product-requirement-document

What is a good Product Requirement Document (PRD)?

What is a PRD?

 

A PRD aka Product Requirements Document is used by product managers to document and communicate the specifications to be included in a product release to the development and testing teams. Although seen more in waterfall environments where product definition, design, and delivery happen sequentially, a PRD can be helpful in agile settings as well.

For a PRD to be considered valid, it should include and touch upon everything that comes under a release. It also serves as a guide for upcoming documents in the product lifecycle. While it’s common for PRDs to hint at a potential implementation for ease of illustration, it does not necessarily demand a certain implementation.

Your PRD should ideally follow a top-down approach, which starts with your vision for the product. This vision should then be tied to product goals, initiatives, and features required to accomplish that vision. A well written PRD should also outline details on how the end-user will interact with the product and what that interaction looks like.

PRDs typically include the following elements:

  • Purpose — Who it’s for and why you’re building it.
  • Features — What you’re going to build.
  • Release Criteria — Goals for the release (e.g., functionality).
  • Timeline — A rough window for the release.

Of late, in agile development environments, a more adaptive planning approach is used. This would mean requirements are constantly added to backlog and groomed regularly.

A PRD can be useful to get everyone aligned around the key features that will be delivered in a new product or release. This helps engineering, design, support, sales, and marketing teams to effectively collaborate and deliver a delightful experience to the end user.

Best practices for creating an effective PRD

While as a product manager you may be tasked with writing the PRD, it should ideally be a collaborative process. You should work with multiple stakeholders across product development. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page about the expectations from the product release. It also ensures that what you’re building adds value to the user — and can be completed on time.

The goal of a PRD is to define what you’re going to build — not how you’re going to build it. Let’s get into the steps involved in creating a PRD:

1. Define the Vision of your Product

The vision is essentially your North Star that describes in detail where you want your product to be in the future. It allows you to see beyond what’s already in front of you and envision a long-term plan.

Everyone involved in the development should be aligned on the vision of the product. The vision will then drive the features.

The vision of your product should outline:

  • What problems this product solves.
  • Who will use the product.
  • Why does this product matter?

Every stakeholder in your product team should agree on the purpose — and be aware of it as development progresses.

2. Include Target Persona

Talk about the target persona(s) of your product. It’s better to make sure you sub-define them within categories that appeal to different pain points/needs. Each type of user will have different interests, intentions, personalities, and demographics.

3. Break down Product Vision into Features

The next step is to identify the features needed for the release. Every feature that you add should align with the overall purpose of your product.

A good practice while setting feature requirements is to first define themes and initiatives.

A theme helps align the product for years.

Some examples of a theme could be:

  • Performance
  • API
  • Mobile

Themes can survive multiple years and product release cycles.

Initiatives help align development efforts to realize a theme. They also help you know that everything is going in the right direction. Initiatives could span multiple themes, for example incorporating features for Performance, API, and mobile. Feature requirements are derived from initiatives.

4. Define the Objective of your Product

Detail out the context of how this product fits into the organization’s strategic goals. These objectives are more detailed versions of strategic goals that help the company break the bigger picture into smaller portions.

5. Set Goals for the Release Criteria

Setting the right goals will be crucial to achieving the purpose of your product release. List product goals including their time frame, and success metrics. These should be high-level milestones that help add up to the vision and long-term strategy.

Your goals should be:

  • Actionable
  • Easy to comprehend.
  • Achievable.
  • Measurable.

A good release criteria should cover 5 key areas:

Functionality

Define the minimum functionality you need to release the product. A good practice is to include requirements that are critical to the release.

Usability

You will need to make sure that the product is easy to use. Determine the scope of user testing and what you plan to do with those results.

Reliability

You must ensure that your product is reliable and stable. An example would be making sure it can recover from a system failure on its own.

Performance

As a PM, you will set a baseline for performance. For example, how fast do you want the product to load?

Supportability

You need to ensure that the release can be supported. This would mean users can install and configure it without hassle.

6. Define the Release Timeline

Every product needs a release date planned — even if it’s an estimate. This will help you adapt to a change in priorities at any point in the development process. It should restrict scope creep limiting the features stakeholders can add. It can be tricky to manage the release process and hit the target release date.

The release date for the product should be determined based on a variety of factors like your progress to date, resource levels if there have been adequate levels of testing, and the nature of competition.

You should never rush into releasing if your product is not at a 100% level, as this can turn users away. However, don’t keep delaying the release, as it gives competitors an opportunity to acquire more customers before you.

7. Outline User Flow and Design

Add wire-frames and mock-ups that hint the user experience. Define the path that a user will take on your product to carry out a particular task.

Analyze the reason behind design themes and the interface; why are things placed the way they are? What do you want the user to do? Make a User Flow that elaborates on the user’s entry, potential points of exits, and the actions they take along the way.

8. Include Analytics

Define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will help analyze the efficiency of the product.

KPIs should be quantifiable measurements that help you to understand the product’s performance in terms of strategic, financial, marketing, and operational activities. Some examples of KPIs include customer lifetime value, customer acquisition cost, lead-to-sale conversion rate, etc.

9. Get it reviewed by Stakeholders

When you create a PRD, it’s important that you get a green signal from key stakeholders. You should also make sure everyone involved in development knows what’s in the PRD and is aligned to that vision. PRD should be shared with everyone from developers to testers to managers.

PRD Templates

  1. https://coda.io/@productschool/prd-template
  2. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ov8_8ABlfS7dK7–8N61tGXvkWof2az4-GtKavHQ41o/edit
  3. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yrU5F6Gxhkfma91wf_IbZfexw8_fahbGQLW3EvwdfQI/edit
  4. https://slite.com/templates/product-specs
  5. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YYhacFCFDjC30AzDm9IjuuOgNq9ZPwbv-DoLpiWusMQ/edit
  6. Hardware Product – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eBaBOF2A3rIfXeqqjq4uFAxX2f85JqanJmq-72ptur0/edit
  7. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1W46cmPfPwXIIH2mNNbbQ5EdjnhQFqGxGhT5iAijmJjc/edit#heading=h.cqt1a4hrfy8u
  8. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mEMDcHmtQ6twzNlpvF-9maNlAcezpWDtCnyIqWkODZs/edit
  9. https://leenau.bitbucket.io/lynda/product-requirements-document/

Further reading

  1. https://uxpin.medium.com/how-to-write-a-painless-product-requirements-document-508ff6807b4a
  2. https://goberoi.com/on-writing-product-specs-5ca697b992fd
  3. https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/10/02/painless-functional-specifications-part-1-why-bother/
  4. https://medium.com/hara-engineering/product-requirements-document-101-f3171767f7cf
  5. https://280group.com/what-is-product-management/documents-templates/product-requirements-document-prd/

Conclusion

A PRD is an important tool for building a great product and becomes the living document for developers and other stakeholders to stick to the vision and strategic goals of the product. However, keep in mind that there is no one way to write a PRD. Depending on the industry, organization, nature of product, and various other factors, your PRD can look very different from others. PRD is a living document that needs to be revisited, maintained, and kept up to date with changing priorities.

How to create a PRD on Zeda.io

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