Product Requirements Documents (PRDs) are a core document that product managers use to clarify what they are building and why. Whilst usage will vary from company to company, typically each major feature will have a PRD that gives context to the team and stakeholders about the problem to be solved, the potential solution and launch plans.
Some organisations go for very detailed PRDs that act as thorough planning documents and cover almost anything someone would want to know about a feature. Others opt for a “1-pager” approach, and prefer to keep PRDs short to ensure that they are kept up to date and read by as many people as possible.
Either way, PRDs help teams save time by flushing out disagreements and miscommunications ahead of time. Here’s our ultimate guide to what PRDs are, why they are important, and how to write them.
If you’re looking for PRD templates and examples, then:
–> Here is our PRD template: [Google Doc | Notion | Word]
–> Here are 11 of the Best PRD Templates And Examples
What is a Product Requirements Document (PRD)?
A Product Requirements Document (PRD) acts as the single source of truth to align a development team and their stakeholders on a feature the team is building. A PRD is therefore one of the most critical resources in product management.
It describes why you are building the feature, how you are planning on building it, and the release and testing plans for it. Having a clear PRD is important to make sure the team has a point of reference for what they are building, and is a useful tool for keeping stakeholders in the loop about progress.
Why you need a Product Requirements Document (PRD)
Product Requirements Documents (PRDs) offer three big benefits:
- Alignment – They let everyone know what you are building and why. They force you to align stakeholders on what their expectations are for a given feature, both in terms of output and results. They also make you outline the context that your team needs, helping them understand the problem you’re trying to solve and why this is important.
- Single source of truth – Product development is a multi-disciplinary effort that can generate a lot of materials from user interview notes and designs to technical architecture plans and quantitative insights. A PRD pulls all of these disparate pieces of information together in one place, so the team has everything it needs to progress at its fingertips.
- Reducing risk– PRDs help you systematically reduce the risk in development. They act as both a scaffold for your own thinking, but also help expose your rationale for others to give you feedback. The result is that you’re much more likely to achieve the results you want than if working without any documentation.
- Save time and effort – PRDs help make sure that you spot risks in good time and everyone is aligned before you start development on an idea. This means they prevent teams wasting time and effort throughout development. Whilst it can seem like a lot of work to write PRDs, development without them runs a much higher risk of rework and mistakes, meaning it is generally inefficient and frustrating, and takes much more time in the long run.
Challenges with Product Requirements Documents (PRDs)
When you’re writing a Product Requirements Document (PRD) there are a few major pitfalls that you want to try and avoid:
- Bloat – if you’re not careful and don’t continually edit your PRDs for clarity and brevity, they can quickly balloon into huge documents that have far too much detail and people don’t read.
- Out of date – unless teams are using PRDs as day-to-day documentation, then they tend to get out of date quickly, and cease being useful or offering the benefits they are designed to.
- Feature creep – whilst maintaining your PRD is critical, you need to be careful that you don’t go too far the other way, and edit the same PRD so much that it’s unrecognisable from where it started. In this case you’re better off acknowledging that things have changed so much it’s worth kicking off development again with a fresh PRD.
What makes a good Product Requirements Document (PRD)
To get the most out of your Product Requirements Document (PRD), keep in mind the following principles:
- Start early – Create a PRD as soon as you start working on an idea so that you can capture context, insights and stakeholder requirements as you go along.
- Outcome oriented – Make sure your PRD is focused on the results you want to deliver. The feature or solution that you plan to ship is not an end in its own right.
- Concise and readable – Continually edit your PRD for clarity and brevity. Curate information down, rather than let it pile up.
- Fits effort and risk – Features that you can ship in 2 days don’t need the same level of documentation that projects taking 2 months need. The level of detail and time you spend on your PRD should fit the risk involved in shipping the feature (incl. opportunity cost of development time)
- Up-to-date – Make sure that your PRD is a working document that the team uses day-to-day. If engineers and designers aren’t looking at your PRD regularly, then something has gone wrong. Find out how you can provide the direction and context they need in a better format.
