Every product manager, at some point in her career, has written and read product requirement documents (PRD) in one form or the other.
Regardless of how many PRDs you have or haven't written, it is critical to understand its importance.
In today's post - the first of a two-part series - I will answer two: questions: "What is a product requirements document (PRD)?" and "Why is it important?" In the second post, I will share best practices that will help you create a comprehensive PRD.
Without further ado, let me answer the first question:
What is a product requirements document (PRD)?
A PRD describes in detail the capabilities of a product or a feature. It includes all the required details for engineers to translate requirements into actual code.
Good PRDs should include the purpose or the business context for building a specific product or feature.
Why are PRDs important?
- Define clear scope. The product manager uses the PRD to precisely define what is and what isn't in scope for the specific feature. The emphasis is on 'precisely define.' A precise definition of scope is critical for the PRD to do its job well: communicate to the engineers what they need to build.
- Get a higher level of clarity by reducing ambiguity. Until the PM creates the PRD, the product scope is high level and, sometimes, ambiguous. Creating the PRD pushes the PM to structure her thoughts, close open points, remove ambiguity, and think of use cases that she wouldn't have considered otherwise.
- Get everyone on the same page. The PRD acts as a single source of truth for all stakeholders. A well written PRD ensures that every stakeholder understands the product scope in the same way as everyone else. This document minimizes, if not reduce to zero, the chances of varied interpretation of the same feature.
- Agree on acceptance and launch criteria. PRD reports clear acceptance criteria, which helps engineers and the PM align on the minimum requirements that the feature needs to meet before the team releases it to the world.
- Reference for future. Well-written PRDs act as sources of knowledge for those who were not directly involved with the development but had an interest in understanding the feature.
Some of you might argue that PRDs are a thing of the past and that they feature in teams that follow the waterfall method of development. That might be true in a few cases. However, I believe that many product managers still create some form of documentation, that solves the same problem as the PRD does.
Stay tuned for the next article, in which I will dive deep into standard PRD structure and the process required to create a meaningful PRD.
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