What Documents Transform an Idea into a Product?

Converting an idea into a product is a process that has been accelerating, but what documents or thoughts are essential in that process?

Lean thinking is great, but it doesn’t justify being sloppy.

Over the past two decades I’ve helped companies transform crazy ideas into products. Many of those products were profitable, others flopped, and yet others were killed before they were even offered for public sale.

I’ve lived the idea-to-product process over and over again.

As a process wonk I’ve learned to recognize the underlying steps that are involved in developing lasting products. Sure in the name of speed these steps can be skipped.

Sometimes that is warranted, even needed. Sometimes getting shipping the product, any product is more important. Getting a product into a new market, generating needed revenue, or beating a competitor can often lead to other wins down the road.

But there is a cost to cutting corners and skipping steps.

Ask any engineer. They’ll tell you, if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you ever have time to go back and fix it later?.

They’ve learned through many painful technical foibles that trying to fix products later is often fruitless.

Two Thoughts First

Battling Perfectionism

There’s an underlying tension here: battling perfectionism.

I have it and must consciously battle it.

As Seth Godin says, “Ship It”. As you develop your mindset and watch for opportunity take Seth’s words to heart. It is important to ship something.

Walk Quickly

The key is to walk quickly through these steps. Thinking lean and shipping early doesn’t mean skipping these steps completely makes sense.

Instead think through the steps and walk through it quickly.

So instead of full documents for each step, have an answer at least in mind.

Documents From Idea To Product

There are three underlying documents to help you transform your idea into a product: Marketing Requirements Document, Product Requirements Document, and a Product Specification.

Marketing Requirements Document

The first step in this process is capturing the market need or opportunity that you intend to solve.

Remember products that do not address problems; well they aren’t products.

The phrase from the movie Field of Dreams that if you build it, they will come is terrible advise for product innovators.

They do not come. They do not buy.

These are just hobbies. There’s nothing wrong with having hobbies, just don’t masquerade them as a business creating products.

The Marketing Requirements Document, or MRD, is simply a means to capture what your product should solve. Specifically that means:

  • What problem(s) are being addressed?
  • Who is having those problems?
  • What options they have (competition)?

Product Requirements Document

Once the market opportunity is identified the next step is to think through what the product should to solve the market problem. This is captured in a Product requirement Document.

The product requirements document, or PRD, starts to shape what the product will actually become.

Product Specification

The difference between a requirement and a specification has been the source of much discussion.

The best summary I can give is simply:

A requirement defines what should be done, and a specification defines how it will be done.

Defining the Product Design Specification, or PDS, is where you can capture the specifics of how the product will be implemented.

What’s your next product? {#what’syournextproduct}

Get ready: MRD to PRD to PDS.

Walk through the thought process for these three documents and get that product out there and ship it.