Imagine you’re planning a holiday to a beautiful, yet remote location. You’ve reached the nearest city, and you’re ready to make your way to your final destination. Then, you realize that you don’t have the map to get there. And as luck would have it, GPS isn’t working, either.
That’s exactly how it feels if you’re leading a product development project without a product requirement document (PRD).
A PRD is, essentially, a laundry list of product development specifications—including what has to be built, who it’s for, its purpose, and the value it brings to its end-users. It provides a vision of what the final product should accomplish and details all the features and functionalities that will be required to meet those goals.
The clearer a PRD, the better the chances of the final product achieving its desired outcomes. An extremely well-defined PRD may even include preliminary sketches of what the final product may look like, and how its end-users may interact with its functionalities.
The primary advantages of a PRD are that it provides immense clarity to all relevant stakeholders (internal as well as external), ensures the realization of specified goals, and maximizes the chances of everyone being satisfied with the final output.
What’s in a PRD?
A typical PRD consists of the following:
- Document title, creator, and date
- Product stakeholders, points of contact, and contact details
- Technical as well as the business purpose (objectives/ goals) and scope (mandatory features)
- Market analysis and target demographics, profiles, and personas
- Product overview and use cases
- Product requirements, including technical, functional, end-user, support, and compliance (legal) requirements, client business requirements, and budget
- High-level execution plan, including phases of execution, timelines, and deliverables
- Assumptions, constraints (including budgetary), and dependencies
- Performance metrics and evaluation plan
PRDs are vital because in today’s business world clearly defining product requirements can pose a significant challenge. A lot of us have, at some time or the other, had to take the plunge and kick off development with nothing more than a vague idea of what the outcome should be like – particularly when the whole idea is to innovate, or when dealing with incredibly dynamic product/ business goals.
In these cases, the best practice is to remember that a partially complete PRD is still better than no PRD at all. Here’s how to go about fleshing out a PRD.
Gather and document your basic requirements
This is your first order of the day. You can’t plan or build an entire product without a solid understanding of its goals, its stakeholders, and its budget. Without information on these three points, you can’t make any effective decisions, and your product will not go anywhere.
To get started, refer to any statements of work (SOWs) that have been shared, like a product brief, list of technical specifications, or any other documents. These documents may contain a wealth of information that can help your understanding of the job at hand.
Next, identify the end-user as well as the business goals of the product. This can even be done by speaking to the client stakeholders. Ideally, this is also when you can send out feelers for the budget, in the odd case that it hasn’t been discussed yet.
Refine, update, and share as you go along
With any product that you develop, you’ll realize that you gain a lot of clarity about what does and doesn’t work, what is entirely impractical, and what can work better with a little modification. It’s always a good practice to make these notes in the PRD and share it as you go along. This way everyone benefits from the increased clarity, is on the same page, and continues working toward the same goals.
A PRD is a working document
It’s important to know that given the hypercompetitive, hyper-paced market that we’re all operating in today, product requirements are bound to evolve over time. Even if that weren’t the case, it’s human nature for people to come up with ideas as work progresses.
So, remember that no PRD is set in stone. In fact, a great PRD has the flexibility to allow for improvements on the fly – the important thing is to make sure to note any deviations as they crop up, and to always inform the team.
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