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A76 - Feature Article Nailing Product Requirements

Machine Design, Penton Publishing, Cleveland Ohio, USA
August 21, 2008 -- Pages 63-65

Description: This article sheds light on a number of best practices on how to define a product and its requirements. There are differences between industries, but the best practices don't change. One just needs to adjust their thinking a little bit regading the timing of requirements gathering and and the decision to freeze requirements. For instance, a heavily tooled product will have a less flexible product definition process than a software-only product in most cases.

The composition of skill sets of the team that does the external definition is critical. No single person can capture everything that is said to them by customers or focus groups, or even synthesize research of the marketplace - due to the inherent biases of the discipline in which they are trained or they work. There are actually two separate requirements processes that involve different people at different levels at different timing in order to define short term product portfolio needs versus long term product portfolio needs. There is yet a different requirements gathering process for companies that want to develop products that are "new-to-the-world" or "new-to-the-industry." All these are related to gathering "external" requirements.

"Internal" requirements are handled differently. The approach many companies take to treat folks inside their company as "internal customers" is misguided. Fortune Magazine documented a significant piece on this errant approach in 1994, yet the practice continues today at many companies. Because designs freeze fairly quickly at the beginning of the product design activity, internal folks need to be involved from the start of a design activity in a significant way.

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