Anyone will tell you that when the directions are not clear, then the job never gets done. It does not matter if you are putting together a bed frame or a software system that needs to be connected between three different companies. The fact is, simple or complex, everyone involved in its creation needs to understand precisely what is happening for everyone to be on the same page. So, how does a technical requirements document help us with this?
What is a Technical Requirements Document?
Think of a technical requirements document (or TRD) as the blueprint for what you are trying to build. It describes any technical aspects or issues that arise in product development within scientific, engineering, or technological fields. Because of the nature of these documents, though, not only must they be able to be read by experts, but laymen should understand them as well. This is because they also entail how workflow operates within the system that’s being implemented.
What Is The Value Of A Technical Requirements Document?
Documentation is the foundation of any good business. A technical requirements document is the glue that keeps everything together when working on a project. It is the point in any project where your goals and the entire vision are set in place allowing you and your team members to stay on the same page. It should cover almost everything, from determining budgets and understanding risk-management problems and solutions. Also, it explores communication options between teams throughout the project’s development.
The technical requirements document is in many ways the central nervous system of any developing project, as without one, what would there be to help keep everything accounted for? Companies depend on technical requirement documents to keep, everything running smoothly. This means that it becomes very crucial with your job, as the technical writer, this gets done right.
That being said, here are some tips that any good technical writer should have in their back pocket to consider when writing a technical requirements document.
Some things to look out for:
1. Keep it Readable and Concise!
As stated before, not everyone who is reading this will be an engineer, so it is important to simplify your document, as well as not overwhelm your reader with information. We recommend using bullet points or an enumerated list while explaining step-by-step instructions (not unlike this part of the article)! We also recommend adding pictures or diagrams wherever possible to alleviate explaining difficult processes. Also, remember to use simpler words and phrasing that is not too technical. This keeps a common understanding between all parties reading the document.
2. Detail its Functionality.
It seems a bit obvious, but it must be said. Just as it needs to be able to be read by anyone, a technical requirements document needs to detail every available function of the system. In the document, there should always be a section devoted to functionality explaining exactly what testers and designers need to do to make sure the product runs smoothly. Otherwise, you will really need the next part.
3. Recognize Product Risks
Always keep in mind that something might go wrong with the product, so add a section about the possible restraints of said product. This details any standards that must be followed when installing the product, its expected life cycle, and comparable products still on the market. Depending on the product, it is also important to add information on errors that could occur during its lifecycle, as well as expected error codes and their meaning if applicable.
How To Write A Technical Requirements Document
Remember that as the technical writer, you are responsible for accounting for everything, so keeping a checklist is always a great tactic for consolidating all of the necessary information. As you start the actual process of writing out the requirements document, it is also smart to remember other outside aspects of the product or project like, shareholders, competing companies, and resources that are required for the project’s completion.
Below are a few ways to help keep yourself accountable:
1. Collect Your Information
One of the most important parts of your job is that all information runs through you. That means it will become tough to weed out what is actually important. Data is delivered to you from all places. Make sure to talk to everyone from designers to stakeholders to clear out all of the redundancies and make the document as concise and precise as possible.
Information is found in a multitude of ways, but always remember to go through the proper channels. Be amicable and professional, and you will get what you are after!
2. Understand the Product’s Use
It is essential that you recognize how the product is being used in the context of the users’ wants and needs. It is not enough to merely say what it does, you must sell the product as well. Look at collected data from customers’ usage of the product. It often helps to construct an overview of not only what they are using it for, but how you might change the product in the future to meet the needs of the customer. This helps to keep fostering growth. Documents that specifically address this are often referred to as Product Requirements Documents.
3. Tie it All Together
Technical requirements documents are made for the user’s benefit. Always remember to cater your writing to them. The best way to do that is to show in the document real-world problems the user encounters and how the product solves them. This guarantees a job well done.
It also helps to define which parameters of the job each team is responsible for. Again, we recommend bulleted or enumerated lists to keep an even flow of information. You may write these directions in prose as well. Along with this, you might create a prototype that shows the finished product. That way the user sees the product in action with their own eyes.
4. Think of its Systems
While writing any technical requirements document, it is important to think about the systems put into the product that help detail the quality of service and requirements of the user. This could be anything from the lifespan of the product to how to run it most efficiently. This depends on the number of team members available at any given time.
The important thing to think about is giving as much relevant information as possible about every possible factor. The more the user understands about the product, the more likely they will be satisfied. Then, everyone’s happy!
What Are Some Of The Requirements of a Technical Requirements Document?
Not every technical requirements document will detail the same thing. While everything above should be considered when writing your document, it is still very general. TRDs span multiple industries, from manufacturing to software engineering, so it is important to understand that some technical requirements will be more useful than others depending on the job.
Here are some examples:
1. User Accessibility
This is fairly straightforward. This will generally be in all of your TDRs, as users will need to know how to use your product, especially in the face of certain unseen obstacles. Things like audio subtitles are an example of added accessibility if a video is part of the technical requirements document.
2. Info Security
For those who find themselves working in software, you will have to write on things like encryption and security. Users will need to know how to secure user credentials within the system, and at different levels of security clearance.
This is written differently depending on the industry. For software, these requirements would be for detecting a human error in the product’s code and implementing systems to not crash the entire product. Similarly, if it is a physical product, the requirements might deal with troubleshooting or some additional information on the product’s parts.
Not every product will last forever, but you can always try and fix it! Your technical requirements document often benefits from some section about proper machine maintenance, as well as addressing problems that might arise further down the line in the product’s lifecycle. For software, this is a bit more time focused as you have many systems that rely on the product functioning smoothly.
5. Industry Standards
It’s bad for the user’s business if the product can’t live up to the industry standards it is made for. This section of a technical requirements document is for informing users how to implement the product so it can safely and effectively follow security and architectural requirements.
The importance of a good technical requirements document is simple. They describe any technical aspects or issues that might arise in product development. As a technical writer, you must consider everything and anything that goes into the creation and implementation of the product, which means a heavy dose of both research and writing ability. Also, remember to always keep in touch with teams who worked on the product. That way, you can consolidate every piece of information you will possibly need.
EDC Technical Requirements Document Services
Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or email@example.com to get started.
Written by Dominic Acquista