A modern approach to PRDs
Building a great product entails a deep understanding of goals and objectives, user research, comprehensive planning, and cross-departmental collaboration (just to name a few). Juggling all these moving parts can be a challenge for anyone, so where do you start?
With a product requirement document (PRD), of course!
What is a product requirements document?
A product requirements document, usually referred to as PRD, is a document that defines the conditions of a particular product, such as the purpose, features, functionality, and behavior. A PRD guides business and technical teams through the process of building, launching, and marketing a product based on customer needs.
What’s the difference between PRD and an MRD?
A PRD and a marketing requirements document (MRD) are similar in that they list a project's requirements and its most important information. However, the primary difference is that a PRD doesn’t touch on market opportunity or revenue; rather, it focuses on use cases and desired functionality. In other words, a PRD defines how a product will address the customer needs as determined in the MRD.
Are PRDs dead?
In an era of New Work, some companies have shifted away from using a traditional PRD to a more agile approach. They demand the same process - communicating a product's purpose, features, release criteria, and timeline - but it’s done on a task board or interactive document which links to related files or documents and highlights dependencies (something like Collato’s PRD template!) to enable smoother cross-departmental collaboration. So PRDs aren’t dead, they just take a different form.
What are the benefits of a PRD?
Fosters a shared understanding: Technical teams tend to jump straight into how the product will be built instead of understanding why the product helps users. PRDs communicate the intentions behind the new product or features.
Creates a plan: A PRD helps teams get on the same page so everyone involved works in the same direction toward the overarching goal.
Collects requirement specifications: Gathering product conditions can be tricky, but a PRD closes the gap between high-level product requirements and implementation elements of the development team.
What should a PRD contain?
Every organization is different, but the bones of a PRD are project specifics, like participants and stakeholders, the status of the project, and the target release. It also summarizes team goals and business objectives, background and strategic fit, assumptions, user stories, user interaction, design wireframes, and questions for further research.
☝️Reminder: Requirements originate from a variety of methods and techniques. But one thing that they all have in common, especially in an agile method, is they allow for flexibility to meet the demands of customers. Be open to making changes to your PRD throughout the process!
Who writes a PRD?
Typically a product manager writes a PRD before teams begin working on the product.
How to write a PRD in Collato
Step 1: Overview
The first step is defining your project specifics in the overview section.
Participants: Who is involved in the project? Usually, this includes the product owner, design and engineering team leads, and project-specific stakeholders.
Project status: Where does the current project stand? Are you on target, at risk, off target, or delayed?
Target release: When is the product or the project projected to be released?
Step 2: Background
Provide a short product description and state why it’s worth investing resources into. This section should also cover team goals, business objectives, and strategic fit.
Summary: What/who is this product for? Why is it worth investing resources into?
Goals: What team goals would direct the product toward completion?
Strategic fit: How does this project fit into the overall product strategy?
Step 3: Customer insights
What research have you done that makes this product useful to users? Add the information in this section. Use links, videos, and images to provide examples to relevant teams and stakeholders.
Step 4: Success Criteria
Given your current state and resource allocation, what would success look like? When a product is completed, what will the user be able to do? You should also define what metrics you’ll be tracking, how you plan on tracking them, and the overall success criteria of this project.
Step 5: Scope
This is your most important section, it gives all the project details to realize your product goals!
List, link, or describe the user stories and insights involved. Provide supporting materials like details, images, and interview notes to give enough context to tell a story. One example format could be:
User insight: Mobile version
Description: User wants to view updates and reply to stakeholders on their phone.
Requirements: What is needed to execute this solution?
Notes: We will need to talk to Sebastian Fuege about capacity and implementation.
User interaction and design
After the team understands the user story and their accompanying responsibilities, link to design explorations and wireframes. In Collato, you can embed live Figma designs and previews to access the design specs you need right away.
In the Collato template, you can embed already established timelines from tools like Jira. Your team can visualize the progress of the project directly on the document.
Out of scope
Even though you may not get to every fix, feature, or development in this project, it doesn’t mean you have to forget about them. In this section, write the features or stories that are out of the scope of this project. What can be added to the timeline in future quarters?
Specs needed for a PRD
A PRD also defines the technical processes behind the product to describe what it’s capable of. The better you define how the product should work, the easier it will be for the development team to build it for you.
Wireframes: A wireframe is a blueprint that helps you, developers, and designers envision the structure of software or a feature you’re building. It’s the work you do at the very beginning of a project before any code is written and the visual design is finalized to see the layout and content placement in an adjustable way. You can embed a live preview of your wireframe in the Collato PRD template, so you don’t have to go back and manually update images after changes are made to the design.
Dependencies: It’s crucial to make sure that your product releases without disrupting existing features. Brainstorming or researching potential dependencies within the product will ensure that the new release won’t impact anything else live on the platform. The easiest way to see all this information at a glance is to map them out visually. On your PRD template on Collato, you can create connected cards which reference these dependencies on a connection map.
Metrics: To evaluate the success of your product, track metrics throughout the product journey. Your PRD will have a success criteria section that defines and tracks this information.
Release criteria: This is a list of prerequisites that the product needs to meet in order for it to be ready for users. It needs to be approved by all relevant internal stakeholders. You can get the go-ahead from teammates by simply sharing the document or tagging the responsible person.
Post-Release Retro: A PRD doesn’t end at release! After completing the product, you still need to analyze the metrics to answer the questions: What did you learn from the collected data? What can you do better next time? What worked? What didn’t work?
Product document key takeaways
Use the right tool: You’ll have many supporting materials in your PRD, including text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, files, images, interviews, and feedback. All this information can get lost in the process. Having the ideal tool (and PRD template) to let you collect information and work collaboratively is key to maintaining a smooth product development process.
Be straightforward: PRDs should be a high-level document that guides the development process. Keeping information updated with the right links and embedded documents speaks more than a project novel.
Collaborate: PRDs aren’t just for product managers. They’re also meant to incorporate collaborative documents, updates, and feedback. Share your PRD with relevant teams so everyone can see how the product is progressing and what needs to be done to keep it that way.