The Product Requirements Document (or PRD) communicates what has to be built, in an effective way to all stakeholders. These stakeholders may be internal teams like engineering, QA, marketing or even leadership.
The content of a PRD could vary based on how mature the product is, how many product owners there are in the organization, the way internal product teams are structured and a variety of other factors.
PRDs at early stage companies are generally much smaller and address all product related questions in less than 10 pages.
As companies grow and build out more complex products, a need for more granular specifications and product documentation arises. These documents are built and maintained by team of product owners who collectively maintain a mature PRD.
Product Requirements Document Template for Early Stage Products
As mentioned earlier, early stage products need small, succinct documents that can cover the entire spectrum of product and market.
The introduction section usually consists of a few pages of documentation that cover the overall goals and value proposition of the product.
There is also a mention of who the customer is and what pain points the product hopes to address.
In early stage products, a couple of paragraphs can also be used here to provide a technical overview of the product. This serves an intro to the tech stack for any engineers reading the document.
The next section describes features to be built along with relevant the details that development teams can use. These include mockups, wireframes and test cases for the QA team.
The final part that an early PRD is a short timeline of the development efforts.
Product Requirements Document Template for Mature Products
For larger, more mature companies, with multiple products and teams - a more robust document is needed. This PRD outlines the different parts of the product in great details and lays the foundation for maintaining quality standards while also describing the future of product development efforts.
This template contains the following sections:
- Detailed Customer Persona & Use Cases
- Detailed Feature Specifications
- Engineering & QA Guidelines
- Product Metrics
- Roadmap & Timelines
Feature Specification Template
As products grow, it becomes harder for teams to verbally communicate what is being built and why. Growing teams keep adding new members and communication between product and development teams becomes much harder. It is essential to reduce friction in these scenarios and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
One of the best ways to ensure full transparency and easy communication within a team is to maintain feature specifications as a separate document or wiki. This way the background, value proposition, development process and any other important information about features being built is shared and can easily be accessed by anyone on the team.
This can be in the form of a product requirements document (PRD) or a feature wiki that is typically maintained by a product owner. The other collaborators in the wiki would include designers, developers, QA teams and senior management. Some of these members will be active contributors to the document, while others can use it as a source of answers for product and engineering questions.
A Feature Spec wiki in large teams ends up being a collection of individual feature specifications - each owned and maintained by a separate product owner.
What should an Ideal Feature Specification contain?
- Scope - current and future
- Target User Persona
- Ideal use case & edge cases
- User stories with
- Wireframes and interactive prototypes.
- Usage Tracking / analytics
- Release plans
- Test Cases
- Technical Documentation
A feature spec should be able to paint a picture of what is being built, for who it is being built, why they need the feature and how they are going to use it. In addition to the overview of the feature itself, it needs to have all the details the development team needs to build and maintain features effectively.
Here are some of the most important parts of a feature spec:
Target User Persona
Ideally, a pre-made template of the user persona(s) being targeted for the feature should be shared here. A brief description or a JTBD for the target persona will help the reader understand what the daily routine of the ideal user looks like and what he is looking to accomplish in the product.
Heave emphasis should be given to the specific pain point that the proposed feature is being built to solve.
To sum up, this section should answer the following:
- Who is the target user persona?
- What specific pain point is this feature looking to solve?
- How does he solve the problem now?
- Ideal use case & edge cases
Now that the ideal customer profile has been defined for the functionality, the next step is to clearly lay out the use case that the person will be utilizing the solution for.
The ideal scenario should showcase how the user arrives at the need for the solution, what happens when he uses the feature and what he will probably do next.
Edge cases for using the feature are also important to capture as they contain important information for the engineering teams when architecting technical solutions.
Scope - current and future
How do you make sure that the feature you are building has just enough functionality to find the balance between shipping on time and delivering business value to the users of the product?
This is where the scope of the feature becomes important.
Managing scope effectively is one of the most important jobs of a product owner. It is easy to slip into the habit of adding more functionality to a feature than what is initially required. In face, scope creep is one of the most common challenges faced by product development teams.
In the PMIs survey of product development teams, 52% of teams who answered the survey questions said they had experienced scope creep the past year.
Managing the current scope of the product largely comes down to being able to effectively narrow down your target persona and clearly define the specific pain point your feature is addressing.
The next step is to scope the feature in a way that it completely solves the problem, in a simple and elegant way and remove any other functionality that is not essential.
All other functionality can be characterized as possible future additions to the product or functionality that you have no intent on building.
