Writing a product spec sheet it can seem like a bit of a hassle - it may even seem like nobody reads them. A well-made sheet will not only be read but can actually be an integral part of your organization.
These checklists can solve all sorts of problems, offer solutions, and create a streamlined way to communicate with a huge variety of people. From here this can set up a timescale on when the problem in question will be solved. This documentation should be easy enough to read that someone can understand it with just a cursory glance as it provides plenty of information in a concise manner.
Most importantly a product data sheet can be a way to force you to critically think about a problem. When writing you are forced to put everything in black and white - making it clear for both yourself and others the scope of the complication. Not having one of these spec sheets to do this can be disastrous for multiple reasons.
Without the clear guidance that is provided by this documentation, you may not pinpoint the dilemma, which will lead to inadequate solutions and a loss of productivity. These problems only become more compounded the larger an organization is - for the more people and moving parts there are, the increased chance of problems arising. A well-made spec sheet gives clear goals and resolutions, while also creating an incentive to solve it within a reasonable timeline.
What should a Product Spec Sheet Include?
Since the product spec sheet is a blueprint for what you are building, the first thing to do is provide a brief summary or definition on the product or idea you are trying to present.
You should also have a brief mention on the source of the predicament this new product, software, or idea is trying to solve. From here you need to lay out what the ultimate value is for the business, organization, and customers. Depending on what you are trying to pitch you might want to compare similar problems, companies, or markets.
There should also be a section on what the user is trying to accomplish. A user story can make the problem easily digestible. In this story, you should show what is the motivating factor for what you are trying to solve. Ideally, you want to create an empathetic point of view for the reader, which allows them to jump into your shoes. You can also show how a typical customer will interact with the product or service - this can create a multidimensional outlook not perceived of before.
Not only should you have a brief overview of what the solution is, but also who the solution is for. It’s important to know what the criteria for success is, along with what future work needs to be done to reach this goal.
Rough estimates are fine, especially in the beginning. As the spec sheet continues to be edited more precise timelines should be made. There should be a technical list of details behind the solutions and ideas. Lay out metrics, reports, and references clearly as these might need to be delved into further by some staff.
Some tips on Product Spec Sheets
While having a good understanding of what a product spec sheet is important, there are a few tips you can follow to make yours really be a killer. Always use all your information at your disposal - this means listen not only to what your teammates are saying, but also to the customers.
Look at customer feedback, potential suggestions, and their complaints. When looking at all this don’t get hung up on what they are saying specifically, but rather what the overall problem that they want solved is. You need to understand what is behind this feedback, as this will be the primary issue that drives your spec sheet forward.
You need to be able to brainstorm possible solutions to this problem, by yourself and with your team. Break down the problem so it’s more manageable. Have a hard resolution to the problem at hand, plus additional things that while not necessary will enhance the solution even further.
That being said, get as many brains as possible on your spec sheet. Opening it up to the team even in its infancy can mean it’ll constantly improve. This can also identify additional problems not thought of before, which can lead to even more solutions. After the product or service is in development, go ahead and test the prototype on loyal customers.
This allows you to get feedback that is outside of the company or team, breaking the potential echo chamber and shining a light on any blind spots you might have. These tests can be one on one or in a group setting, allowing more information based on the nature of the problem along with the overall scope.
Finally, your spec sheet should have it clearly outlined what people should be directly referred to on the project, along with their respective roles. The Writing Structure of a Spec Sheet Format is important when writing a spec sheet, as even one that touches on all the important information, delves into problems, and offers solutions can be crippled if not written correctly. Start with the basics - make sure spacing is correct for instance.
Most companies and organizations prefer double spacing as this makes it easy to pick out words. Bullet points and numbered lists can work great in clearly laying out the ideas of subheading. For the subheadings you can use bold and/or larger typeface to make certain spots easily stand out. Remember to keep it simple though - for example normal text is usually anywhere from size 10 to 12 font, while the style can vary a bit. Nonetheless, Arial and Times New Roman are often the most used typeface.
The more information the better, especially in larger organizations. But it's best to avoid too much verbosity and fluff. Sentences should of course be grammatically correct and complete, but short and to the point. Try to tailor the language to who is going to read it - obviously an engineer and shareholder aren’t going to have the same level of understanding of certain technical jargon.
This means avoid what can be seen as technobabble, but don’t dumb it down either. Use precise language, but always choose simpler words over fancier ones. You want the overall tone of your spec sheet casual but professional at the same time. Sometimes even words can’t convey the information you want - so make it easier to understand with graphs and pictures.
When you do start the writing process just remember it's best to get the ideas out in a draft as you can always edit it later. After this initial draft process try to set up one on one meeting with potential team members - get their input on how to better develop your product spec sheet.
A good product spec sheet can clearly define problems plaguing your organization or customers, along with offering comprehensive fixes. While every product and service is a bit different, all of them should have a straightforward sections on how it affects the organization and the intended audience.
A product data sheet should be a living document - this means it should constantly be updated with teammate and customer feedback. When written it should be in a language comprehensible to a large range of people and be able to relay plenty of information at a glance. Format should be simple yet complicated enough to have multiple graphs, bullet points, and subheadings.
This documentation is important for engineers, software developers, and business people to be able to communicate with one another swiftly and easily. Without a product sheet problems can continue to grow within your organization, resulting in loss of time and profit. Making a killer product spec sheet takes diligence, mindfulness, and focus - but will pay off in spades in the end.