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GuidesProduct developmentWhat is traceability in product development?

What is traceability in product development?

Last updated

19 December 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

Businesses have to meet certain requirements to ensure the products they manufacture are of high quality and meet safety requirements. To make a profit, they also need to run operations efficiently, keep costs within budget, and minimize waste. This can only be achieved by keeping track of every element of the process, from material sourcing to product delivery.

Modern product development processes, including software development, require companies to keep track of goods and products as they move through the production chain. Traceability enables businesses to monitor every step in the process, helping them become more agile and better serve customers.

What is traceability?

Traceability is being able to follow inputs and goods along the production chain with full visibility and accountability at every step. By producing a documented thread of data that tracks the requirements throughout the product lifecycle, you can minimize the risk of negative outcomes.

Effective traceability enables teams to detect unnecessary resource consumption, meet customer demands, and respond quickly to changes and unexpected issues. As a result, businesses can make informed decisions to identify opportunities, improve innovation, and certify product quality.

What are the three types of traceability?

In software development, traceability enables quality control teams to follow the lifecycle of requirements and code to eliminate defects and maintain compliance.

Three types of traceability allow software development teams to create an accurate digital thread that connects all phases of the product development lifecycle:

  1. Forward: forward traceability tracks relationships downstream in the product development lifecycle. There are two kinds of forward traceability. “Forward to requirements” traces from customer needs down to requirements, and “forward from requirements” traces connections between requirements down to corresponding downstream actions, like test cases.

  2. Backward: backward traceability tracks relationships upstream in the product development lifecycle. The two kinds of backward traceability are “backward from requirements,” which links requirements up to use cases, and “backward to requirements,” which traces from performed work up to requirements.

  3. Bidirectional: this is the ability to perform both forward and backward traceability.

What is system traceability?

System traceability is the process of gathering and recording data to observe the performance of every service in the development process. Connecting this data enables your teams to address latency holistically.

What is quality traceability?

Quality traceability is the process of tracing the links between requirements, design, testing, and implementation to ensure quality throughout the development process. By linking requirements that are dependent on one another, you can trace relationships that verify requirements are met.

Why is traceability important?

Traceability enables companies in any industry to develop a full chain of evidence for actions that take place during product development. As product development ecosystems become more distributed and diverse, companies need accurate data that provides end-to-end visibility into the entire lifecycle of the products they distribute.

Traceability is essential to these vital elements of quality control:

  • Regulatory compliance: many regulatory compliance frameworks require a full chain of evidence for each part of the development process. In software development, this means a record of data for every code change. Traceability enables development teams to access this data easily when necessary.

  • Reducing defects: defects and software bugs are easier to locate and repair when traceability information is accurate and complete.

  • Increasing speed and accuracy: traceability gives teams end-to-end visibility into the production process. Developers who implement traceability into their processes have the insight to identify process bottlenecks and improve efficiency. Well-executed traceability can also connect code written by multiple teams to help decrease technical debt and eliminate errors.

What is an example of traceability?

Traceability works by recording dependencies between activities in the software development lifecycle. It enables teams to identify discrepancies and meet requirements. A common example is creating a link between a software bug and the code changes that eliminate the link.

What are the disadvantages of traceability?

Achieving end-to-end traceability can be a complex and time-consuming procedure when carried out manually. Companies need accurate tools that automate traceability processes, but these can be time-consuming and expensive.

The organization also needs to develop a culture and mindset of valuing traceability.

How to achieve product traceability

Achieving product traceability requires a clear plan and user-friendly tools that provide insight into the entire development process. These steps can help you develop a product traceability process that meets your products’ unique requirements.

1. Write a guideline document

A clear set of guidelines puts all teams on the same page and provides a distinct outline of what is required and expected. Keep your guidelines short and direct, providing information on what steps must be carried out and why each action should be included.

2. Adopt user-friendly tools

Modern technology enables development teams to automate data collection and reporting. To find the right tools for your needs, encourage participation from every member of the development team and select tools that integrate with existing software and workflows.

3. Test and change as needed

As you begin using your traceability process, you’ll recognize what’s working and what isn’t. For instance, some types of data will offer more value than others.

Revisit your guideline document frequently and make changes to streamline and improve the process as necessary.

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