How to Use a Product Requirements Document to Enhance Enterprise Mobility
The goal of enterprise mobility and mobile app development is to create a product that offers something new and innovative. Over the past several years, achieving top-line growth has been a strategic priority for many, especially through opening new lines of mobile business within large companies. Ultimately, growth involves starting a new business venture and bold innovators create a bigger economic advantage.
Overall, top-performers in the enterprise space are developing much more innovative products and services than their peers. While most companies’ mobile transformation activities involve modifying existing products and processes, successful companies focus on developing entirely new mobile offerings and services. Companies that excel do so by taking advantage of emerging digital ecosystems early, concentrating product development efforts on brand new mobile offerings, and restructuring existing processes for enterprise mobility.
However, as any product owner or technical project manager can attest to, defining the vision of a mobile strategy needs to be weighed against product and project constraints. It’s easy to get swept away by a big-ticket idea. It’s equally as easy to lose sight of feasibility. If you don’t take the time to fully define the purpose of a mobile app project, functionality and requirements will be lost in translation and the initial idea will bear no resemblance to the end product.
In the early stages of planning, the overall product vision is usually still very ambiguous. This article will detail how to use a mobile app PRD to create an agile, mobile strategy for enterprise innovation.
Enhancing Enterprise Mobility is an Experiment
New mobile ventures can fail in many ways. New products can encounter inadequate customer demand or poor market viability. Many projects face technological insufficiencies or an inability to develop the intended functionality; operational failures, competitive failures, and regulatory failures are all common occurrences in poorly managed mobile app projects. For many companies, the process of enhancing mobility and executing a digital strategy raises more questions than answers, and for that reason, introducing mobile products and services simply has to follow a fail-fast methodology.
Perfectionist cultures actually impede the ability to deliver market-ready software products. In enterprise mobility projects, the fail-fast method allows development teams to prototype quickly, test with users, assess the user experience design and repeat the process until arriving at an acceptable product release. Development teams can find and correct bugs sooner leading to a high-quality mobile product.
Like any good experiment, enterprise mobility initiatives begin with clear, well-planned objectives; they’re planned to deliver particular insights and rapid feedback; and more importantly, they’re designed to generate quantifiable, actionable results.
Planning Product Requirements
Achieving a balance between great product ideas and project constraints relies on a thoroughly crafted Product Requirements Document (PRD). A PRD is a substructure for the entire mobile product and it’s used to communicate business logic, technical requirements, and user flow to every stakeholder on the project. A PRD is the first step in ensuring your end product is as close as possible to your original idea. A well-written PRD will help enterprise mobility projects gain focus. The objective of a mobile app PRD is to fully define the purpose of the project, identify risk areas and challenge product assumptions.
Working through a PRD forces you to think about every aspect of the product, what work is necessary to see the plan through, and any impact on project constraints like scope, time, and budget.
A Mobile App PRD Determines Project Feasibility
Enterprise mobility initiatives call for thorough research to properly evaluate both business and technical requirements so every stakeholder understands exactly what organizational and technical objectives you’re trying to achieve.
A prime example is whether your mobile app will streamline current processes or facilitate a new one. If your business objective is to introduce an entirely new process, the project time frame becomes a determining factor in what is feasible for development; how many features are required to make the new process functional and are you able to develop that functionality in your particular timeframe? By working through the many considerations in a PRD, you will gain more insight into what is possible to develop within your desired timeframe and budget.
Additionally, a significant portion of the mobility planning process is determining if your idea is technically feasible. Not only do you need to know if the app can be built, but you also need to give your product team adequate information to create an accurate framework for development. Essentially, examining technical feasibility seeks to answer: why should this idea get the go-ahead.
A mobile app PRD forces you to put all of the project’s technical requirements on paper including any necessary and available technologies; required maintenance and support; backend systems integration; scalability and futureproofing; third-party software dependencies; and other considerations. There is a long list of technical specifications that require devoted attention. A PRD helps you assess the chances of overall success for each individual requirement, as well as within the overall constraints of your project.
