March 28, 2023

When Agile was first experiencing large-scale adoption within the early 2000s, it revolutionized software program improvement and conventional methods of working. Because of this, many staples of the Waterfall strategy have been seen as outmoded. Considered one of these was the product necessities doc (PRD).

The PRD was as soon as described because the “single most important document the product supervisor maintains” by technologists Ben Horowitz and David Weiden, however its relevance and worth in product improvement has been hotly debated for the previous twenty years. There are impassioned advocates, specialists who consider it to be defunct (see this 2006 blog post from product thought chief Marty Cagan), and lots of others sitting on the fence.

All of them have legitimate factors. My perception, although, is that the problem just isn’t whether or not to make use of a PRD, however relatively how.

Organizations, merchandise, and markets all create a singular context for which there isn’t a one-size-fits-all PRD, however by implementing the following pointers and recommendation the place relevant, and utilizing the free template supplied under, you’ll be able to revive the PRD and make it a precious part of your digital product improvement course of.

The Worth of a Good Product Necessities Doc

In my a few years working as a product supervisor with numerous shoppers and groups, I’ve discovered the PRD to be an especially great tool, however its worth relies on the way you put it to use and what it accommodates. When a PRD is crafted thoughtfully and used with care, these are a number of the high-level advantages you’ll be able to count on:

Inside alignment: A PRD is a superb instrument to attain group alignment, notably in distant or asynchronous settings. It acts as a guiding doc, making certain the group understands what they’re constructing, what they don’t seem to be constructing, why they’re constructing it, what the priorities are, and the way success might be measured.

Exterior alignment: A PRD can have the identical outcomes for different stakeholders and shoppers, serving to groups handle the scope and outcomes of their venture transparently and talk modifications proactively.

Collaboration: A PRD doesn’t exist to allow the autocracy of the product supervisor or anybody particular person. Moderately, it’s a instrument of and for steady collaboration. It’s a place the place engineers, designers, and product managers can collect collectively to work on defining consumer tales, for instance, or creating ongoing dialogue with shoppers about objectives and priorities as contexts evolve and new learnings floor.

In an effort to create an Agile-enabled PRD and reap these advantages, there are a number of widespread pitfalls you and your group should keep away from.

Easy methods to Keep away from Widespread Pitfalls

Earlier than Agile’s dominance the PRD was on the core of software program improvement, capturing the very essence of the product. Due to its pre-Agile origins, a conventional PRD is extra suited to a Waterfall system with clearly outlined, sequential steps (i.e., definition, design, supply). However a PRD can and ought to be used as a principal ingredient in Agile settings too. We merely must adapt the format and content material of the PRD for a modern-day context. Listed below are my greatest practices:

1. Stability Rigidity With Flexibility

There are two methods to consider rigidity: the rigidity of the PRD itself, and rigidity in the best way it’s considered inside the group. Each varieties generally happen when creating and utilizing a PRD, however we’ll deal with the previous first.

A inflexible doc is close-ended, leaving no area for the group to analysis or implement different options throughout improvement. However it is best to make a aware effort to steadiness readability on the specified consequence of a venture with the flexibleness to make changes as you study new info. The Shape Up method, developed by former Basecamp Head of Product Ryan Singer, can be utilized that can assist you discover concord between offering the fastened path promised by a closed PRD and giving groups room to construct merchandise in an agile means.

Another choice to forestall the rigidity of a conventional PRD is to make use of it to explain measurable success standards. Within the context of a sport app, for instance, the goal could be a ten% improve in customers sharing their scores on social media with a redesigned finish display and a smoother sharing expertise. This feature doesn’t specify the perfect answer to attain this, thus permitting for extra granular analysis and discovery.

2. Deal with It As a Dwelling Doc

The way in which the PRD is considered inside the group is paramount to its worth. How will you count on to be an agile group when working from a hard and fast doc? Likewise, how will you count on the doc to give you the results you want in the event you don’t use it in an agile means? When a PRD is used rigidly, by being strictly adhered to or enforced, it will probably impede inventive discussions and product discovery, encouraging a Waterfall mindset and hindering general agility.

Unconditionally following a set plan is a recipe for catastrophe in software program improvement—contemplating your PRD “completed” is a standard but counterproductive strategy, because the doc will shortly turn out to be outdated.

Endeavor to repeatedly refine the PRD and deal with it as a dwelling doc. Keep away from having a series of evaluation or approval each time a group member makes an adjustment. Most significantly, guarantee your group is effectively versed in a framework similar to Scrum, Kanban, or Excessive Programming, so they’re able to reply to suggestions, incorporate new learnings, and continually reevaluate. If the group is working in an agile means, they’re extra possible to make use of the PRD in an agile means too.

3. Preserve Descriptions Transient

One other widespread pitfall is to cram the PRD with too many particulars, leading to a big, verbose doc that’s obscure and keep. This sometimes occurs when extreme info is included inside the function description—each single function ingredient, exhaustive design specs, or implementation directions.

