How to Write a Product Requirements Document (PRD) | Discovery Phase of Software Development

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Time to read:
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Product requirements document (PRD). It is a common misconception that it is enough to say: "I need an application for a museum or a factory," and it will immediately become clear what you need. Starting a project, we are all sure that our idea is perfect, and a new product (or service) is just destined to take its rightful place in the market. But faith and a brilliant idea are not enough. Behind any serious success is meticulous work. And the success of a new product includes all the efforts that each project participant puts into it. One of the steps to the success of a new project is to define the requirements for your future product. That is when the PRD document comes in.

The PRD is a kind of recipe for making a successful product. A successful product is one that is easy to maintain, develop, and change. It does not go scat when you change the developer, and it brings profit in any form. Do you want your project to be complete and successful? Great. Write a good recipe for it!

What is Product Requirements Document (PRD)?

As for the PRD meaning itself, a PRD (Product Requirements Document) is a description that includes all the requirements for a particular product/service and reflects how the product will look and work. Requirements can be presented in the form of a single document or a set of documents, or a set of artifacts (layouts, diagrams, diagrams, documents).

The requirements in this document reflect the customer's vision and expectations for the product. If the customer has specialists who know how to formalize the requirements optimally, this is done by the customer's side. But if there is no such experience, then the development team (PM, tester, or any team member) can take the work.

A product requirements document is necessary for both parties - the customer and the contractor. Drawing up a technical specification will help the customer clearly define the project's goals and objectives, think about the strategy, and decide what they expect from the performer. The contractor needs the PRD document as the source information for the project.

It is essential not to conflate a PRD with an MRD. An MRD is a market research document that specifies what customers need and want from your product. An MRD is created before defining the requirements in your PRD.

PRD as a Part of Discovery Phase of Software Development 

The discovery phase of a project is the first and mandatory development stage, where requirements are identified, and business goals are analyzed. It is essential to propose a technical implementation, fix the project boundaries, and estimate the development cost.

To make sure the expectations will coincide with the result, that is the stage when a PRD is being created. After getting acquainted with the project through the PRD document, you can conclude the actual amount of work, cost, and deadlines. Besides, the PRD is used to prepare for work on the project or during its release. The final result often depends on the completeness of the customer's information and the elaboration of details.

This technical requirements document is convenient because all information about the project is collected in one place. It is unnecessary to search for different sources - messengers, emails, phone calls, or personal conversations. In such a case, you will never receive an email, "I forgot to tell you one more important thing about the project yesterday...". Of course, the PRD can only exist in written form.

Who participates?

A project manager, analyst, designer, technical specialist, and, of course, the customer are the main participants of the discovery stage. Daily calls at this stage are more of a requirement than a recommendation.

The analyst is responsible for identifying, analyzing, and fixing requirements, designing system logic, and building relationships. The specialist interprets business goals into functional and non-functional requirements.

The designer is responsible for the UX and UI parts of the project.

The project manager is the primary person responsible for the project. He organizes teamwork, communication with the client, and weekly reporting, delivery of artifacts to the client with good quality.

The technical specialist is a developer of the product. The tech analyzes the artifacts of the discovery phase to ensure that the designed business logic is technically feasible.

Essential Components of a PRD

How does the start of most projects usually look? "I have an idea! That is it!". And a quiet voice from the depths of the subconscious mind comes: "So, how will you explain to developers and designers what you need?". 

A PRD template is an excellent solution to avoid stress and make it comprehensible for everyone involved in product development.

Below you can see the key components of the correct product requirements documents.

1. Objective. This section should clearly describe the purpose of the product or project. It includes initiatives, goals, and vision. You can answer the following questions to make sure the section is complete and informative:

  • What business goals should the product serve?

  • What tasks should the product solve?

  • Who will use the product, and in what situations?

  • What are the competitors of the business and the product?

2. Release. You need to decide on the time, and this information should be noted in this section. It is not just the product development time that matters. Decide on the amount of time to interact with the specialists involved. The total time frame may not coincide with the product launch date. Allow additional time for testing and making final adjustments. The PRD document's release part allows us to focus on the milestones and dependencies to keep everyone on track.

3. Product features. This stage is essential to write down all the product features that you expect to see in the release. The product requirements should be clearly specified for each feature. Make sure the section covers the following issues:

  • Name of the feature.

  • Feature description.

  • Purpose of the feature.

  • User problem.

  • User value.

  • Tech assumptions.

  • Acceptance criteria.

4. Design. When you confirm the product design in the PRD, you will see what your product will look like. The more detailed the technical task for the design is, the more predictable the result will be. This is when you are thinking from the user's perspective and provide mockups to understand better how the feature will work.  

