3 Ways Traceability Boosts Decision-Making and Accountability

Josh Turpen


Editor’s Note: This post about how traceability improves collaboration and decision making was originally published here on DevOps.com on September 23rd, 2020, and was written by Josh Turpen, Jama Software’s Chief Product Officer. 

New software is being developed at an incredible pace to help make our lives easier. This doesn’t change the fact that humans are still held accountable for product development decisions, whether these are made with or without advanced analysis tools. To make informed choices, product development professionals need tools that allow them to see comprehensible information in real-time as change is happening, both within the team’s structure and throughout the system in which their product exists.

Modern traceability makes it possible to both manage and respond to change in a systematic, auditable and confidence-enhancing way. Below, we will discuss three ways traceability has evolved to support key decision-makers in a number of industries.

Modern traceability captures when you make a decision

Decisions often have varying levels of durability. Sometimes, when you make a decision, you know then and there it’s final. Other times, you make what seems to be a minor choice and you end up dealing with the repercussions for years to come. With this level of uncertainty, it is essential to have mechanisms that allow you to see when decisions are made. As I discussed in a previous article, “5 Ways Traceability is Changing to Bolster the Remote Workforce,” this process can be compared to a map. By leading a team through every step of their processes, modern traceability helps product developers reach their goals without any surprises.

Often, products are expected to be maintained for years. This is significantly more challenging when you can’t properly track where a ruling originated or a change was made. While the team may move quickly in the development process, the record should always live on to provide future context where it’s needed.

RELATED: How to Realign Engineering Teams for Remote Work with Minimal Disruption

Modern traceability provides people the context of what they’re working on as they go, not after the fact

Rather than rely on sharing often lengthy and disparate documents or running time-consuming general meetings, traceability allows teams to streamline their collaboration. Mapping out work items, including owners and contributors, gives people a reason to care and to trace those items carefully. It helps everyone know why they’re there, what they are discussing and how to address it.

Many smaller companies are fortunate to get by using Word documents and other legacy tools for their traceability measures. However, as these companies grow, so do the complexities. That’s why traceability has been evolving to account for the multi-dimensional nature of requirement, test and risk management. For a company that is seeing major growth to be truly successful, all related variables must work together continuously, at scale and across teams. Legacy tools simply do not provide the agile capabilities that modern traceability does.

Traceability captures and tracks past decisions and allows users to access them

Traceability is all about relationships. Each product in development has its own particular set of customers, stakeholders and internal team members associated with it. Therefore, traceability is only possible if these individuals can be accurately connected to the items for which they are responsible.

Knowing who made a decision and what information they accessed is equally as important as the information itself. If you can’t quickly piece that together, your traceability is incomplete. The responsible thing to do is to ease the process by keeping useful records. It doesn’t need to be forced behavior if it’s captured along the way as a byproduct of doing your job.

Overall, accountability is incomplete and past decisions can’t easily be seen, learned from or built upon without robust, modern traceability tools. It’s much harder to legitimately hold someone accountable when they’re working in the dark. However, when done correctly, traceability can be used as a key tool to support genuine liability and allow for a streamlined process of complex decision-making.

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