Product Management

What is a Product Requirements Document or PRD?

Today’s article will cover a product requirements document or PRD and share five things to remember when writing this document.

If you are applying to associate product manager roles or product internships, PRDs are something that you will be asked about during interviews to share a personal experience. 

A few years ago, I was applying to Associate Product Manager Programs or APM. During my interviews, I was asked what a PRD is and how to build a product spec. I had no clue back then what a PRD was because I was not exposed to that in any of my classes in college. 

And this is one of the main reasons that motivated me to put this article together so that whenever you’re asked what a PRD is, you can answer that question successfully. 

If you’re currently a PM or transitioning into this role, this video will help you build a good foundation on what to keep in mind when writing PRDs because you will be spending much time working on these documents. 

If you are an engineer, designer, marketer, or founder working on building a new product or future. This document will help you think of the end-to-end experience or the product you are building.

What is a Product Requirements Document? 

The product requirements document, or PRD, for short, is a document that is primarily written by a product manager that answers three fundamental questions.

  1. Why should we build a product? 
  2. What should the product do? 
  3. How do we measure the success of that product?

Without a PRD, teams will have a lot of different assumptions about the product in the features that need to be developed.

For example, the design team may think of a feature differently. At the same time, the engineering team may have a completely different perspective on it. Documenting requirements solve that problem.

A PRD aligns stakeholders around the key capabilities that will be delivered in a new product helping everyone from engineering to design, customer support, and cells to effectively collaborate to build an end to an experience that will make customers happy. 

The PRD also helps to balance the engineering team’s functional concerns with the design team’s focus on usability. 

To summarize, a PRD is a document written by the product manager to create a shared understanding of the purpose of a product across the team. 

How to Write a Good PRD?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing a PRD. 

Focus on the Problem

Focus on the problem, not the solution. The goal of the PRD is to explain what the product should do, not how it should be built. The PRD should be a guideline for engineering design and UX research teams to follow when designing solutions, not a recipe to follow. 

Be concise

The PRD should be as concise as possible and no more than a few pages long. If it’s too long, it will cause more work for you because they may ping you with questions you may have already covered in the PRD. So make sure to keep it short and sweet. Avoid lengthy documents at all costs; no one will read a PRD entirely. 

Keep the PRD up to date.

Good product managers keep their PRs updated on a daily or weekly basis. And they understand that the PRD is an ongoing process. The PRD is a living document that evolves as our team iterates, and it is our responsibility as PMs to document any decisions or assumptions made along the way. For future reference.

One way you can do this is by adding a current update section at the top of the pod with two columns. The first one is for the date of the update, and the second one is to provide a brief description of the update and keep everyone informed. 

Get feedback from your stakeholders.

The purpose of the PRD is to get everyone aligned on the same page to avoid misunderstandings about what we’re building. Think of the PRD as a tool for collaboration. Share the document and involve your stakeholders, especially the engineering and design teams. Please encourage them to post your questions in the document, provide feedback and share key lessons that they’ve learned from other product launches. 

Apply the rule of five

The rule of five says that if you ask five random team members about the products, purpose, timeline, status, and features, they should all be able to give you roughly a similar answer. Keeping these five things in mind will drive clarity across your team and ensure that everyone understands what the product should do and why you are building it. 

Why do PMs write PRDs?

Putting our ideas into a document and reviewing it with our stakeholders will help us accomplish three things. 

  1. Building out a PRD forces product managers to think fully through what the end-to-end experience of a product should be. Writing things down forces PMS to think about dependencies, like internal systems, resources, or teams, that may be needed or impacted when building your product. 
  2. Writing a PRD forces product managers to identify the must-haves versus the nice-to-have features of a product and helps us prioritize the essential components that need to be built out by engineering to have a minimum viable product or MVP ready. 
  3. Shared understanding. Listing our ideas in a document allows PMs to validate their assumptions and bring some noise down when someone says, “I don’t know what that PM is building.” 

A PRD needs to be written clearly. Because other stakeholders will create several other documents in the organization, for example, engineers will create a technical specification, also called the spec, which describes how each user story in the pod will be implemented. And they may also create an architectural design document; the product design team will create wireframes and mock-ups as needed. And the quality assurance team or QA will write a test plan to ensure that every use case in the PRD is working as expected and document any bugs or defects they may encounter.

Conclusion

To recap, product managers spend a lot of their time answering the question of what the product should do and aligning teams to execute against the product vision. The product requirements document or PRD is one of the most useful tools in a PMs toolbox. 

The key takeaways from this article are 

  1. The PRD is a document written primarily by a product manager to answer why the product should be built and what he should do. 
  2. The PRD should not answer how the product should be built. It is up to the engineering and design teams to come up with how to implement the product.
  3. Keep the PRD concise and up to date, and involve your stakeholders in directly providing their feedback and questions in the document. 

If you found this article helpful, please give it a thumbs up, subscribe and share with someone whom you think can benefit from it. 

If you have any questions or do have any PRD tips, please share them in the comments down below. In our next article, we will cover how to write a PRD and share an example with you.

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