You followed the company process. You detailed every product specification. Your voice-of-the-customer validation confirmed that this is the product that the market needs. Management approved your Market Requirements Document (MRD) unanimously.
You were on the path to a winning product. Or so you thought.
A year later, the development team produces a product that is far different than the one that you intended in your MRD. It’s way off the mark.
How could this have happened?
MRD’s Must Communicate Intent
Most MRD processes are designed to ensure that the technical specifications for a product are complete. This is necessary, but insufficient to ensure a winning product.
Immediately after an MRD is approved, the development team begins the process of figuring out how to implement the product requirements. This team will make numerous trade-off decisions in an attempt to produce a product that addresses as many of the requirements in the MRD as possible.
The final product will almost certainly differ in some way from the one described in the MRD. That’s the reality of technology, time, and budget constraints. But equipped with nothing except a list of product requirements, the development team has no guidance for making these trade-off decisions.
If you’re not getting the product that your MRD intended, your MRD might be missing:
- Vision for unique value
- Performance verification requirements
It’s these three things that communicate your MRD’s intent.
Every task, project, and mission should start with an objective. Your MRD is no different. The only reason to take on producing a new product is to accomplish something. Save your stakeholders the suspense. Use the MRD to tell them what the new product is intended to accomplish.
In an MRD, the objective should be stated as a business outcome. Most often it’s some combination of:
- Market Share
- Gross margin
An example MRD objective might be:
“Introduce a new ingot casting furnace for the photovoltaic multi-crystalline silicon wafer market that will achieve more than $160M in revenue representing 35% market share with 56% gross margin by 2016”
Vision for Unique Value
Your vision for unique value describes what must be true about the product in order for the objective to be met. In other words, it’s how you intend to meet your objective.
Include in this section:
- Value proposition
- Product positions that you will take
- Draft positioning statement
- Critical product requirements and resulting competitive position
If this feels to you like the start of your sales pitch, that’s because it is. It’s what you need to be true about the product to capture enough customers at high enough prices to meet your objective. Put your vision for unique value in your MRD, and the product development team will know where you are headed.
Performance Verification Requirements
Lastly to ensure that your intent is met by the new product, you need to let the development team know how to verify it. This is captured in an MRD as “Performance Verification Requirements.”
Don’t write a test procedure here. Rather you want to describe how the user will run the system in their environment including materials, operating procedures, and success measures. In this section of your MRD specify:
- Success criteria
- Test matrix
- Run rules
This will form the framework for product release testing. The performance data that it produces will verify whether or not your vision for unique value has been achieved. This in turn will tell you if your objective is attainable.
MRD’s that produce winning products must communicate intent, not just a list of product requirements. Let the development team know what the product is intended to accomplish, what must be true about it, and how to verify those truths.