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 were 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.
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 is 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 needed to assemble a complete team.
Coach/Facilitator – someone who can extract the best ideas from the team.
Voice of Customer – someone 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 – someone who can help the team with the unit cost trade-offs.
Sales – someone who understands customer objections.
Marketing – someone understands how to create demand.