What Makes a Good Product Requirements Document (PRD) Template?

Jama Software

PRD Template

Looking for PRD templates and examples that you can download and adopt in your product team’s workflow, but struggling to find something that fits? Jama can advise you on how to build a template that meets your team’s unique needs.

Successful product development teams know that behind every successful product is a comprehensive product requirements document (PRD). A good PRD gives everyone a single point of reference for development needs, outlines exactly what customers require in a final product, and aligns the team around the vision, goals, and initiative of the new product.

But identifying what makes a good PRD is one thing—actually writing one is much more challenging. Many teams look for free online templates, but while those can be a useful starting point, they may not be the best fit for a team or product. Every team and product is unique, and it’s entirely possible that the team will need to design its own template before writing the PRD.

What is a product requirements document?

Before designing or adapting a PRD template, it’s important to back up and define what exactly a product requirements document is and what it’s designed to do.

A product requirements document (PRD) is written by a product manager to define the scope, value, and purpose of a product or feature. The PRD should communicate what, who, and how—what the product is, who it is for, and how it will benefit the end user.

It’s important to remember that the PRD is not the same as the marketing requirements document, or MRD. Ideally, the MRD should come first, as it is focused on the customer’s needs and wants. Any successful product or product launch has to begin with the customer in mind. Requirements will be defined by customer needs, and those will drive the PRD.

To learn more about writing a high quality PRD, download our whitepaper, Writing High Quality Requirements.

What makes a product requirements document good?

There are many kinds of “good” product requirements documents, and what makes a PRD “good” for one team doesn’t make it “good” for another team.

That said, good PRDs have several things in common:

  • They clearly define the purpose of the product. A good PRD will set a clear, realistic target for the final product. It will identify problems the product should solve, not the solutions to those problems—that’s what the product development process is for. Finally, the PRD will identify the end user and describe the scenarios where the product will be used.
  • They include a comprehensive list of features required. Most of the PRD will be comprised of the actual requirements of the product. Each feature should be clearly defined, and the final user experience should be described in detail. The PRD should also identify which requirements support each objective so that teams can perform comprehensive requirements traceability. Finally, although the requirements list should be comprehensive, it should also allow for as much engineering flexibility as possible.
  • They list the criteria for release. Release criteria may include certain requirements for performance, scalability, reliability, and so on. By setting clear minimum release criteria up front, development teams can have a better view of how to prioritize.
  • They define a clear schedule. Of course, schedules can be changed, and externalities or unknowns can always throw off the most ideal timeline. But setting a clear schedule for checkpoints, milestones, and final release, development teams will be better aligned to stay as close to original release dates as possible.

What types of product requirement document templates exist?

PRD templates are as varied as the teams that create them. The most common templates, and the ones that are usually available for download, come in common formats such as Word, Excel, and the Google suite of cloud formats. For small development teams working on simple, straightforward projects, these downloadable templates may be a good fit.

For teams working on more complicated products that require extensive user stories, involve complex market requirements, or need to meet certain compliance standards, a more robust template might be necessary. These more robust templates are usually available from cloud requirements management firms.

What features do good product requirement document templates have?

Good PRD templates will follow a logical progression that takes you from idea through design to final product release. Your PRD template might vary a bit in language or definition, but it should include the following in roughly this progression:

  • The objective: Who is this for? What personas or use cases are relevant? How does the product align with strategic initiatives?
  • Release details: Include milestones, dependencies, name, release date, and other details relevant to product launch.
  • Features of the product: This piece will obviously be the bulk of your PRD. Name and describe the features, their purpose, and the problems the features solve. Do not include items that are outside of the scope for each feature.
  • Wireframes and mockups: A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. Use visual elements to help define user flow and design.
  • Analytics: Use this section to establish expectations for your product. Be as specific as possible. For example, “we believe changing the chat interface will improve customer satisfaction” is less specific than “we believe redesigning the chat interface to blue on white will increase our NPS score by 1 – 2 points.”
  • Future plans: Assume the best—your product will be a success, and you’ll need to build on that success going forward! What future work, plans, and goals might result from a successful product launch?

What are examples of good Agile requirements documents?

The answer is simple: there are no examples of good Agile requirements documents or templates. Why? Because the nature of Agile product development does not lend itself to documents and templates. Whereas the waterfall method of product development lends itself to dependencies and a straightforward process, Agile teams must be flexible and respond quickly to changing requirements. For scrum teams, the short sprints and quick turnarounds mean there is little time to create a complete PRD, much less keep it updated and maintained.

Teams working under Agile guidelines need to be able to remain nimble, which means not confining development to the strictures of a document or template. A better approach for Agile teams is to use software such as Jama Connect to allow for real-time updating.

Agile teams should work on a Living Requirements™ Management basis. Living Requirements mean that teams need a single source of truth, but they also need to acknowledge that the truth will change and adapt over time.

When is a document not the right call?

As valuable as a PRD can be in the right setting, it does have shortcomings. For example, in an agile environment, a team may have a short timeline for a sprint to complete a feature or new release. Adding the development of a PRD to this short process will only add an unnecessary layer of work and complication. Or, it’s possible that a product is undergoing rapid change and development, making the maintenance of a document cumbersome. In those cases, it might be better to transition to a requirements management software platform.

Even for a simpler product or more traditional waterfall development method, using a PRD or PRD template may not be the right call. If teams are widely dispersed, keeping a PRD updated may be challenging, even if it’s stored in the cloud. And templates and documents are, by definition, less flexible than software; it may not be possible in a document to catch all of the dependencies when one change is made.

Product development teams know that often, the difference between a good product and a great product or a good launch and a great launch is in the planning. Starting with clear definitions and descriptions, tracing requirements throughout development, and staying flexible enough to adapt along the way are key. Templates and documents don’t always provide the right framework for a true Living Requirements™ approach.

Jama Connect can help your development team step into the future of product development and move away from templates and documents. To learn how Jama Connect can streamline requirements, contact us.

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