“If you do not know where you’re going, any direction will do”
Alice in Wonderland
We are often brought in to help with troubled product development projects that do not seem to be progressing as expected. You might expect that the reason for the lack of success would be poor technical skills in the team, and this is sometimes the case; however, more often it is a lack of clear understanding of the requirements. This is especially true when Management has a deep understanding of the market and Engineering less so, which is common in small niche market companies.
Without a good written Requirements Document (RD), do you really know where you are going? Are you certain your team is all on the same page, or do they each have a different picture in their minds on exactly what the new product will be? A clear written RD which is discussed and debated can go a long way to achieving a common understanding of the goal.
A good RD is an essential first step in any product development project and should include everything needed for the product to be successful, including:
a maximum development budget that cannot be exceeded maximum unit cost when manufactured at a given quantity maximum development timeline all compliance (FCC, UL, CE, etc.) specifications and other quality that the product needs to have to be considered a success
It is helpful to make each requirement quantitative (can be tested objectively) and not qualitative (is subjective and interpretive).
Finally, it is helpful if each requirement is enumerated—not mixed together in one long paragraph.
Writing an RD will sharpen your focus and create a new understanding of the market needs. Socializing the RD with the management team will create alignment, increase innovation, and help to focus everyone on meeting the goal. Teams make better decisions than individuals, so try to get input from the entire group. Ask leading questions:
Can we meet the unit cost with the specified budget? Can we meet the functional requirements, or are they wishful thinking? How will this product stack up competitively to similar products in the market place? How will this product change the market and how we sell the product? Can we manufacture this product? Can we support this product? How will the product affect the existing product? Are there technical skills we lack in designing this product? What is our Go To Market strategy, and do the requirements line up with this strategy?