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How do I develop product specifications?


At this point, we should have a reasonable idea of the main outputs and their subsets, so the process of defining the outputs themselves can begin.

Product specifications are absolutely essential for all projects and are a key element in Developing the Plan.

As well as specifying what we know we also need to think about what we do not know, as otherwise the latter may cause us issues later.

If you are undertaking a project that is creating outputs similar to those in a previous project, then it will make sense to use the other project’s product specifications and take advantage of the previous experience.


The level of granularity at which you provide a description will be variable. As a rule of thumb, if a product feels too big to describe, break it down. However, if you feel that you are stating the blindingly obvious or there is not much to specify then the product may be too small.

This extract has been reproduced with permission from A Practical Guide to Project Planning, TSO 2016.  If you’d like to read more you can purchase the copy of the book here.


Understanding the technique of creating a product description is essential to documenting specifications. It provides the detail of what is needed to meet the business requirements of the project and, very importantly, the quality criteria against which it will be accepted by the business representative.

It is harder to describe softer products from projects in detail as there may well be a lack of clarity about what has to happen or what will be in place after the change. However, the more detail that can be captured, the less ambiguity there will be, and this will help focus the minds of the project board on the key decisions that will enable clarity and direction.

Detailed product descriptions enable accurate estimating of resources, costs and timescales. The lack of clearly defined product descriptions is a clear indicator that a project is not focusing sufficiently on what it will need to produce.

The product description will also contain the quality criteria for the output, so it is a key contributor to a quality plan for the project.

The table below shows te headings (or fields) to include in a product description and what should be included in the document.



The table below provides an example of a completed product description for the training course project.

A product description for the training course project

At the completion of the 'Designing the Plan' stage, the project should be in a position to seek approval to proceed from the investment decision gate.

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