Mobile app architecture, for example, is a technical requirement that cannot be overlooked during the planning phase and is arguably one of the most valuable components of a product; an app alone is nothing if it can’t manipulate data in the right way and fast. Architecture is critical in nature and trying to determine underlying systems and functionality is one of the most difficult parts of a development project. Mobile app architecture is built to accommodate expandability so it can support multiple constraints of your mobile app project, particularly scope. Using a PRD to create a record of your product’s technical requirements begins the transformation of turning your high-level idea into a development reality. This document also helps you to effectively identify risk areas.
A PRD is a necessary tool for making strategic choices about technical requirements. The decisions you make about platforms, hosting and backend database design carry long-term implications if they aren’t given adequate attention. The backend of a mobile app is where the value is. It’s essential to give your product team enough information to accurately transform your high-level idea into a functional and practical framework for development.
Making Smart Product Decisions
It is often a reality that constraints on a given project mean that certain compromises must be made. However, teams should evaluate thoroughly and compromise as minimally as possible.
This is not a step towards condoning an inferior product to be built, but simply a set of decisions that must be made under circumstances to work towards a realistic and attainable goal of building the best possible product that adheres to project scope, timeline, and cost. When making product decisions in these scenarios, it’s critical to ask specific questions in relation to each stage of the product roadmap before moving forward.
A Minimum Viable Product Release
- What products or services make sense to offer?
- Are these products or services technically and economically feasible?
- How long will the mobile product take to build?
- Why are we building this mobile product?
- Are there alternatives?
- Are we able to monetize?
- How quickly should we expand the business?
- What’s the best approach to growth? Expanding into new offerings, reaching new customers, or both?
- How should new areas of mobile business be organized and managed to ensure short-term success?
Additionally, it’s essential to explore questions pertaining to business integration.
- How does this product connect new business to old processes?
- How do we ensure continued growth?
- How should new areas of mobile business be organized and managed to ensure long-term success?
Without proper planning, costly product decisions are often made and are incredibly difficult to untangle. Beginning the initial planning stages of development with a PRD protects your product from inflating beyond your project constraints, and ultimately achieves a quicker time to market. In some cases, compromise is inevitable, but with clear requirements on paper, the decision-making process is simplified.
A Mobile App PRD Protects a Project from Risks
There are several risks in mobile app development: budget, scope, knowledge, and time to name a few. Starting your project with a PRD helps prepare for and manage risk.
Again, without proper documentation, your project runs the risk of growing beyond its initial requirements and purpose (also known as scope creep). Scope creep causes delays and blows up your budget to account for changes and extra development to backtrack or rework features that got lost in translation. A mobile app PRD helps you and your team focus on the most critical components of the product and gives you a complete view of the work involved in making your vision tangible. The comprehensive list a PRD creates protects your project from the risk of going over budget by giving your product team the insight to allocate budget properly: for development itself as well as for contingency and change management.
A Mobile App PRD Supports Change Management
In enterprise mobility projects, change is inevitable. Ignoring that fact can cause development costs to skyrocket and you can end up with a mobile app that fails to address business objectives and user needs. A PRD will help you avoid this reality.
Your PRD will demonstrate how complex your project is and in many cases, mobile app planning will reveal that most projects involve several systems, subsystems, and functionalities. Creating accurate documentation will ensure development handoffs between team members don’t lead to mistakes or unnecessary changes.
The goal is to minimize fluctuation between the initial requirements specified in the PRD and what is actually developed; however, external forces like user demand, technological advancement, and competitive threat emerge during the development lifecycle. These unexpected realities can cause you and your team to think that development needs to make a U-turn, but rather than speeding up the implementation of new requirements, your PRD serves as a reference point to thoughtfully consider the necessity of change in relation to your product goals. Without a PRD, it’s very easy for change to cause you to lose sight of your original app concept and all of its associated requirements at the expense of user value and cost repercussions.
A majority of errors come from miscommunication, whether a requirement is underspecified or overspecified, it can cause incorrect development. A PRD is indispensable for avoiding these costly mistakes which inflate project scope and slow down your time-to-market. A PRD is one of the most consequential tools you have to ensure you and your team build a successful project.
A PRD is the starting point for mobile app planning. The document helps you understand and clarify every product requirement before you begin development. Preparing a mobile app PRD is a direct communication tool. Using one ensures every member of your team understands the entirety of your mobile app project.