Product Requirements Documents
Learn how to define requirements and create a PRD (product requirements document) to keep all stakeholders aligned.
Creating a product is a long process. It includes many steps such as research, planning, analyzing, prioritizing, and so on. It also involves multiple stakeholders. Sometimes it can be a challenge to keep everyone on the same page and guarantee that everyone is moving in the same direction.
This is where the product requirements document comes to the rescue. PRD is one of the most important documents in product management. Here we describe all the benefits of this doc.
What is a PRD in Product Management?
What PRD means… A product requirements document is a visual document that contains the basic product features under development.
The PRD helps product managers (PMs) to determine the order and conditions of tasks for the project. The tasks and concerns of product managers can be turned into entangled issues that may lead to negative consequences. That is why you’d better start with a high-quality PRD document to avoid routine with product management tasks and deal with confusion.
Why is PRD important?
Product requirements documents are aimed to get all stakeholders aligned and build a shared understanding.
In order to successfully deliver a product or a feature, you will need to collaborate with multiple teams, including engineering, marketers, sales, designers, and support. A PRD helps you to set the course for the release. It keeps all contributors in sync and guarantees that you deliver what your audience wants. This document is a starting point, and other teams will plan their own actions and create relevant artifacts based on it.
What makes a good product requirements document?
An effective PRD identifies the goals of a new product or feature. In fact, it describes the product a team will build.
A lean PRD should thoroughly outline the goals of the product, target users, and what usage is expected. This is the kind of foundation that any Agile product team needs. The document will be the most referenced resource throughout the product build.
Your PRD should not be so long, as people tend to skim read, and pick out keywords, getting the gist of things. It’s important to write it as briefly as possible, concise, and easy on the eye.
PRD vs MRD: how to define the difference?
The product requirements document has long been the most important artifact that product managers have created. It involves everything required for a particular product release. It is the doc of record that the entire release is based on.
PRD may follow on an MDR – marketing requirements document that is also created by product marketing or product management teams. This doc lists market opportunity, customer demand, and a business case for the whole product or a particular release.
The product requirements document itself is not related to market opportunity or revenue. Instead, it is strongly rooted in use cases and desired functionality.
Pros and Cons of Product Requirement Documents
A high-quality product requirements document provides evident benefits and this has been repeatedly emphasized by many experts. However, there are managers who admit some essential drawbacks. Let’s figure this out and list the most bright pros and cons of PRDs.
- The document combines all steps in the full picture of the product, with the option of including/excluding some features and detecting potential problems timely.
- It improves a mutual comprehensive understanding between customers and developers.
- It reflects the time required for project development processes.
- It helps to determine the budget needed for the development processes.
- The PRD assumes extra time, spent by a manager to identify and list all specifications required for the project.
- It also assumes extra money to develop a detailed doc with all specifications.
How product managers use a PRD
A product manager contributes more than anyone toward any tech documentation. However, it doesn’t mean he/she needs to do it alone.
It’s up to you to find the most appropriate resources in your team to help you write down different parts of the product requirements doc. For example, you may involve a designer for wireframes and mockups or hire a marketer to work with personas and user stories. However, remember that the PM is responsible for managing the entire product requirements definition process.
If this process is managed in a proper way, then the PMs should use this doc as a resource throughout the process and as a resource for other stakeholders to reference on a permanent basis.
Product Requirements Documents’ Components
What should be included in a PRD? Each document will be different depending on your team, company, and business. However, most PRDs should include the following elements:
1. Goals and objectives
This is the “why” part for building the product where you define the context around your product’s lifecycle, and determine how it aligns with the product vision and the mission. It is important to clarify the problems that your product is being designed to address. It will help the developers to build a product that will solve its purpose.
Identifying the main stakeholders in the product roadmap process is also a significant part of the product requirements documents.
This list typically includes a product manager, developers, designers (internal or/and external), the document owner, and all leadership positions involved.
3. User personas and user stories
Each user persona should influence the product’s experience and should have a particular intention to help the product to achieve its end goal. Use social media, Google Analytics, and other audience data to ensure that all the important factors are accurate to the data you have available.
Build enough persona for your team to be relatable and understandable, and support them with user stories. The stories should be primarily focused on a particular product feature. They should solve the problem, identified in the MRD, and value the feature.
4. Visual design and wireframes
Designs and wireframes help engineers to answer the pain points of user personas and generally understand the design vision.
By introducing wireframes, teams can identify problems and find solutions that would not have been apparent without a visual helper. The wireframe should act as a blueprint for where your key features will fit within a page and what those pages need to be. Their aim is to give the engineers and other stakeholders a clear vision of how your product will be used.
