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Collaborative traceability management: a multiple case study from the perspectives of organization, process, and culture

Journal article
Authors Rebekka Wohlrab
Eric Knauss
Jan-Philipp Steghöfer
Salome Maro
Anthony Anjorin
Patrizio Pelliccione
Published in Requirements Engineering
Volume 25
Pages 21–45
ISSN 0947-3602
Publication year 2020
Published at Institutionen för data- och informationsteknik, Software Engineering (GU)
Pages 21–45
Language en
Keywords Collaboration, Multiple case study, Software development processes, Traceability management
Subject categories Software Engineering


Traceability is crucial for many activities in software and systems engineering including monitoring the development progress, and proving compliance with standards. In practice, the use and maintenance of trace links are challenging as artifacts undergo constant change, and development takes place in distributed scenarios with multiple collaborating stakeholders. Although traceability management in general has been addressed in previous studies, there is a need for empirical insights into the collaborative aspects of traceability management and how it is situated in existing development contexts. The study reported in this paper aims to close this gap by investigating the relation of collaboration and traceability management, based on an understanding of characteristics of the development effort. In our multiple exploratory case study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 individuals from 15 industrial projects. We explored which challenges arise, how traceability management can support collaboration, how collaboration relates to traceability management approaches, and what characteristics of the development effort influence traceability management and collaboration. We found that practitioners struggle with the following challenges: (1) collaboration across team and tool boundaries, (2) conveying the benefits of traceability, and (3) traceability maintenance. If these challenges are addressed, we found that traceability can facilitate communication and knowledge management in distributed contexts. Moreover, there exist multiple approaches to traceability management with diverse collaboration approaches, i.e., requirements-centered, developer-driven, and mixed approaches. While traceability can be leveraged in software development with both agile and plan-driven paradigms, a certain level of rigor is needed to realize its benefits and overcome challenges. To support practitioners, we provide principles of collaborative traceability management. The main contribution of this paper is empirical evidence of how culture, processes, and organization impact traceability management and collaboration, and principles to support practitioners with collaborative traceability management. We show that collaboration and traceability management have the potential to be mutually beneficial—when investing in one, also the other one is positively affected.

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