First Step to Creating a Great Product

A Requirements Document (RD) is the first step to creating a great product. Because it is the first step, an RD has the greatest leverage of all product development activities. A small error in the direction at this stage can make a big difference in where the product ultimately ends up.

Good is the enemy of great. If you want a great product, you must first have a great RD, not just a good one. Think about the iPod – the product that changed Apple from a company on the verge of bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world. Did they invent the digital music player – no, it was first patented in 1979 and several models were on the market before the Apple project started. Were they first to market – far from it, but they were Best to Market. Was Steve Jobs a genius engineer who created some never seen before circuit or software – no, he was a college drop-out.

Apple’s best achievement was a great Requirements Document – and what Steve Jobs was really a genius at. Jobs defined a digital music player that simply met the needs of people who loved music better than any other product on the market.

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Here are some valuable tips so you can do the same with your next product development project.

Tip 1: Requirements must be objective, not subjective: Low power is subjective. Battery Life greater than 100 hours is objective.

Tip 2: Requirements must be enumerated: Examining one requirement at a time focuses the team on making a decision. Long paragraphs with run-on sentences encourage a general consensus without a focus on the fundamental trade-offs that are the essence of good engineering.

Assemble a team. Requirements generation is very much a team sport. You will not win without a player in each position. Success comes from how well they play as a team and less about individual talent.

Here is what is needed to assemble a complete team.

Coach/Facilitator: Someone who can extract the best ideas from the team.

Voice of Customer: Individual who knows the customer better than the customer knows herself.

Technology: Someone who can help the team make the trade-offs that are the essence of great engineering.

Manufacturing: Collaborator who can help the team with the unit cost trade-offs.

Sales: Team member who understands customer objections.

Marketing: A person understands how to create demand.

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