"Fortune favors the prepared mind" - Louis Pasteur
Making better products is a complex process but you can set yourself up for success if you follow some simple steps.
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).
Why do you need a PRD anyways?
When designing a new hardware product, your Product Requirement Document can serve as a comprehensive guide and communication tool for all stakeholders involved in the product development process. Here are some reasons why creating a detailed PRD is important:
- Clear Communication. A detailed PRD outlines the product's specifications, features, functionality, and design requirements in a clear and organized manner. This ensures that all team members, including engineers, designers, marketers, and management, are on the same page regarding the product's goals and expectations.
- Alignment of Vision. The PRD helps align the vision of different teams and stakeholders by providing a single source of truth. It outlines the product's purpose, target audience, and overall strategy, ensuring that everyone understands the product's intended value and goals.
- Prevention of Misunderstandings. Without a detailed PRD, there is a higher chance of misunderstandings and misinterpretations among team members, which can lead to wasted time, effort, and resources. A well-structured PRD reduces the risk of ambiguity and confusion.
- Reference Point. The PRD serves as a reference point throughout the product development lifecycle. It provides a baseline against which progress can be measured, ensuring that the product remains aligned with the original concept and goals.
- Scope Management. A detailed PRD helps define the scope of the project. It outlines what is included in the product and, equally important, what is not included. This helps prevent scope creep, where additional features or changes are added without proper evaluation.
- Resource Allocation. The PRD assists in allocating resources effectively. With a clear understanding of the product's requirements, the team can allocate the right amount of time, money, and manpower to each aspect of the project.
- Risk Mitigation. By detailing potential risks and challenges in the PRD, the team can proactively plan for mitigating these risks. This helps in avoiding surprises and addressing issues before they become major roadblocks.
- User-Centric Design. A detailed PRD includes user personas, user stories, and usability requirements. This ensures that the product is designed with the end user in mind, enhancing user satisfaction and adoption.
- Regulatory and Compliance Considerations. For physical products, regulatory requirements and compliance standards must be met. The PRD can outline these requirements, helping the team design and develop the product to meet necessary regulations.
- Supplier and Manufacturing Alignment. If the product involves external suppliers or manufacturers, a detailed PRD provides them with a clear understanding of the product's specifications and requirements. This leads to smoother collaboration and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings during the manufacturing process.
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 that way 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:
- Define the problem. Clearly state the problem the product is solving and why it is important.
- 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.
- 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.
- Outline the key features. Clearly list and describe the key features and functionality of the product.
- 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.
- Define your magic triangle. Clearly state the key KPIs of your product in terms of unit cost, lead time & features. More on that here.
- Make it visual. Use diagrams, mockups, samples and other visuals to help communicate the product's features and functionality.
- Be concise and clear. Use simple language and avoid jargon. Keep the document as short as possible while still including all relevant information.
- 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.
- Get feedback. Share the PRD with stakeholders and gather feedback to ensure that it is clear and comprehensive. Communicate a lot.
- 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 organizing your supply-market fit and applying overall sound risk management.
BONUS 1: we can help you draft your PRD and issue a detailed statement of work against it.
Our statement of work is comprised of all info you need to take an educated decision: timeline, budgeting, scope of work, deliverables, legals, etc... It is designed to be turned into an actionable contract easily if you give us your GO.