printed.RoleofRTinSystemDevelopment.RationalEdge.Sep02

printed.RoleofRTinSystemDevelopment.RationalEdge.Sep02 -...

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The Role of Requirements Traceability in System Development by Dean Leffingwell Software Entrepreneur and Former Rational Software Executive Don Widrig Independent Technical Writer and Consultant In the field of software development, there is never a shortage of debates regarding the relative merits of methods, practices, and specific techniques for analysis, design, and coding activities. Not far from the top of the "most controversial" list is the topic of requirements traceability and its role in defining and implementing systems. Although the arguments may well go on for decades, and tools will assuredly evolve to support both more and less artifact traceability, there can be little doubt about one thing: Requirements traceability has been shown to be an effective technique in some development practices, particularly for those classes of systems for which software failure is not an option. In these cases, the question becomes not if , but how , to implement traceability. For commercial practices, in which defects, or even application failures do not bring about catastrophic results, the topic is more hotly debated,, and the legitimate question becomes, not how , but if . In those cases, the discussion rightfully focuses on what value -- and at what cost -- requirements traceability might bring to the project. In this article, we'll provide an overview of the whys and hows of requirements traceability, and attempt to describe a basic, generic, and practical approach that can be used in a wide variety of system development practices. For now at least, we'll leave the debates on when and how much to others!
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Introduction to Requirements Traceability Experience has shown that the ability to trace requirements artifacts through the stages of specification, architecture, design, implementation, and testing is a significant factor in assuring a quality software implementation. The ability to track these relationships and analyze the impact when change occurs is common to many modern, high-assurance software processes -- particularly in the life-critical medical products area and in business- or mission-critical activities. Historical safety data has demonstrated that projects often miss or do not address requirements and/or the impact of change, and that small changes to a system can create significant safety and reliability problems. This has caused some regulatory agencies to mandate that traceability be an integral part of the development process. For example, the latest U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance for traceability in medical software development activities is contained in the FDA Office of Device Evaluations (ODE) Guidance Document (1996b). In addition, the Design Controls section of the medical Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) document (FDA 1996a), Subpart C of the CGMP, defines the obligations of the system designers to be able to trace relationships between various work products within the lifecycle of the product's development.
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