The Decision Stack: Modern Ways to Create Product Requirements Documents (PRDs)

Aviral Vaid

Hatched by Aviral Vaid

Jan 11, 2024

4 min read


The Decision Stack: Modern Ways to Create Product Requirements Documents (PRDs)

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, it is crucial for companies to have a clear vision and strategy in order to stay competitive. However, it is not enough to simply have a vision and strategy - they must be translated into actionable principles that guide decision-making and drive the development process. This is where the concept of the "Decision Stack" comes into play.

The Decision Stack is a framework that helps companies create principles that align with their vision and strategy. These principles serve as a reflection of the company's core values and help answer the important questions of "How are we going to build this?" and "Why are we building this?" By making values actionable, principles provide a clear roadmap for decision-making and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

One key aspect of creating effective principles is that they should be a shared responsibility. This means that principles should be created not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up. In other words, everyone in the company should have a say in defining the principles that guide their work. This can be done through regular retrospectives, where team members discuss the trade-offs they face and the decisions they have made. By looking at what they are regularly debating or discussing, teams can identify common themes and use them as a basis for creating principles.

On the top-down side, principles can be reinforced by articulating acceptable trade-offs. This means identifying the trade-offs that are necessary to make the company's strategy successful. By clearly defining these trade-offs, companies can ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals. Additionally, by stating what they are not going to do, companies can avoid wasting time and resources on projects that do not align with their strategy.

Now that we have explored the importance of principles in guiding decision-making, let's turn our attention to the practical aspects of creating Product Requirements Documents (PRDs). PRDs are essential for communicating the requirements of a product to the development team. Traditionally, PRDs were lengthy and detailed documents that outlined every aspect of the product. However, in today's fast-paced business environment, this approach is no longer effective.

Instead, modern ways of creating PRDs focus on simplicity and pragmatism. One approach is to use epics to represent specific features of the product. By breaking down the product into smaller, more manageable chunks, teams can focus on delivering value incrementally. Each epic should contain a core user story that clearly defines the user and their goal. This provides a starting point for the development team to work from.

In addition to the core user story, a pragmatic user story should include essential functional details. These details should be summarized in bullet points to keep them brief and easy to understand. Scenarios should also be included, providing information on what to do in different situations. While it is not necessary for these scenarios to be exhaustive, they should be discussed during scoping and sizing sessions to ensure that all potential scenarios are considered.

Linking to designs is another important aspect of modern PRDs. Ideally, designs should be as fleshed out as possible, providing a clear visual representation of what the product should look like. However, it is important to recognize that designs may need to be tweaked and iterated as the product is being built. By providing a link to the designs, teams can easily access and reference them throughout the development process.

Finally, it is important to provide wider context by linking the user story to the epic or labels. This helps team members understand where the user story fits into the bigger picture and align their work accordingly. Additionally, using the comments section to document important decisions or clarify questions can be extremely helpful for future reference. This allows team members to easily understand why a decision was made and provides valuable insights for future iterations.

In conclusion, the Decision Stack and modern approaches to creating PRDs are essential tools for companies looking to stay competitive in today's fast-paced business environment. By creating principles that align with their vision and strategy, companies can guide decision-making and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals. Additionally, by adopting a pragmatic approach to PRDs, teams can deliver value incrementally and adapt to changing requirements. To implement these concepts, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Foster a culture of shared responsibility by involving team members in the creation of principles. Use retrospectives to identify common themes and base principles on them.
  • 2. Clearly articulate acceptable trade-offs and what the company is not going to do. This ensures that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.
  • 3. Adopt a pragmatic approach to PRDs by using epics, core user stories, essential functional details, scenarios, and links to designs. This allows for incremental delivery and flexibility in the development process.

By following these guidelines, companies can create a strong foundation for decision-making and ensure that their products meet the needs of their customers.

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