What Is a Product Requirements Document and
How to Create One for Better Team Collaboration
Creating successful products depends on solid project management to ensure every team involved in development processes understands the product. This way, they’re able to define their scope and plan and work collaboratively, avoiding misunderstandings.
Often collaborative success means using the best VoIP app or utilizing quality project management software to ensure team success. But, when multiple teams are working across departments, using a product requirements document is essential.
A product requirements document (PRD) is a central point to bring together various teams, from business-focused sales to technically-minded product engineers. It is core product documentation used as a reference throughout the product lifecycle.
PRDs are essential to managing projects for both traditional and agile teams. While agile is about staying lean and adapting to user feedback, strong planning can be valuable to keep teams on track to reach the right destination.
Here, we’ll go through what a PRD is, why you need it, and a step-by-step guide to creating your own.
What is a product requirements document?
The product requirements document outlines the purpose, features, functionality, behavior, timelines, and release date of your product. It’s a technical document listing the requirements and essential details for the development process.
Creating core product documentation, like a PRD, can be done using any platform required and can be as long or as short as needed.
Unlike a project plan, the PRD focuses on what's made, not how it’s made. It’s put together after the marketing requirements document (MRD) but, crucially, before product development begins.
Why do you use one?
A PRD is a project manager’s best friend. It serves as a roadmap for your product, guiding it through the stages of product development.
Say, you’re developing a SaaS product, a software integration for VoIP phone systems for businesses, the product document will include information such as its purpose, features, people involved, and functionality. This will serve as a guide for the teams involved to help develop and market the product.
Developing a new product involves lots of moving pieces, with marketing, sales, product development, support, and other teams all involved at some stage. It’s vital to ensure everyone’s on the same page to maximize team productivity.
A PRD does exactly that. It’s a centralized document available to all teams to refer to during the development process. It ensures everyone is informed about the objectives and timelines of the product. This way, every department can plan and work collaboratively by providing support when needed, allowing agile teams to function smoothly.
By sticking to the PRD, each team understands its roles and scope. Therefore, it eliminates misunderstandings between teams and breaks down communication silos. Additionally, if new employees join the project, they can use the PRD to familiarize themselves.
8 steps to create your PRD
While a PRD can be different depending on companies or products, here are eight steps to follow:
1. Define product purpose
The first step in developing any product is understanding what it’s for. By defining its purpose, you set all teams on the right path to reach their destination. Consider answering some basic questions:
- Why is this product being created?
- Who will use it?
- What does it solve?
- How does it align with company goals and key objectives?
Make your purpose crystal clear, without any room for interpretation or misunderstanding. It’s the foundation for your PRD, so ensure every team understands what the product should achieve.
2. Identify user stories and personas
Once you know your product’s purpose, you need to establish and describe your target users. It ensures product-market fit and product purpose is met. It lets marketing and sales departments focus on maximizing the use of sales proposal software for higher conversion output.
You can do this by building user personas and identifying user goals. Create user stories to support personas and explain to anyone who reads the document who the end-user is and what their needs are.
Establishing end-users is vital for team collaboration. If marketing, sales, or product development have different end users or needs in mind, the product could tank at launch, leading to a costly business failure.
Use your MRD along with target audience analytics to define user characteristics:
- Education level
- User needs and goals
3. Specify product features
Now, we get to the bulk of your PRD - the features. Understanding what your product does and its functionality is crucial for teams to know while the product is being planned.
For example, product development teams can understand what they need to implement, and a customer support tech stack can be built for the contact center solutions.
The features need to be specified by what they will do, not how they’ll work. It can be helpful to define each feature by using a structured format:
- Feature name
- User problem
- User value
- Out-of-scope aspects
- Acceptance criteria
While this seems like a lot to do for each feature, ensuring clarity is critical to prevent misunderstandings of what your product will do. Use the previous sections to assist you in feature specifications.
4. Create wireframes
Wireframes are layouts that provide a general outline of key elements and features of a product. For example, acall forwarding systemwireframe would map out user workflow and where the call forwarding features fit in.
The wireframe is a blueprint for how the features defined above will fit into your product. It’s a visual aid for engineers to understand the design vision. Additionally, it can highlight pain points with user workflow and product design.
Wireframes don’t include graphical or UX designs. They’re simple, functional blueprints for the product and are essential to any PRD.
5. Set release criteria
How do you know when you can release your product? You know this by setting release criteria.
Every product timeline has time to market. Unfortunately, product development teams might not have completed or tested every feature by then. So, to understand if your product is fit to launch, it’s imperative to set solid release criteria.
It lets everyone from marketing to technical teams identify what features or requirements are must-haves to meet the release date and which can be trimmed or added later. It allows the planning of cohesive strategies.
For instance, without release criteria, marketing may promise delayed feature sets. It can lead to customer complaints and low sales at release.
Focus on these five criteria when setting your goals:
- Functionality - what are the key features and functionalities?
- Usability - what level of ease and UX design does it need?
- Reliability - how consistent should the product be?
- Performance - what’s the minimum expected performance?
- Supportability - what level of support/maintenance will be available?
This step isn’t about solving issues but setting clear goals for product release. For example, you might include testing terms and bug tracking best practicesto determine when the product is ready for release. But you wouldn’t talk about how to resolve issues.
6. Establish timelines with workflow constraints
PRDs don’t use timelines with exact dates. Instead, they use workflow constraints to determine project progress. It includes the target release window, project milestones, and other workflow constraints you’re working under.
Teams know where in the development process they are and understand the issues that might affect product release. Additionally, they can identify where the project is falling short and what needs to happen to get it back on track.
For example, it might be additional training to improve teams using another alternative to RingCentral cloud collaboration solutions. Simply put, it can help reduce the impact of workflow constraints, improve productivity, and get lingering features on schedule after launch.
7. Review and revise
A PRD isn’t a one-person, static document that’s written up, stashed in a folder, and revisited in two years. It’s a vital document for every team and promotes collaboration by detailing what the future product will do.
Before you begin any implementation, review the PRD by sending it to stakeholders and asking for feedback. This way, you can identify any shortfalls, vague details, or unidentified risks.
For instance, imagine your product is a virtual call center software. You can guarantee all necessary and desirable features are accounted for and well-defined in advance of product development.
Once you finalize the key components of the PRD, you can start building your product.
8. Future product roadmap
Products are always in a state of flux. There’s invariably a future implementation to keep up with changes in technology or consumer needs. If you have ideas of how your product will develop over time, it needs to be in the PRD.
Teams and project managers change. A future product roadmap ensures the timeframes and functionalities of prospective iterations aren’t disrupted. Detail what you want subsequent products to look like so a stranger can accurately build on the foundations you’ve created.
Additionally, you might add the analytics and success metrics you plan on using to track your product's progress after launch in this, or a separate, section.
Manage team collaboration with a product requirements document
Your teams need to be on the same page for successful product development. From the initial idea to the product launch, every team must work collaboratively to ensure the finished product lives up to its designed purpose.
A PRD is, therefore, essential to detail what the product will be. It provides all project teams with a centralized document to refer to when determining their roles and scope. Additionally, it can assist employee onboarding and reduce misunderstandings in development processes.
Remember, a PRD is what a product will be, not how it will be developed. It can be as long or as short as required. When your project teams know what they’re aiming for, you guarantee your product features and requirements will be met and the product development process will run smoothly.
Create an accurate, simple, and comprehensive PRD. With it, you can promote agile product development and ensure better team collaboration.
About the author
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Check out her LinkedIn profile.