Being temporary doesn’t imply sacrificing readability, nevertheless. A transparent PRD will nonetheless embody the basics: the aim of every function, the important parts, and the rules for supply. Listed below are examples of various function descriptions for a relationship app:




Success display when there’s a match between two customers, with a technique to join.

We want successful display for each match that can excite the consumer and nudge them towards the following step (i.e., exchanging messages).

Type ought to match model and accessibility requirements.

Should-have parts:

  • Distinguished success message: “It’s a match!”
  • Distinguished name to motion (ship message)
  • Not as distinguished, however embody a simple technique to hold swiping

Moreover, we wish to see personalization, e.g., profile footage and/or nicknames. As acceptable, haptic suggestions or vibration, animations, and so forth., ought to be utilized as effectively.

When there’s a match, a web page wants to seem throughout the total display that can present the message “It’s a match!” The display ought to embody profile pictures from each customers, in giant circles taking over 1 / 4 of the display every (with the consumer’s personal image on the left facet), and the message ought to be above these pictures.

Beneath the pictures, there ought to be two giant buttons, finish to finish, one with the textual content “Message now” and one with “Proceed swiping.”

On the buttons to the left of the textual content, there must also be icons: a chat bubble to message the match and a small coronary heart to proceed swiping. All textual content ought to be in coloration #003366, apart from the buttons, which ought to have white textual content.

The display ought to seem with a fly-in from backside impact, with small fireworks, smiley faces, and coronary heart emojis flying round (seven fireworks, three smiley faces, and 4 hearts,).

Even within the “Transient and Clear” instance, there’s probably superfluous info: For instance, the steerage on model and accessibility requirements, and in addition on haptic suggestions, might not be vital if it applies to every function and notably when organizations have design groups who’re acquainted with these requirements. If that is so, you’ll be able to tighten up the function description much more.

Moderately than extensively outlining what’s included, it may be extra environment friendly in some circumstances to make use of a “received’t do” record, maybe in an out-of-scope part or utilizing the MoSCoW method. The record ought to solely deal with gadgets distinctive to the context or the place there could also be uncertainty, similar to gadgets faraway from the scope that might normally be included, gadgets not aligned with rules, or edge circumstances.

An vital issue within the stage of element you select to incorporate can even be the group’s expertise and the maturity of the product. In case your group includes senior professionals who’ve labored collectively earlier than, or in case you are constructing a product that has established requirements and pointers, temporary documentation might be sufficient.

The well-known quote “I didn’t have time to write down you a brief letter, so I wrote you an extended one” is relevant right here. It’s going to take a number of effort to maintain the PRD temporary whereas speaking all the required info, however it’s a worthwhile funding.

Use This Product Necessities Doc Template to Maximize Success

To get you began, I’ve channeled all my learnings and steerage into the last word PRD free template, available for download. If, in its present type, it isn’t suited to your distinctive context, experiment by eradicating or incorporating totally different parts to make it give you the results you want.

An Agile-enabled PRD is a massively precious instrument. By conserving it temporary, versatile, and alive, your PRD can foster higher alignment, readability, and collaboration—all of that are important within the creation of modern, helpful merchandise.

A downloadable Product Requirements Document template. The first section asks for details relating to the product or initiative, the client, the product manager, and the date. There is then a section to outline the purpose of the PRD itself, followed by a section for an executive summary. The next section asks the following questions: Who are we building this product for? Why are we building this product? What are we building? What are we not building? The final section is a list of optional elements: feature list, desired outcomes, user experiences, or use cases; user flows or other diagrams; competitor landscape and market overview; tech stack and requirements; ideal team structure and roles; potential pitfalls; timeline; and go-to-market strategy.*

PRD Template Notes

The template is damaged into two components: obligatory and non-obligatory parts. Utilizing solely the previous will end in a lean doc, sufficient to achieve the important thing advantages. Together with a number of the non-obligatory parts is really useful to present extra particulars as wanted. Right here’s find out how to use the template successfully:

1. Doc Goal

This part is important in defining what the PRD might be used for. Write a brief assertion or maybe three or 4 bullets describing its goal. For instance:

  • Doc discovery and collaboration with the consumer
  • Define MVP scope
  • Summarize totally different applied sciences and potentialities for improvement
  • Element group wants as they come up

2. Govt Abstract

Give a high-level overview of the venture, its objectives and targets, organizational and market context, and suggestions.

Professional tip: Fill out this part final, upon getting the opposite parts in place.

3. Who, Why, What, and What Not

Who’re we constructing this product for? Listing the primary consumer teams of the product, their wants, and ache factors.

Why are we constructing this product? Listing the primary alternatives, hypotheses, and reasonings.

What are we constructing? Write a brief description of the product, its tough scope, or its primary options/parts.

What are we not constructing? Write a brief description of the functionalities that won’t be included and the explanation why.

Additional Studying on the Toptal Product Weblog: