Requirements & Specifications

Did you know that most project overruns are the result of poorly defined Product Requirements & Specifications? By taking the time to clearly define these, you can ensure customer acceptance, and bring you’re projects in on time and on budget.

Many organizations struggle with understanding the difference between Product Requirements and Product Specifications, often mixing the two.

A Requirements document is a customer document, intended to clarify with the customer what the product or service is required to do.

The Specification is a design document which specifies how the product or service will meet the requirements.

What’s in a Requirement?

As a customer document, the Product Requirement is the connection between you and the customer.

The Requirements must:

  • Capture all the customer’s needs and expectations
  • Be written, in as much as possible, a non-technical manner
  • Be only as specific as necessary to capture the requirements, and thereby allow as much flexibility in the design.

Remember, the Requirements are about what the product or service will do, not how it will do it.

Make sure all the Requirements are understood, documented, and agreed to. As you work through this process with the customer, new information will come to light as you both get a better understanding for the product or service. The Product Requirements document provides a means of resolving any inconsistencies in the customer’s needs and expectations, and ensuring a clear understanding of what the final deliverables are and what they will do.

Specifically I Said:

The Product Specification on the other hand is an engineering document which details how the Requirements are to be met. Specifications are the connection between the Requirements and the engineering effort.

As such, they must:

  • Be specific, detailing every aspect of the Product Requirements on a one to one basis.
  • Be written in a manner consistent with the engineering/development effort.
  • The Product Specification should provide clear directions to the development team, and leave no decisions.

There are usually several ways to satisfy a particular requirement. Choosing one method over another is a tradeoff between design, development, and manufacturing. A specific design may take longer to develop, but be less costly to manufacture. Other design choices may not lend themselves well to future expand-ability. Also, design choices can be cascading, in that one choice can limit or force other choices.

Ultimately, business conditions will drive most of these choices. Having the ability to expand product features, without the need to re-engineer, is not necessarily a good decision, if it unacceptably pushes the development time line, or makes the end product too costly.

Never the Twain Shall Meet

Avoid the temptation to merge the Product Requirements & Specifications. This will ultimately result in the Requirements becoming over specified, and the Specifications lacking the necessary detail.

The resulting document will not serve either purpose well. As a customer document, it will contain technical details which the customer does not need to deal with, and often does not understand. As a design document, it will not provide the level of detail required, and generally leaves unresolved issues.

By maintaining a clear separation between the two documents, you can ensure that the customer’s requirements are understood, while maintaining the most flexibility at the engineering level.

By focusing the Product Requirements on the customer’s needs and expectations, you can ensure a clear understanding by all parties on what the final product or service will deliver. Similarly, by only developing the Requirements to the necessary level of detail, you provide the design team with the flexibility to ensure the resulting Product Specification, and ultimately the design effort, address company objectives such as cost targets and time lines.

At Creator Consulting we can work with your customer and design team to develop comprehensive Product Requirements, which fully captures your customer’s needs and expectations, and produce workable, detailed Product Specifications which ensure that the product or service satisfies the requirements. Let Creator Consulting help you turn your next project in on-time & on-budget.

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