What is a Product Brief?
A product brief, or product spec, defines a product’s goals, attributes, and overall direction. It outlines requirements and key product information that a product team needs to build a new feature or product.
A product brief is an effective tool for product development. It requires few resources to create one, but it can deliver enormous benefits.
For some product teams, a product brief is a place to flesh out ideas. There’s no standard length; but you should use the format and length that works best for your team and product.
How does it Fit into the Product Landscape?
The product brief plays a key role in product development because it influences a product’s quality and sets the pace for development efficiency. Its purpose is to keep all members of the product team on the same page and prevent unexpected outcomes as a new product is developed and brought to market. But it is also a living document that should invite collaboration and discussion as the team explores new ideas.
Anatomy of a Product Brief
A product brief includes key information about the user story, business case (e.g., impact on the bottom line), technical specifications, and other critical details that will help a product team build a new product or feature.
According to one seasoned Silicon Valley product manager:
“Effective product specs are a critical part of building great software. They force critical thinking upfront, scale communication, and raise accountability — all leading to higher quality, lower schedule risk, and less wasted time.”
A product brief should communicate what to build and why. It should answer these key questions:
- What are we building, and why?
- What is the problem our product is trying to solve, and how will it do so?
- What is the context (e.g., use cases, metrics, etc.)
- Who are our competitors, and how are they different?
- What is our timeline?
- How will we measure success?
Tips for Writing a Product Brief
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you craft your product brief:
- Make sure everyone starts on the same page: To get a product through the development process, a product team must work together.
- Use clear, precise language: This will keep everyone on the same page because it ensures that what you are communicating is understood by everyone.
- Keep it short: Economy of language will help you distill the essential components of your product brief and also ensure that it’s more likely to be read and understood.
- Set the direction: Remember that you are leading the charge on providing context both for why your product team is endeavoring on this journey and where it’s headed.
- Incorporate images: Easily digestible flow diagrams or wireframes help communicate key information quickly.
- Solicit feedback: Ask your team if you’re overlooking something obvious or if you are missing key details. Then, be flexible and prepare to make changes.