5. Release notes
Product release notes help the team to ensure that the product roadmap stays on track. They also assist people in managing their workload. The notes should include features, milestone names, fixes, and upcoming improvements.
6. Future roadmap and iterations
Any product should be in a constant state of flux, be capable of learning from its use, adapting, and growing to customers’ needs or new technology.
The first product iteration should be as a first draft. PMs should ask themselves what functional requirements are essential for the MVP, and what can be waited for the 2nd or 3rd iteration.
Plan your product roadmap for the engineers and designers to understand what foundations need to be laid to make these versions possible.
You will never know if your product succeeds or fails. What you can do is try to predict as many risks as you may face along the way.
Risks may include shaky timelines to new code, and integration, or an external resource. By identifying them early, you will have a chance to conquer challenges and prepare a plan “B”.
How to Write a Product Requirements Document
The PRD serves as the product description that will be built in terms of purpose, functionality, design, and behavior. Its purpose is to be the guideline for the development process.
In preparing the product requirement document, you should pay attention to several steps. Now it is time to explain these steps needed to write an effective PRD.
1. Setting Agile requirements
One of the best ways to align the requirements of the new product is to resort to Agile requirements. It is about considering the shared understanding between different parties (from the product owner, developers, and even clients). This will allow PMs to pay attention to the requirement, coming out with the best emphasis on the final product.
Involving customers when surveying for their preferred features that should be included in the product is a piece of good advice here. Besides, do not forget to ask your team members for insights.
2. Consider the specific info
Initiating your PRD, start with the specifics of the intended product. The list of participants involved in the production should be obviously included. Another important piece of information is the status of your product. Define the ongoing, delayed, and deferred statuses.
The final info you should mention is the target release. It is about noting when the product is expected to be released.
3. Define the purpose of the product
The key purpose and the target users are also essential aspects of the product. Each team member that is involved in the product development process needs to be well informed of the purpose that is going to be reached. The purposes are referred to how the product may help in solving problems and the target user.
4. Identify the product features
This step requires determining feature requirements. Every single feature that should be included needs to be driven by the purpose you’ve outlined before. Additionally, you should note a description, goal, and use case for each feature.
Let your development team determine how best to implement any feature by providing them with an explanation of what exactly needs to be built. Wireframes and mockups will help you to communicate what you are envisioning.
5. Combine the release criteria
Do not forget to list the prerequisites that have to be met by the product to be ready for public release. Among the release criteria, the following can be outlined:
- Functionality – you should determine the minimum functionality you need to release the product.
- Performance – you set the baseline for the response time, memory consumption, etc.
- Usability – you clarify the scope of user testing needed to guarantee the product is user-friendly.
6. Set an approximate timeline
Defining what will be delivered and when are also crucial steps. Even a rough estimation will help project stakeholders to plan their work.
Try to focus on the core milestones and dependencies to leave room for changes and to keep everyone on track.
7. Select the success metrics
Another essential moment is to decide upfront how the success of your product will be measured. Use your product requirement document to specify the most important metrics and how you are planning to monitor them.
For example, create hypotheses about the intended impact of a feature and prepare measurable goals.
The PRD Example
What is the example of the product requirements documents? Let’s consider what typical elements should be included in a simple PRD template:
- The goals/objective – you explain why you are planning to build this and what do you hope to accomplish.
- The features – for every feature, you include a description, goal, and use case (at a minimum). Depending on the complexity of the feature, you may write additional details (for example, out-of-scope items).
- Environment requirements – you define which end-user environments will be supported (browsers, memory, operating systems, etc.).
- Design and UX flow notes – this stage may require some general guidelines to ensure the release goals and objectives are met. Here is not the place for ideal mockups or wireframes that map out every possible scenario. Instead, it can be used to describe the entire user workflow.
- Assumptions, constraints, and dependencies – you collect and note what is expected of users, the limits for the implementation to be aware of.
Where to find good PRD templates
One of the simplest ways to distribute all the PRD steps is to use a simple Google Doc or Excel. However, this way looks a little weird and old-fashion today, as modern product management tools provide so many features and opportunities to make different processes easier.
One of them is Hygger that allows sharing the future features with the help of a handy product roadmap based on the Gantt charts functionality. Within the preparation of PRD, it helps to visualize your ideas and product initiatives and share them with the team.
An online roadmap covers all management needs, lightweights the way to capture product strategy, requirements, and communicates with the team. Its functionality is sufficient to implement long-term strategies and daily plans.
When product requirements are being properly gathered and managed there is a clear understanding of the product and consistent communication inside the team.
The more detailed your work on the PRD, the better you will describe the product you are working on. This will help your team to piece the puzzle together.