All great products begin with a well-defined need. But the reason many products miss the mark is because product managers have been taught that business requirements always begin with a business problem definition. Starting your requirements with a problem is a big problem. Here’s why.

A problem doesn’t occur until someone is doing something that then manifests itself into a difficult or challenging situation. If you follow this logic, every set of product requirements should start with a situation describing what someone is doing, what they ultimately want to accomplish, why it’s important to their success, what’s stopping them, and the consequences of not completing the task successfully. This approach will result in products that are easier to develop, easier to use and easier to market and sell because the value is crystal clear.

The following examples contrast the two approaches.

A Typical Problem-Based Requirement

Organizations have trouble extracting customer data from their back-end systems, therefore Product ABC needs to:

  • Extract data elements stored in X, Y and Z systems
  • Produce results in formats 1, 2 and 3.

This is an incomplete requirement at best because the real business need hasn’t been clearly defined. Assuming these features make the scope cut, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much scope creep and redesign will ensue as the true need gets fleshed out along the way, if it does at all. Missed delivery dates? Quality problems? Budget overruns? Sound familiar?

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A Typical Situation-Based Requirement

Customers go online for two primary reasons. a) to change their service plan or b) to update their contact information. The current confirmation process is completed via hard copy postal mail which takes too long, wastes paper, labor and postage and causes customers to call the service center to verify the changes. These calls account for 15%- 20% of the call volume and cause staffing levels to be X% higher. To reduce call volume, paper and postage costs and service center staffing levels, product ABC needs to add two capabilities.

  • Present the change confirmation to the customer immediately after the change is submitted.
  • Send an automatic email confirmation to the customer showing the changes.

Situation-based requirements force product managers to know what happens inside the business of their target customers, why, and the impact it has on the customer organization as a whole. When product managers possess this level of expertise, products are better designed, more usable and easier to market and sell.

Remember, the reasons you build products and features are no different than the reasons customers buy them — they make someone better at something that’s important to the success of their organization.

Want to learn how to define high-fidelity business requirements that start with customer goals? Contact Proficientz about our advanced product management training courses for B2B. Learn how to deliver, market and sell solutions with greater strategic value.