Brian Hooper and Bill St. Clair
Author's Note: This article primarily discusses ways in which requirements traceability may be improved, specifically in companies working on military projects that require safety certifications. The authors highlight gap analysis as the means in which the weaknesses in requirements traceability are discovered.
Gap analysis is a technique routinely used in business to measure the development/maturity of working processes and to identify potential areas for improvement. Gap analysis provides an opportunity to examine operating processes and products typically by employing a third party to conduct the assessment. The valuable information offered by the gap analysis helps to improve a company’s processes so that when a formal assessment or certification of products is conducted, the assessment is much more likely to be passed on the first attempt.
Companies are looking outside their own market sector for best practices and approaches, techniques, and standards. Gap analysis provides a framework to isolate areas in which they need to improve. The results from a gap analysis also aid companies in efficiently refocusing their resources in order to achieve the desired improvement.
With the increased need for software control, a gap analysis of safety-critical projects (particularly military related projects) regularly flags the field of requirements traceability. Many development standards require a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM). Requirements traceability is a widely accepted best practice in the development industry to ensure that all requirements are implemented and that all products can be traced back to one or more requirements.
More often than not, however, traceability matrices are performed as a low-priority task. Constructing a RTM requires an enormous amount of time and money. Failure to construct an accurate RTM may result in a product failing its certification assessment.