An Analysis of the Requirements Traceability Problem

Keywords requirements traceability pre-requirements specification traceability post-requirements specification traceability requirements engineering practice requirements traceability tools
Standards groups

7.2:Obtaining & recording information Much progress has been made in the ability to obtain and record diverse types of RE information. For example: the history of requirements evolution (REMAP [49]); requirements tradeoffs
(KAPTUR [1]); explanations and justifications (XPLAIN [44]); a record of collaborative activities (Conversation Builder [33]); and multimedia information [45].

For comprehensive coverage, such tools could be amalgamated in an exploratory
workbench (or requirements pre-processor), using suitable integration standards. With additional computer metaphors, so that more RE activities can be carried out on-line, more of this information could be produced as a by-product of main activities. Advances here can be informed through the use of
ethnography, or ethnomethodology, to study and describe the details of requirements production, use, and manipulation.

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In this paper1, we investigate and discuss the underlying nature
of the requirements traceability problem. Our work is based on
empirical studies, involving over 100 practitioners, and an
evaluation of current support. We introduce the distinction
between pre-requirements specification (pre-RS) traceability
and post-requirements specification (post-RS) traceability, to
demonstrate why an all-encompassing solution to the problem is
unlikely, and to provide a framework through which to
understand its multifaceted nature.

We report how the majority of the problems attributed to poor requirements traceability are due to inadequate pre-RS traceability and show the fundamental need for improvements here. In the remainder of the paper, we present an analysis of the main barriers confronting such improvements in practice, identify relevant areas in which advances have been (or can be) made, and make recommendations for research.


Requirements traceability (RT) is recognised as a concern in
an increasing number of standards and guidelines for
requirements engineering (RE) [12]. This concern is reflected by
the various systems that have been developed and a growing
research interest in the area [25]. Despite many advances, RT
remains a widely reported problem area by industry. We
attribute this to inadequate problem analysis.

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