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Traceability in Project Management Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

Author: John Campbell | March 15, 2021

Product development today involves the daunting task of managing multiple requirements and interdependencies—which, if done manually, eats up time and resources. The fact is, manufacturers must be able to trace artifacts across the entire project. It’s not a nice-to-have; it’s a must have. 

Traceability can be overwhelming, particularly when you consider the multiple layers involved—from user and product requirements, hardware and software to design, verification and validation. 

What’s your traceability process, and how do you manage your systems and subsystems? Do you house all of your information in a spreadsheet, manually tagging traceable items? If so, you’ve likely found it to be somewhat unmanageable. Then there’s the question of risk. What requirements do you have in place to proactively mitigate risks, and how are you managing test cases? How do you define your unique IDs? Do you have macros to take care of this, and are they validated? 

As experts in engineering management, we’ve seen a thing or two, and we are all too familiar with the common pitfalls that can befall a project. Without an efficient and reliable way to trace artifacts across the entire project, you risk non-compliance, not to mention the hours wasted trying to keep up with manual processes and the human error that will likely result. 

Traceability creates a faster, more reliable product development process that ensures the evolution of the product doesn’t veer too far from its requirements and deliverability. According to research done by Empirical Software Engineering, on average, projects that included traceability performed 24 percent faster on a given task and resulted in 50 percent more correct solutions.*

What exactly do we mean by traceability? It comes down to your ability to answer these five “W”s: 

  1. What is related to what, and how? 
  2. What changed?
  3. When did it change? 
  4. Who changed it?
  5. Why did it change?

Yes, it’s a lot of dots to connect. But it doesn’t have to be complicated—not if you have an automated lifecycle management tool in place, like Polarion ALM, which does it all for you. 

With Polarion, you can easily see what is linked with what kind of relationship, trace up or down and even create audit reports. You can also track everything down to the line of code, all while maintaining accurate audit trails to ensure compliance with industry standards. 

The way you manage your product development lifecycle will ultimately impact your ability to deliver a superior product that’s designed to its standards while ensuring accountability throughout the process. The answer lies in traceability. 



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Dan Sterling Photo of Dan Sterling President
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