Thursday, February 11, 2021

Requirements Traceability

I'm all for understanding the products we build on what they do, and why we think doing those things might be relevant. The language I choose on requirements is the language of discovery. Instead of us requiring something, we discover needs and constraints, and make agreements we visualize in structures and writings to create a common understanding between all of us in organizations and our customers. Instead of setting a requirement, I like to think of us setting a hypothesis of something being useful, and testing that. And since I like to approach it as uncertain, I can easily embrace the idea that we learn and it changes. I don't need the concept of managing change to requirements, it is already built in with incremental delivery.

Thus, there are very few things that annoy me to the brink of wanting to change jobs but this one is one of those: requirements traceability between the magical requirement and the test case

In organizations that belong to the school of requirements, this is the heartbeat that conflicts with my heartbeat set on releases. Releases include capabilities at that time, and understanding what capabilities we had, as well as idea of replacing those capabilities systematically with newer set of capabilities. Arrhythmia is irregularities in heart beat, and it serves as a description as how I feel in the conflict of these two worlds I need to learn to adapt together without giving up on what I have grown to see important. 

In search of congruency, I put significant effort in doing things I consider valuable. I have never considered it valuable to take a requirement written down in a tool, and create a test case written down in a tool and link those two together. I don't write test cases - I test directly against the requirements and creating this other document feels like wasted time. Also, I don't believe that the requirements we create are the best representation of the understanding that leads us in finding information I seek to find in testing, and often following someone else's structure takes away from my ability to contribute information that adjust that structure for the benefit of all stakeholders. 

So, requirements traceability does not only waste my time in creating material I consider useless but it  also makes creating the results I expect to create harder. Over my career, I have needed to set straight on a good path of testing that provides results many organizations that started off with a requirements-centric straightjacket creating testers I would recommend letting go. 

So I push through once more with what I will do:

  • Given a requirement, I will confirm it in an exploratory testing session but only document that with closing of the epic, at a point of time we first introduce it into a release in the making
  • I will work to include it in test automation, and keep a version of test automation around that matches that release while it is supported. I will not offer a link back to requirements from specific automation cases. 
  • When using a feature is hard to figure out, I will write feature-specific instructions to document what I have learned while testing
  • I will create whatever material supports continuous, growing testing, without linking it to requirements.
  • I will care not only for my own work now, but for the work that comes after I am long gone
I recognize we are seeking these benefits from the mechanism the industry standards push:

  • managing expectations on what the product does and does not do
  • enabling support when product is in maintenance by
    • recognizing defects (as being against specification) from adaptation requests
    • retesting connected requirements when changes are needed
  • ensuring we don't miss someone's perspective in delivery by making 'proof' of testing on all perspectives - connecting two ends of a process allows for being systematic
  • making testing accountable for monitoring delivery scope on empirical level
  • having an up-to-date description of configuration of each delivered version
  • replacing old product with new could be easier
  • tracking project against requirements to deliverables giving sense of control to project manager