5. Analytics. Think over how you will measure the success and failures of your features. Also, it is desirable to mention the customer’s interaction with the product and its features.

6. Future plans. Cross-team collaboration is critical when creating successful projects. It is recommended to outline any questions or issues that may arise over time. Specify any valuable information to help the team understand how the product may evolve in the future.

Defining strict requirements for each detail makes cooperation between the customer and the contractor safer and more comfortable. When every detail is regulated, everything is in its place, and everyone has their responsibilities, there is no place for maneuvering and misunderstandings.

How to Write an Effective Product Requirements Document?

Since product requirements are not necessary for the sake of the requirements themselves, they should be:

  • Clear. Formulate your requirements in simple language so that the person who will work with them does not have to solve riddles.

  • Readability. Think about who will work with your document (in whatever form you provide it): would you be happy if you received a diagram on a sheet of a notepad or a document with 150 pages of straight text?

  • Complete, but not overflowing with unnecessary information. A PRD is not always a large document, but if you have one, make sure it is easy to read and understand.

  • Reasonable. Remember that you work together with the development team and do not check their ability to cope with difficulties. Setting unrealistic tasks threaten the success and compliance with project deadlines.

And a few more tips to follow:

  • Describe each requirement separately, or divide them into logical groups. You do not need to collect all the requirements in one section. If they are related, group them, for example, according to their functionality. This division will help you set priorities correctly.

  • Follow the sequence. The document should have a simple structure so that it is easy to read. If the product is divided into modules, you should arrange such modules in a logical sequence.

  • Give clear instructions. Try to avoid such phrases as "if necessary," "if possible."

  • Avoid any ambiguities: try to avoid the words "approximately," "and so on." Any definitions used must have an unambiguous meaning: for example, the term "convenient" can mean different things to different people.

  • You need to think not about how to do it but about what exactly needs to be done.

  • Keep all requirements in one place. You can use any tool for your PRD, and all project participants should know where to find it.

You can endlessly describe what to do and how to do it. Of course, it would be great to find one universal PRD template that would be used regardless of the project's nature and conditions. As you can see, this is not possible given the variety of products and ideas that developers face today. The PRD template will differ in different projects and depends on the approach to project implementation.

How to Write a Product Requirements Document as a Non-Technical Founder

As we can see, a one-million idea is not enough to build a great product. You need to have a detailed vision to succeed. It has been a well-known fact that all ideas, things, programs, situations in our heads are ideal and well-implemented until we start working on them. In fact, you need the instruction for developers, designers, and other direct creators of the final product. That is the PRD we have been talking about. 

We will not say it is impossible to craft a successful project without a PRD, but creating a PRD will increase your chances of achieving a brilliant future product.

Before creating your first PRD, make sure you have answers to the following questions:

  • Who is my client/user?

  • Why does my audience need the product I am creating?

  • When will I release the project?

  • What exactly am I building?

  • How am I making the product (technologies)?

Once you have clear answers to the questions above, you are ready to start working on a PRD. Make sure to include all the critical components of a PRD listed above.

A competent and complete PRD is the first step to a successful project. If you want your project to be completed on time, do not omit the stage of preparing the product requirements document. Alternatively, you can order it from reliable specialists and get an accurate, complete document that you can rely on. Fulcrum is your reliable partner to build products that move the world.

Final Thoughts 

It is correct to start developing any project by analyzing its goals and objectives and planning the implementation of stages. Therefore, at the initial phase of cooperation, we create a detailed PRD. In this post, we have touched on the themes of PRD meaning, why it is crucial during the discovery phase of the project, and discussed its essential components. To avoid disappointments and, most importantly, irrational financial spending and dead time, take care of crafting a PRD document for your future project.

Product Requirements Document FAQ

1. What is PRD?

A PRD is a document agreed by the customer and the contractor that thoroughly describes all the future project requirements. Such a document outlines the project's vision, release time frames, features, design, analytics, and future road-map plans. 

2. What does PRD stand for?

PRD stands for Product Requirements Document.

3. Why do you need a product requirements document?

The product requirements help you allocate time and effort wisely and eliminate most risks. All project participants must have an identical idea and clearly understand what the finished product should be. All the information is recorded in writing or graphically. This process eliminates the risk of confusion and misunderstandings.

4. What is the difference between MRD and PRD?

You should not interchange the terms MRD and PRD. PRD stands for product requirements document that outlines product capabilities, functionality, and features. On the other hand, an MRD is a market requirements document that identifies a market need and is based on customers.

Olekii
Natalia Nedogarok
Marketing Specialist
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