- Single source of truth – Make sure that all other documents and materials relating to the development of a feature are linked through to the PRD. That way you only ever need to share one link – to the PRD – for people to answer any question they have about a feature.
How to write a Product Requirements Document (PRD)
In product management a PRD should mirror your development process, and the sections of your PRD should map to product reviews as a feature moves through discovery and into delivery. Whilst owned by the Product Manager, everyone on the team should contribute to them where relevant (e.g. designer adding user research insights, wireframes and prototypes). The PRD is therefore written as the team works on the feature, documenting insights and decisions as the team progresses. See below for how PRD creation maps to development processes and product review cycles.
What goes into a Product Requirements Document (PRD)
PRDs typically have five main sections, which align to the main phases of product development, as well as an intro with useful information:
- Intro – a summary of the feature and who is working on it
- Problem definition – what is the problem we are trying to solve, and why is this important?
- Solution definition – what does the proposed solution look like, and what are the insights that led us to this solution?
- Launch readiness – what is the launch plan for testing and releasing this feature, including cross-functional dependencies?
- Impact – what impact did this have when we released it? What feedback did we get from customers?
For each of these sections, bear in mind that the components we have listed are just examples for inspiration. What is right for you will be specific to your company and the feature in question. Small features should have much briefer
If you’re looking for PRD templates and examples, then check out: The Best PRD Templates And Examples
This is a quick reference containing useful information for anyone who might want to know more. You can write these very early – as soon as you add an idea to the backlog. Doing this means that you’ve got a place to store other bits of information, even before you start working on something in earnest. You might include:
- Title – What is the name we’re using to refer to this feature.
- Team – Which team is working on this.
- Owner – Who is the PM who owns the PRD and is the first point of contact for stakeholders.
- Summary – A one line summary of what this feature is, or the problem we’re looking to solve.
- Status – Where is this in discovery and development.
- Next milestone – The next major date we’re working towards (e.g. a product review or release date).
It’s critical for teams and stakeholders to understand why we are building a feature – both the user need that we are trying to solve, and the business value in solving this problem. You might include:
- Objective – What we are trying to achieve with this feature. Which company goals it relates to.
- Success metric – The metric that we will use to measure whether the feature has been successful.
- Stakeholders – Who needs to be kept up to date on the progress of this feature, or should be giving input on it. Doing a RACI table can be very helpful here.
- Context – This is the core of this section, detailing why this is important to work on, from both a user and business perspective. It likely links to other strategy documents and existing insights the team has.
- Scope & constraints – Notes on what is in and out of scope, as well as any constraints that the team should bear in mind, such as a limit to the time or investment that can be made, or impact on other teams.
- Risks – The key risks that the team has identified and is working to reduce.
This section outlines what the team is planning to build to solve the stated problem. You might include:
- User flows – Diagrams showing the states and screens that the user can move between.
- Designs – Wireframes, mockups and prototypes as they are developed, showing what the feature will look like, and how users will interact with it.
- User research – Insights from user testing and key stakeholders on how well the solution solves the problem.
- Analysis – Quantitative insights that guide the development of this feature.
- Competitor references – References from competitors and other products that are useful for the development of this feature.
- Decision log – Decisions that have been made in the past about the scope and nature of the feature. This is most helpful if it includes the decision maker, date, and brief reasoning, as well as the decision taken. This could also include open questions that still need to be resolved, as well as the process for answering them.
This section outlines the release and testing plans for the solution. It should contain details of the work necessary to assess whether the solution is effective, and the internal preparation (often cross functional) to ensure the release is a success. You might include:
- Testing plan – Details of how you are planning to test the solution. This might include stages such as an internal release, external beta, staged roll-out or AB testing.
- Tracking & analytics – Details of the tracking in place, and dashboards or reports that are needed to assess the performance of the solution.
- Marketing plan – The details of how the solution will be marketed to users. It’s useful here to think through the message and channels for different user groups, as well as who is responsible for pulling together and triggering these comms.
