In software development, stakeholders of the same project often collaborate asynchronously through shared artifacts. A traceability system links a project's artifacts and therefore provides support for collaboration among stakeholders. Different stakeholders are interested in different types of traceability links. The literature often states that traceability is useful but expensive to build and maintain. However, there is no study showing reduction in effort when traceability links among various software artifacts are provided and used during the maintenance phase. This paper presents a study evaluating the benefits of using traceability among requirements, design, code, code inspections, builds, defects, and tests artifacts in the maintenance phase. Before the study, a survey was conducted at a large industrial firm to determine the type of links that different stakeholders are interested in. Twenty-five stakeholders from this firm participated in a survey to define the type of traceability links that were of interest to them. With this result, a traceability link model is proposed that categorizes different types of traceability links based on stakeholders' roles. This link model was used in the study. Twenty-eight subjects from industry and academia participated in the empirical study that was conducted after the survey. A prototype link-tracing tool, TraceLink, was developed and used in the study to present traceability links to the experimental group, whereas the control group was not given any links to solve the tasks. Five maintenance tasks were used in the study. The results show a significant improvement in task accuracy (86.06%) when traceability links were given to the subjects. In conclusion, a traceability model based on an industrial survey provided traceability views that are based on stakeholders' roles. This empirical study provides evidence that traceability links are effective in solving maintenance tasks with higher accuracy.
Descriptive statistics showing a comparison of the effect traceability links have on accuracy and time.