How to draft an efficient PRD.

76% of hardware projects fail. Avoid poor scoping by drafting an efficient PRD.
Table of Contents

Innovating and making better products is a complex process but you can set yourself up for success if you follow some simple steps.

Fortune favors the prepared mind - Louis Pasteur

Before jumping right into the engineering & validation loops, you must define your needs and objectives clearly so you can communicate efficiently with your partners.

This is a seemingly easy step but it is mostly overlooked.

Best way to proceed is by centralizing all key information necessary for the development & successful launch of your product into what is called a Product Requirement Document (PRD).

Avoid the usual pitfalls

People usually overlook the importance of such document and think that a quick description of their idea or concept will be sufficient by itself. Sometimes - unfortunately - you will deal with “yes man” sales people less interested in making the right product than actually getting the business into the door. Remember that how you execute only matters and drafting your PRD correctly can ensure that your main engineering or manufacturing partners are well aligned on your vision. Ultimately, you want to leverage their technical expertise to fulfill your need, not their interpretation of whatever they think your need is.

People would also use the method of “minimal effort” which consists of looking for an existing product as close as possible to their target to use as a reference then contact the product’s manufacturer and work from there. While this method seem to make sense, the factory you have found may not have in-house engineering resources to perform the customization you’re after and/or the customization you are requesting may turn out to be heavier than expected. Having a well-drafted PRD ensures the right amount of resources can be allocated to your project.

Create a supply-market fit

Drafting an efficient PRD is a way to speed up your time-to-market. In fact, by making information & expectations clear now, you will avoid loads of unnecessary back-and-forth or even failures during execution later.

To build an efficient PRD, consider covering the following areas:

  1. Define the problem: clearly state the problem the product is solving and why it is important.
  2. Identify the target audience: understand the needs and pain points of the target audience and tailor the product to meet those needs. That’s your minimum viable set of features.
  3. Identify the competing & alternative solutions: screen your market for alternative & competing solutions, evaluate their time-to-market and pin point their price positioning. That’s your required retail price and time-to-market.
  4. Outline the key features: clearly list and describe the key features and functionality of the product.
  5. Include acceptance criteria: define the criteria that must be met for the product to be considered successful. That will be particularly useful during the engineering process to validate its output. These usually cover 5 areas: functionality, usability, reliability, performance & supportability.
  6. Define your magic triangle: clearly state the key KPIs of your product in terms of unit cost, lead time & features. More on that here.
  7. Make it visual: use diagrams, mockups, samples and other visuals to help communicate the product's features and functionality.
  8. Be concise and clear…: use simple language and avoid jargon. Keep the document as short as possible while still including all relevant information.
  9. …but leave some freedom to your partner: you want your product to feature a WiFi connection? Mention it but do not tell him which chipset he shall use. You want a specific finishing? Mention it but do not require any specific material.
  10. Get feedback: share the PRD with stakeholders and gather feedback to ensure that it is clear and comprehensive. Communicate a lot.
  11. Keep it updated: a PRD is not a static document and it should be updated as needed during the product development process, especially if you realized that your original KPIs cannot be met.

We’ve seen so many founders underestimate this step and try to take shortcuts only to delay their project later down the road. A well-drafted PRD means finding supply-market fit and overall sound risk management.

BONUS: require your engineering or manufacturing partner to issue a statement of work against your PRD, you’ll be able to validate they understood your need AND turn it into a contract if you give the holly grail GO.

Want to get our statement of work? Reach out.

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