MRD… PRD… WTF?

So in our last post we talked about the tools in Microsoft Office as things every Product Manager should learn to know and love well.  And the tool that makes most sense to engineers aspiring to be Product Managers is MS Word… because being PM is all about writing requirements right?

Well, not quite.   It is true the writing (and other communication skills) are an important part of being a Product Manager.  And writing Market Requirements Documents (MRD) or Product Requirement Documents (PRD) are usually crafted in MS Word.

But that is just exercising the left part of your brain: being analytical and writing down specifications and requirements.

But do you want to be a short order cook, or a Master Chef? My point is there are many Google results that will give you templates for writing an MRD or PRD.  But none of them will help you make the document compelling. And you need to be able to do this to:

  • Convince others in your company of  some ideas that may challenge conventional thinking (starting with a well crafted e-mail)
  • Write white papers that do the same to the broader public audience (press, potential customers, analysts, etc.)
  • Write compelling copy for collateral or your web site

There is enough really bad or boring product management or marketing docs or collateral out there.  Please don’t add to it.  You need to exercise the left part (creative) of your brain to write in a compelling fashion.  And this may mean writing how people think or speak normally – and always sticking to convention.

Good writing is skill that you can develop and improve.  So how can you do this?  Here are a couple of tips:

  • There are some good web sites out there that are great resources with regular tips, including copy blogger
  • If you are a good writer already, you can only get better the more you write; and one way to learn good writing is to read good writing.  Make a little scrapbook for yourself of good web site copy, or great white papers, or even a good MRD that you have read.
  • If you are not a great writer, you can also learn a lot by hiring one and seeing how they translate your outline of points into good copy or writing – after you get better, the writer can just be used for special assignments you don’t have time to do yourself.

So in closing, I just want to reiterate how good writing – as one form of communication – is a skill set you must develop as a Product Manager.  But it’s not the most important communication skill…. more on this to come.

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