TRACEABILITY: Let's Connect the Dots
How do we ensure our initiatives, products, projects or anything we do aligns with our organizational goals?
The answer is Traceability!
What is Traceability?
The BUSINESS ANALYSIS BODY OF KNOWLEDGE® (BABOK) defines traceability as an ability to track the relationship between requirements and designs from the initial stakeholder need to the solution implemented.
Simply put, traceability is any identifiable link between any two or more logical entities.
In the context of requirements, these logical entities could include, but are not limited to, Business Requirements, Stakeholder Requirements, Solution Requirements, Transition Requirements, Designs, Code and Test Cases.
In the enterprise context, the concept of traceability can be extrapolated to entities such as: Corporate Strategy, Business Capabilities, Desired Outcomes & high-level Business Processes.
We will primarily focus on Enterprise Traceability and related logical entities as BABOK already provides extensive details on Requirements Traceability and Process level Traceability.
- Business Strategy The strategy captures the actions and decisions that drive the key desired outcomes guided by organization’s values, mission & vision statement. An example of a business strategy might be:
- Optimize Financial Compliance
- Business Outcomes A high-level concise statement that outlines a business change informed by future business state and external factors. Unlike business requirements, Business Outcomes do not provide depth in terms of measures, processes and systems. They are concise statements defined by activities. For example, the strategic intent outlined above may be supported by the following outcomes:
- Timely completion of budgets
- Reporting in alignment to IFRS standards
- Business Capabilities Business Capabilities are the missing link between the strategic outcomes and execution. Core Business Capabilities do not change over time. They provide a standard framework of “what” different functional areas do rather than “how” they do it. Multiple Capabilities may support the strategic outcome. Example: The Business Outcomes stated above may be supported by the following Capabilities:
- Finance- Budgeting & Planning
- Finance- Investment and M&A management
- Business Process & Data This entity describes “how” an organization conducts its business activities, how it sources the information and how data entities are impacted. One Business Capability may be supported by multiple Business Processes and Data Entities. Example: The following processes may enable the Capabilities outlined above.
- Monthly Forecast Preparation
- Sales Reporting
- Systems & Projects This logical entity entails the technology aspect. Any changes cascading from the processes or data entities result in a change in systems, operations and thus result in various IT projects. This entity is a key link between the Enterprise/Organizational Traceability and Requirement Traceability. If you would like more information on the detailed requirements traceability approach, I suggest you refer to “Requirements life cycle management”
(Section 5.1) in BABOK.
Why Traceability is integral for any organization?
1. Change Management & Impact Analysis
Traceability ensures that all logical entities are aligned to one another; thus, provides a reliable way for the discovery of inconsistencies, gaps and new needs. It provides deeper insights into complexity of change for the organization to manage scope, risk, time, cost, resources and communication.
2. Visually depict scope.
Traceability enables Functional Decomposition of the scope, future state and the current state. It’s critical in delineation of all the components that are “must have” for the strategic business needs, from the components that are waste or could be labelled as “Gold Plating”.
3. Data driven decisions & Prioritization.
Effective traceability identifies the lineage of each entity thereby providing a data driven context for the organization to assess Investment Risk & Impact, understand what activities and initiatives add value, validate strategic alignment and thus, enable a very effective prioritization approach.
How to implement Traceability?
A traceability approach is highly influenced by the complexity of the domain, compliance needs and availability of tools. It’s critical to understand the costs and benefits to ensure that tracing entities adds value without significant overhead.
Creation and maintenance of a manual traceability matrix for large complex entities can be too time-consuming and error prone. In these scenarios, dedicated requirements management tools and Database-supported software solutions are very useful. It could be as simple as a word document or as complex as a dedicated database driven system.
My personal preference is MS Excel as it provides a good balance between simplicity of usage, availability at any client site and capabilities of a more complex database driven system.
With a strategic outlook at the outset, you can connect the dots between every initiative in your organization, see how it ties in with other entities, and evaluate its strategic value.