Engineers that write well bring a skillset to a team that’s woefully overlooked.

HatchOne is helping a startup understand, align and write product documentation from first Design Brief and R&D documents to critical Engineering Specifications.  It is reminding me how critical clear, concise writing is for successful product development.

Process and Documentation  

Defining and documenting all aspects of a product’s development is absolutely key to creating products that are innovative, can be manufactured, are cost effective and that meet the original goals of the product’s design brief.

HatchOne creates three key documents that align with development phases – The Why, The What, The How.  The Why document is a typical design brief that uses data and user insight to outline “Why” a certain product or product line should be developed.  This is generally written by a product manager with input from marketing.  It’s imperative that key user based design features and benefits are outlined and can be traceable to all future development documents.

Key Documents and Alignment

The Design Brief “Why” document utilizes user insight data driven features to drive product innovation and development.  It describes why a product should be developed based on user defining innovation points and target markets.  There is often overlap between a Design Brief and a Product Development Document (PDD) that outlines the specifics as to “What” actually can be developed given time or cost constraints.  This document drives the product features for specific Bill of Material (BOM) cost estimates and allows executives to clearly understand tradeoffs of time and money versus feature sets and R&D innovation.

User based feature requirements outlined in the Design Brief trace to product measures for innovation in the PDD and finally to exact Engineering Specifications for production.  The Engineering Specifications are revision controlled documents released to manufacturers to prototype and build the final product.  Specs are often released as several packages for review and then final revision control.  The ultimate goal is to have every approved requirement from the Design Brief traceable in the released Engineering Specifications.  This makes for a clear story for marketing, channel opportunities for sales and costing R&D efforts for management.  Overall a win-win if done right and facilitates cooperation and product collaboration between departments.  The ultimate win-win!

Know when to say no.

Executives like summaries and data that show success of their decision to invest in a product’s development.  Being able to quickly share key product features and their “Why” from the engineering perspective allows calculated risks and decisions to be made at phase gates.  Do we continue with this development knowing it’s another six months and $1M?  Or do we cut our losses and break this product into two – one that releases sooner and one later?