement is reordered or reused.

Free Requirements Traceability Matrix Template for Excel

Because you’ll be using the requirements traceability matrix throughout the project, it’s helpful to download our free RTM template for Excel. Once you’ve downloaded the free requirements traceability template for Excel, all you have to do is fill in the blanks to create a document of your requirements, tests and issues.

ProjectManager's Requirements Traceability Matrix Template

Types of Requirements Traceability Matrices

Now that we know what a requirements traceability matrix is and how to create one, let’s look deeper into the topic. There are three different types of requirements traceability matrix: forward traceability, backward traceability and bidirectional traceability. Let’s take a moment to define each.

Forward Traceability

The forward traceability matrix is used to see the requirements of the test cases. This allows for each of the requirements to have a test and also allows one to know that the project’s trajectory is positive.

Backward Traceability

Backward traceability maps the test cases with the requirements. This is done to avoid scope creep and going beyond the initial requirements without cause to do so.

Bidirectional Traceability

As you might guess, a bidirectional traceability matrix is one that combines the forward and the backward traceability in one document. This ensures that every requirement has a related test case.

It’s clear how important a requirements traceability matrix is for project management. If you miss a requirement, you might not deliver what users want. Having a list of those requirements and being able to map them in whatever direction is best for your project ensures that all have been included. But you can also see that they involve a lot of work and manual labor to create, fill in and update.

ProjectManager Helps Track Requirements

ProjectManager is online project management software that allows you to track requirements in real time. Plan, schedule and track requirements all in the same tool. As teams implement and test requirements, everyone gets transparency into the process to ensure that nothing is neglected.

Get Overview With Real-Time Dashboard

Whenever you need a high-level view of the requirements and testing, you can look at our real-time dashboard. It automatically collects live data and crunches the numbers to show you six metrics in easy-to-read graphs and charts. Monitor your team’s workload, tasks and time while also checking on costs and more. Best of all, there’s no setup required.

dashboard showing project metrics in real-time
Dive Deeper Into Data With Customizable Reports

When you need more detail than the dashboard can deliver use our one-click reports. You can generate reports on status or portfolio status if you’re managing more than one project. But there are also reports on time, cost, variance and more. All can be filtered to report on only the data you want to see to help you make more insightful decisions. They can easily be shared to keep stakeholders updated.

ProjectManager's status report filter

Our software helps you plan, schedule and track work in real time. Stay on top of changes with notifications and even comment and share files across departments. Everyone is always working on the same page which helps productivity. Add to that features for task and resource management and you have an all-around project management software.

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you work more productively and track that work to stay on schedule. Connect teams, departments and even outside vendors to facilitate communication and keep everyone working better together. Join teams at NASA, Siemens and Nestle who use our tool to deliver success. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.