Developing new products and features can be challenging for various reasons, but a lack of clear product specification doesn’t need to be one of them. This critical first step in the product development process is the blueprint your team will use, from designing and developing the feature to testing and writing user documentation.
The importance of a good product specification cannot be over-emphasized. It helps everyone on the team understand what you are building, why, what it must achieve for the customer, and how you will measure its success.
Tools such as Jira Software provide templates and features to seamlessly integrate product specifications into the development lifecycle. Continue reading to learn more about product specification, why it’s crucial for product teams, and how to write a product specification shet.
The purpose of product specification
The product specification serves as the roadmap—or blueprint—for all aspects of the project during the development process. It aligns your team by providing:
Roles and responsibilities: It lists team members and decisions they’re responsible for during the development lifecycle.
- Scope: This is a list of features and functions, key success measures, known risks and assumptions, as well as excluded features when appropriate.
- Product design: Mock-ups or prototypes demonstrate the workflow, user interface, processes, and high-level architecture.
- Test plans: These outline methods for testing the product and handling personal information.
- Release plan: This includes activities like training for service agents, documentation, and business team involvement.
Management: This outlines ongoing management activities, such as making future enhancements and collecting feedback.
While different members own elements of the product specification, everyone on the team must agree. Early and frequent collaboration keeps everyone aligned.
Why is product specification important for product teams?
Every product development project has the potential for misunderstandings, feature creep, and disagreements. But that doesn’t have to become the reality. A clear product specification is a common reference for cross-functional product team members and outlines priorities.
By aligning everyone on what they’re building, why, and how to measure success, the product specification helps teams anticipate and prepare for challenges. When product managers, designers, engineers, and other stakeholders work with a shared vision, they can identify roadblocks sooner and improve collaboration and decision-making.
Jira Product Discovery offers teams a centralized tool for brainstorming and organizing ideas. It helps tame the chaos of idea generation with supporting data to prioritize features that drive the most impact. Supporting data may come from customer feedback, service tickets, reports, or sales—wherever you find valuable input.
With Jira Product Discovery’s custom roadmaps, teams no longer need to update information in multiple locations. They can manage everything centrally, delivering up-to-date roadmap views. Atlassian Confluence makes creating the product specification easy with collaborative authoring tools. Teams can even create project posters to reinforce their development vision across the company.
What does a product specification sheet include?
The product specification sheet includes information about the scope and purpose of the project, such as:
- Product summary: Like an executive summary, this describes the need (why), the product as a solution (what), and the product features (how). It also includes long-term expectations for the product.
- Business case: This is a company-focused summary of how the product benefits the business, often focusing on its competitive advantages.
- User stories: Agile product teams routinely create user stories. These describe what the product does from the user’s perspective: I (store clerk) must return funds to the customer’s credit card.
- User personas: Personas describe the audience you’re building the product for. They include demographic information, such as the user’s level of sophistication with technology.
- Technical specifications: Developers create these to detail the architecture, data structures, stored procedures, standards, and more.
- Functional specifications: This is a list of features with expected user interactions. It describes the workflow sequence, inputs, and outputs. It also details how the user knows when they’re successful.
Design sketches: Mockups of the user interface help the team visualize the final product and how users will interact with it.
How to write a product specification sheet
Writing a product specification takes work, but it provides clarity for a smooth project. You can divide the work into the following tasks:
- Researching: Understand the customer problem that the feature solves. Review customer questions, feature requests, service data, and complaints.
- Defining the purpose: Clearly state why you have chosen these ideas. Consider the problem it solves for the customer and its benefit to the business.
- Outlining requirements: Clearly document the requirements using the user stories and project scope for both functional and technical specifications. Confluence provides product requirements templates that guide teams through this critical step.
- Reviewing feedback: Recruit customers to test prototypes and collect data on where they succeed, where they stumble, what delights them, and what they ignore.
- Finalizing and distributing: Refine the product specification based on user feedback, obtain agreement from the team, and begin developing.
Deploy product specifications with Jira Product Discovery
Taking the time to create a clear product specification provides your team with a blueprint for design, development, testing, and product launch. It keeps everyone aligned on what you’re building, why, how the customer will use it, and what success looks like.
Jira Product Discovery gives teams the tools they need to generate and prioritize ideas, define features, and create product roadmaps. Confluence templates guide teams through the important tasks of defining functional and technical requirements, ultimately simplifying product development from inception to launch.
Product specification: Frequently asked questions
How do product specifications benefit product teams?
Everyone on the product team sees the work from the perspective of their role. A good product specification provides a holistic view of how the product benefits the customer and the business, as well as a shared understanding of the requirements. This allows teams to collaborate and align more quickly when addressing roadblocks or disagreements.
How do product specifications affect product quality?
Well-defined product specifications take the guesswork out of product development. They ensure agreement between product owners, customers, and development teams. Following specifications produces consistent performance, predictable functionality, and product durability.
How do product specifications enhance collaboration?
Writing product specifications is a collaborative activity, as each team provides a valuable contribution. Teams must work together to agree on ideas, features, requirements, and test plans. This aligns all stakeholders throughout the product development lifecycle.