By doing this, you can clearly define the limits of the current scope while laying the foundation for future additions to the feature.
It is also important to clearly list out the functionality that is on the table for the future. This can help developers understand and architect better solutions.
User stories with wireframes and interactive prototypes.
This is the part of the specification document that the engineers will be spending most of their time on. While the first three sections focus on laying the background of the feature, this section transitions the information into actionable user stories that can be developed one at a time.
Each user story should be described from a customer perspective. Tasks should be broken down or grouped in such a way that user stories do not take more than a week to implement.
The key to making user stories descriptive and developer friendly is to have enough supporting documentation. These include wireframes and interactive prototypes. These are usually built and shared by the product designers. Once a feature is prioritized, the next step would be to work with designers to build wireframes and interactive prototypes. These are added to the document and will serve as important assets that are attached to the user stories.
Having a clear format in place and following it will ensure that your user stories are as developer friendly and informative as possible.
The next section of the feature specification covers the test cases for the feature being built. This is the section where the QA team will probably spend most of their time on. In addition to the QA team, this section will also be used by the product and developers who write their own test cases.
Different teams have different ways of handling test cases. It is good if this process is formalised and this section is a standard part of the feature spec. Traditional software development teams have unit, integration tests and acceptance tests written between developers and QA. Scrum teams are cross functional and the quality is the responsibility of the entire squad as the whole.
Test cases also may appear inside user stories (based on the tool you are using). In this case it is still good to document the test cases in the overall feature spec (although it would be optional).
Usage Tracking / analytics
Today’s agile ecosystem and the shift towards iterative development demands that every feature and release is tested from an end user’s perspective before going ahead and committing to building additional functionality.
As a result of this, in-app click tracking and analytics have become an integral part of the pre-release process in almost all product teams. Product teams should ensure that all essential events that have to be tracked are listed out in this section with as much context as possible.
Feature releases often get delayed because the product owner has to give his team this data at the end of the cycle. It makes sense for the product/data team to list out all the requirements as part of the product specification process.
In addition to being essential for business and product teams, this section also gives the reader an overall view of the success criteria for the feature.
Different teams have different ways of shipping finished features. Some teams follow a continuous delivery process where features are shipped as and when they are developed and tested. Scrum teams may deploy features in releases that combine features built every few weeks. Some teams like to use release versions of every feature in incremental releases.
Larger teams have separate deploy teams that serve various product engineering teams. In these situations, the development team and the ones releasing the feature are not the same.
The release of new features gets considerably more complex as products and companies scale. All details with regards to the release of a particular feature can be shared here (or a link to a release management software) for better understanding of when a feature will be released and which release it is going to be a part of.
This section is usually reserved for engineering and other technical notes that the development team may want to document. This not only provides clarity for other teams that might continue to work on the feature but also helps new developers quickly get abreast with any technical information they need to know about the project.
How long should your feature specification be?
The point of having a robust feature specification process and a culture of good documentation is to make product development more efficient.
The best way to document product development varies greatly from team to team but the desired outcomes are always the same:
- Companies need to have a single source of truth for everything being built in the product.
- The sharing of product knowledge should be easier to facilitate better communication between teams.
- Developers should have an easy way of acquiring product understanding so they can engineer better solutions.
- Onboarding new engineers and new teams becomes a lot less difficult when you have good documentation to share.
- The product development process should be documented so learning and iterating becomes easier.
It is important to keep in mind that these outcomes are more important than the actual document itself. Product owners and decision makers should try to find the balance between maintaining robust documentation and being as productive as possible when deciding the format of their product specification wiki.
Feel a release section is overkill for your team? by all means do away with it. Want to detail event tracking inside user stories rather than in the wiki? That makes perfect sense too. The ideal way to start documenting product specs is to start with the bare essentials and then add more to the document as the need to share more information arises.
Product Requirements Document Template: Engineering & QA Guidelines
The Technical guidelines section contains an overview of the technical documentation of the product. The first section usually covers the technological stack that is being used across features to build the product. This usually covers the different parts of the product and describes the underlying technologies being used to build features.
The second part of the section could include release criteria. This is not just for the QA team but also for the development team to maintain software quality standards. Release criteria covers topics like :
Product Requirements Document Template : Timelines / Product Roadmap
The last section of a comprehensive PRD covers the planned timeline for the release of features. While companies may maintain separate product roadmaps in excel or other roadmapping tools, this is usually a snapshot of the overall roadmap embedded into the document.