Best Practices

How to Draft a Product Requirements Document

As a company seeking to maintain profitability and stay ahead of the competition, constant product releases and upgrades are inevitable. Consumers' needs are evolving at virtually every point, and your service offerings must equally adapt to these changes. However, as you continue to refine your product offerings, you will need a high level of certainty during the product development process. All stakeholders must be fully aware of the product's purpose and features. These elements are contained in a product requirements document.

This article will guide you in drafting a suitable product requirements document for your product development process.

What is a Product Requirements Document?

A Product Requirements Document (PRD) is used to communicate a product's features, purpose, and capabilities to all stakeholders in the product development process. It defines the product's expected design and project delivery milestones. Whether your company operates waterfall or agile project management, a PRD is vital to your product development process. To clarify, a waterfall environment is a linear system where tasks are completed before moving to the next phase. Conversely, agile project management involves simultaneous task completion by all project members.

It is important to note that a PRD differs from a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD). While a PRD sets out a product's purpose and milestones, an MRD evaluates a product's market prospects. Essentially, an MRD contains details like the size of the market, current competitors, and types of consumers.

What to Include in a Product Requirements Document

Product Purpose

The purpose of the product is one of the most vital elements in the product requirements document. This is because it helps all stakeholders understand the product's expectations and keeps team members on the same page. The product's purpose generally entails the specific problem(s) it seeks to solve for consumers and why the solution matters. This segment also sets out the target market expected to use the product. Here, you will highlight the product's potential use cases and how its purpose aligns with your objectives as a company.

Features of the Product

For every product, there is a vision for its expected features, either at the initial or last stage of development. However, it is essential to note that every outlined feature needs to be aligned with the purpose defined in the previous section. Essentially, the team needs to fully understand the product's features within the context of the problem it seeks to solve. In this segment, it is essential to prioritize precision and clarity. The outlined features must be clear enough for the development team to implement them effectively.

Highlight Release Criteria

Your Product Requirements Document needs to identify criteria that must be met before the product can be released. These release criteria are often tied to functionality, usability, and performance. Functionality refers to benchmarks on the product's effectiveness. For instance, the product needs to be functional enough to solve most consumers' problems. On the other hand, usability is mostly related to the user-friendliness of a product. Thus, the team must ensure that the user can easily navigate and use the product before releasing it into the market. Lastly, performance is another major consideration under the release criteria. The PRD must highlight the performance standard that the product must attain before it is released. This standard can be tied to elements like response time and optimized memory consumption. 

Establish a Timeline for Milestones

While it is true that a project's duration cannot be accurately estimated, it is often helpful to establish product guidelines. Timelines can help keep the product development process to your desired duration. In this segment, the PRD needs to outline the tasks of each team alongside time allocations. Of course, you might need to do a lot of supervision to ensure that these allocations are adhered to. Regardless, the time allocations would let you know if the project falls behind schedule. 

Success Metrics

This segment mainly applies post-release. It highlights the metrics and benchmarks for the product's success after its release. These benchmarks could be the number of users utilizing the product or the daily transaction volume. 

Drafting a Product Requirements Document: Top Tips

Keep It Short

A PRD does not have to be lengthy. In fact, it is advisable that you keep the document as precise and short as possible. This is because, with long documents, there is a minimal chance that your team members would fully understand the document's content. Thus, you need to stick to a length that sustains team members' attention and fulfills the document's purpose. 

Conduct Market Research

One of the major elements of a PRD is the product's purpose. However, you must conduct market research to understand the consumer's pain points and how your product can solve them. This way, there are lower chances that your product will seek to solve an abstract problem.

Use Visual Aids and Mockups

As mentioned earlier, your PRD needs to be clear enough to be understood by every team member. This would increase your chances of success in the product development process. Mockups can create a visual representation of your vision for the product, and visual aids can increase the clarity of your PRD. They are equally helpful in summing up the essence of your points in the PRD. This way, any team member seeking to get information quickly can easily refer to the visual aids.

Final Thoughts

The Product Requirements Product (PRD) is vital in ensuring you create a successful and fit-for-purpose product. It also ensures that your team is well-aligned throughout the process. However, it is essential to note that the PRD is not rigid. On the contrary, it is a living document, and its content can be amended to suit changing situations at every project phase. Thus, if the project's direction switches at any point, it is advisable to amend the PRD to reflect the changes.

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