Approach and Anatomy of a Feature Specification

In my experience, good product managers are good writers.

Whether it be a product roadmap, a feature specification, a user story, or a bug report; the artifacts written by a product manager ideally up-level the entire team’s understanding and propel the team towards alignment and tactical execution.

I don’t want to sound as if a PM’s life is all about writing and distributing documents. I embrace collaboration and going deep with my business stakeholders and technical teams. What I am arguing is that a good product manager will minimize unnecessary, inefficient, and redundant “collaboration” with well-written deliverables. A well-written feature specification can significantly shorten the space between idea, consensus, and execution.

In this post I share a feature specification and the background that prompted its creation. Full disclosure, this is not a real-world specification or IP from a employer or client – but I did write it myself, including creating the wireframes. I believe readers will find it comprehensive, realistic, and an accurate proxy for my approach.

The Scenario

A customer has an application that contains a database of thousands of professional quality audio tracks, which are available to be licensed for use in movies and commercials. Audio professionals pay to use this site as part of their daily jobs to find and license music. Currently searching is done by using filter tools to narrow down results. Users have been asking for a keyword search tool. Here are some quotes:

  • Users say they want to just type “medium” into the keyword bar and be able to easily select the medium tempo
  • Users say “I want to search for movie title, track title, composer, tempo & instruments in the same keyword search bar”
  • Users say “I want to be able to combine keywords in the search tool – for example ‘slow’ may be a keyword that activates the tempo tool and the user can then type ‘stringed/guitar’ and then relevant songs will be found”

Customer management has also requested:

  • This must integrate with existing filters and not change how existing filter functionality works.
  • Autocomplete should only give valid options to select
  • If you type something invalid, it tells the user nothing matches

The Feature Specification

As you read on, please understand my goals with a feature specification is to ensure:

  • All audiences have a macro and a micro understanding of the proposed feature
  • The document is structured in a way so it can be easily revised based on feedback from others
  • Non-technical audiences can see their requests and requirements are addressed
  • Designers have reasonable wireframes and functional understanding to begin working on high-fidelity designs and provide UX feedback
  • Engineers have a clear understanding of the suggested implementation
  • The sub-components of the feature are easily transferable into backlog items for a future sprint

Thanks for reading. What do you think makes a good feature specification or other deliverables written by product managers?

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