Is your Agile team moving from task to task without much awareness of the bigger picture? You need a Product Requirements Document.
Having a Product Requirements Document is essential for aligning the stakeholders on the product vision and ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal. In this post, learn how to create a Product Requirements Document for your Agile team.
What are Product Requirements Documents?
Product Requirements Documents (PRDs) provide context for your Agile team. PRDs give the overall big-picture view and help your team understand the new product development. They also serve as a reference point for the product team during the development process.
PRDs help bridge the gap between high-level product requirements and the implementation details of the development team. PRDs prevent team members from going too deep into the weeds and keep them anchored to the big picture.
Before Agile’s dominance, the PRD was at the core of software development, capturing the very essence of the product. Because of its pre-Agile origins, a traditional PRD is more suited to a Waterfall system with clearly defined, sequential steps (i.e., definition, design, delivery). But a PRD can be used as a principal element in Agile settings too. We simply need to adapt the format and content of the PRD for a modern-day context.
Benefits of Product Requirements Documents
A PRD can be an extremely useful tool, but its value depends on how it is utilized and what it contains. When a PRD is crafted thoughtfully and used with care, these are some of the high-level benefits that can be expected.
Team: A PRD is a great tool to achieve team alignment, particularly in remote or asynchronous settings. It acts as a guiding document, ensuring the team understands what they are building, what they are not building, why they are building it, what the priorities are, and how success will be measured.
Stakeholder: A PRD can have the same results for other stakeholders and clients, helping teams manage the scope and outcomes of their project transparently and communicate changes proactively and effectively.
Collaboration: A PRD is a tool for continuous collaboration. It is a place where engineers, designers, and product managers can gather together to work on defining requirements.
How to Create a Product Requirements Document
A product requirements document defines the requirements of a particular product, including the product’s purpose, features, functionality, and behavior. It serves as a guide for business and technical teams to help build and launch the product.
We’ve found the following product requirements document format has proved to be helpful:
2. Who, Why, What, & Whatnot
3. Performance, Reliability, & Supportability
You can download an editable, expanded version of this template here.
Product Requirements Documents Best Practices
In order to create an Agile-enabled PRD and reap the benefits of having a clear big-picture, it’s important to keep these best practices in mind.
Balance Rigidity with Flexibility
There are two ways to think about rigidity: the rigidity of the PRD itself, and rigidity in the way it is viewed within the organization. A rigid document is close-ended, leaving no space for the team to research or implement other solutions during development.
There should be a conscious effort to balance clarity on the desired outcome of a project with the flexibility to make adjustments as the team learns new information, thus allowing more room for research and discovery.
Treat PRDs as Living Documents
The way the PRD is viewed within the organization is paramount to its value. PRD should be continuously refined and treated as a living document. Teams should be able to respond to feedback, incorporate new learnings, and constantly re-evaluate so that the PRD does not fall out of context.
Keep Descriptions Brief
Another common downside is to pack the PRD with too many trivial details, resulting in a large, verbose document that's difficult to understand and maintain.
This typically happens when excessive information is included within the feature description—every single feature element, exhaustive design specifications, or implementation instructions. Rather than extensively outlining what is included, it can be more efficient in some cases to use a “won’t do” list, in an out-of-scope section.
Avoid Making PRDs Design-Centric
Too much detail on layout, styling, placement of components, and messages that should appear tends to take the focus away from key functionality and mask the main purpose of the PDR. This can cause loss of valuable development and QA time.
Agile-enabled Product Requirements Documents are a hugely valuable for fostering alignment and collaboration. Your PRD should be brief, flexible, and up-to-date, with the information your Agile team needs to create innovative, useful products.
What do you think of PRDs?
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