- Customer service plan – This might be a simple to-do noting whether or not the customer service team has been briefed (e.g. a workshop or team meeting), and could include the materials they will need to support the solution once it is live.
- Legal checks – This should ensure that any legal implications of launching (e.g. updating T&Cs, partner contracts) are dealt with before the feature goes live.
- FAQs – It’s useful to answer anticipated questions from both stakeholders and external users ahead of the feature going live. In some situations, this might include updating your public FAQs or support documents.
- Timeline – This should give an overview of upcoming dates and milestones, and confirmation of where the team is in roll out, especially if things have been delayed.
This section documents what the team learned when the feature went live. Product teams exist to create outcomes, not outputs, so it’s critical that they don’t have a “fire and forget” mindset to releasing features. They should care deeply about the impact the release generates, and use these insights to guide future development. You might include:
- Results – How much the release moved its success metrics. How much it contributed to the team’s objective.
- Quantitative analysis – Any insights we can see in terms of how much users engaged with this feature, or other behaviour. Whether there are any second order effects to the release.
- Qualitative feedback – What feedback we saw from users both direct to customer service, and indirectly via forums, social media and so on.
- Next steps – Any follow up actions arising from the release. Whether AB tests will be rolled out or rolled back. Further phases of developing this solution.
When to use a Product Requirements Document (PRD)
Product Requirements Documents (PRDs) are valuable when they help save time and effort and reduce risk. That means they are useful when you’re building something and:
- Development will take a long time – a PRD should make sure that the time you invest in development has a good return.
- There are significant risks to mitigate – a PRD should make sure you tackle risks upfront and efficiently, leading to the best possible outcome.
- There’s a high chance that people aren’t aligned – a PRD should help you check that everyone has similar expectations about what you’re working on and the outcomes that will be achieved.
PRDs typically aren’t the best use of time when:
- You haven’t decided on the problem to solve – for example if you’re working on a 0->1 product or haven’t decided on your quarterly goals yet, you probably want to do more generative research to establish who your customers are, and which problems to solve for them before you start writing PRDs.
- Development time and risk are low – if you’re fixing bugs or making small cosmetic changes to the product, a PRD will take more time to write than it will be worth.
Agile working and Product Requirements Document (PRD)
It’s common for junior product managers to push back on writing PRDs – after all, the Agile Manifesto states:
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan”
But it’s important to remember that the Agile Manifesto doesn’t stop there. It continues:
“That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”
As with all processes and documentation, Product Requirements Documents (PRDs) should be team accelerators, rather than tedious admin. PRDs can be extremely effective at reducing wasted effort and increasing team effectiveness, but only if you remember that they are a tool to help you reduce risk and communicate with others, and not an end in their own right.
If you’re looking for PRD templates and examples, then check out: The Best PRD Templates And Examples
Where should PRDs be created and kept?
Think about where is the best location to keep PRDs. Ideally they should be easy to find, and on a platform that everyone can access and at least comment on. Putting PRDs on platforms such as Notion, Coda or Confluence allows designs, timelines and analytics to be embedded and updated automatically, which can greatly reduce the amount of time required to maintain PRDs.
How much detail should I go into in a PRD?
The detail required in a PRD is not the same for each team, or even for each feature that the same team works on. Process should be an accelerator for the team, and the simple test on whether you have the right information is whether your team and stakeholders are aligned on what you are building and why. Any information beyond this is a waste of effort, and you should aim to keep PRDs as lean as possible.
Are PRDs always necessary?
No, PRDs aren’t always necessary. Whilst most teams will benefit from having a single source of truth, very lean teams that are investigating 0 to 1 problems or prototyping rapidly might look for other ways to keep everyone aligned on what is happening.
What is the meaning of PRD?
PRD stands for Product Requirements Document. It’s a document which covers all the requirements (the what, the how, the when, the why) for a certain product or feature, and is designed to explain the intended functionality, timeline and end customer and use case to engineering teams and other stakeholders.