Explain what your product does, how it does it, and some granular details that matter most.
This axiom applies to many things, but most especially to product. Whether you write the documentation for a product or you are designing the product itself, the biggest danger is assuming that the product will just “make sense” to everyone.
Hands must be held. The purpose of your product must be clearly articulated. The value of your product must be clearly stated. The various “if, then?” scenarios your product may come across should be considered.
And so much more.
Enter the Product Requirements Document (PRD). A Product Requirements Document is documentation that clearly states the purpose of a product or a feature. It’s an overhead view, high-value document that product managers are responsible for creating. An effective PRD should communicate a few key things:
- The product — what is it?
- The purpose of the product — what does it do?
- The features that enable the purpose — how does it do?
- The audience for the product — who does it do it for?
- The criteria to meet to be considered a release — what makes it ready to use?
- A timeline for release — when will it be ready?
Who’s Responsible for a Product Requirements Document?
That would be the Product Manager, but not alone.
The primary responsibility for a PRD falls on the Product Manager, but well-developed PRDs require the attention of multiple parties. Depending on what your product is, what it does, and who’s responsible for making those things happen, a PRD may have a fair number of contributors.
A PRD ultimately calls for the input of a variety of different departments: sales, marketing, product development, management, engineering, customers, and any other stakeholders your product has. A PRD is a team effort, but we can think of the Product Manager as the coach. They ensure that the numerous contributors mesh together into a cohesive unit so that when a PRD is done, it’s a sensible piece of content.
Cui Bono? Who Benefits from a PRD?
The limit does not exist.
Most commonly used across the software product industry, a PRD really has no limitation as to what industries it can benefit. It’s called a PRD in the software industry, but every industry has documentation best practices, including a PRD, though the document itself may have a different alias.
The bottom line is that if you’re providing a product or a service, regardless of whether it’s software or not, presenting a piece of content that gives that product/service a comprehensive breakdown from a high level is always beneficial.
What Does a Good Product Requirements Document Look Like?
Feast your eyes.
We’ve got a good starting point for you: easyDITA’s Product Requirements Document [Template]
Still, a template is merely a starting point. Our template is a good baseline, but it’s in no way universally perfect across organizations. We’ll break it down into must-have sections that can’t be overlooked in the process of putting a PRD together. Once you have those taken care of, it’s important to take the time to tailor the PRD to your organization’s specific needs, goals, and plans.
Here’s what a good PRD should have:
- Purpose and scope, from both technical and business perspectives
- Market assessment and target demographics
- Product overview and use cases
- Requirements, including:
- Functional requirements (e.g. what your product should do)
- Usability requirements
- Technical requirements (e.g. security, network, platform, integration, client)
- Environmental requirements
- Support requirements
- Interaction requirements (e.g. how the product should work with other systems)
- High-level workflow plans, timelines, and milestones (more detail is defined through a project plan)
- Evaluation plan and performance metrics
PRDs as Part of Your Larger Product Strategy
When the PRD is done, it’s really just the beginning.
Congrats! A good PRD may not seem like much, but it’s a powerful means by which you can keep tabs on your progress through the product journey when things inevitably get a little chaotic.
When you start with a PRD, you set you, your product, and your team up for long term success.