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The Key To Writing Product Specifications

If you are new to product management and have not had to write a product specification before then you’re in the right place. 

While you may have learned the basics of writing a product specification, putting it into action is something else entirely and takes some thought and a dedicated process. Here is a guide on what you need to know and how to create a product specification that is flexible and correct. It takes you from the beginning through product approval specification and on the road to production.

What Are Product Specifications?

To write a product specification, you need to have an understanding of what it is. A product spec is a blueprint that outlines the product you will be building, what it is going to look like, and what its function is. It may also include who it is being made for. This spec needs to be very clear, easily readable, and outline all the information your team needs. You want as much information as possible in the spec without making it confusing. The more info you have, the clearer it will be for those working on the product team. A table of specifications makes it clear where details can be found.

An Example Product Specification

There are many examples of both hard copies and online ones. This is a simple example of an online spec you can adapt and use with your team.

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What Are Product Specifications Used For?

A product spec is used as an outline of the requirements for the product team. It provides all the information they need to build the product with specific features and functionalities and offers a technical description, performance specification, and the technical standards to meet along with other details. This outline is used to communicate information about users, business directives, and any other criteria that will assist your team in designing and building a product.

What Should Be Included in A Project Specification Sheet?

Every product specification is based on technical requirements, engineering specifications, and other details that are specific to the particular product. Generally, though, the following should be included in your product specification sheet:

  • Summary – This is an overall look at the product. It begins with an outline of the product idea and uses a brief description to introduce the product and its overall concept. It also explains why the product is being created. The product summary explains what the final product will look like, what features it will have, and how long it is expected to take to develop it.
  • Business Case – Next in your spec sheet should be the business case behind the development of the product. It outlines the benefits or what advantages the product gives the company in the market. It also looks at the budget and other resources required to get the project completed.
  • User Stories – These are short messages based on the product’s end-user perspective. They explain what type of features the users want to see in the new product.
  • User Personas – This outlines who this product is being created for and designates the target audience. It outlines specifics about the target demographic that has the problem that the product is going to solve. Knowing the intended target of the product means your work remains centered on the customer.
  • Product Design – This is where you need technical specs and drawings. The design can be amended as you move through product development. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet but you want a visual representation to guide your product management team through the early development process. It’s a good place to include technical details and possibly purchase specifications.
  • Functional Spec – This is a document that describes how you see the appearance and capabilities of the upcoming product. It should also outline how it is going to interact with users. It’s the reference point for the product development team as they begin their work. You may want to add a flexible technical specification document here for your team as well.

What Are the Steps in The Product Specification Process?

1. Understand customer input.

Why do you want to create a new product? User stories give you a goal to achieve with the new product and an assessment of how it will help your customers. Use customer feedback for insight.

2. Include your whole company in the discussion. 

Stakeholders need to have a say and will be helpful in the development process. This can help you get lots of helpful input and more support in completing the job. It will also help employees feel that they can contribute to the project so they feel more invested and want to work together.

3. Pick which product specifications need to be included.

Some are critical to the product developers so the product they produce is safe and usable. Include specs as per the product such as dimensions, safety standards, expiry details, and an overall product design specification. These specs get the product creation underway more easily.

4. Do user testing.

Once you have a plan in place for design and development, make a prototype. Make sure that the product is going to be right for customers. Let them test it, try it, and assess it. Check on the use or lack of useful features and things that are hard to use or irritating. Does everything work as it should?

5. Revise based on what your users determine works and what doesn’t.

Decide what is liked, disliked, complicated or unnecessary and fix problems and revise specs as needed.

If you would like more insight into the world of project management, learning about project specifications and product specs sign up for The Product Manager Newsletter. You’ll find good advice and lots of info that you can use as you get familiar with product specifications and other areas of your work.

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