The Frame work of building Product Requirements

Product Development

Effective product requirements management is critical for saving costs, meeting customer expectations, understanding product road map, marketing plan, resource utilization, and a lot more….

For a startups, just prioritizing the product requirements / features into must, should, could is not sufficient. It’s required to understand the customer needs in depth by following the Minimum Viable Product / Process throughout the startup phase. Minimum Viable Product / Process is that subset of the product requirements with which a startup can to go to market and get customer feedback for product acceptance. Performing this product requirement iteration in phases until full launch could be termed Minimum Viable Process. See for part 3.

Key considerations for a feature addition are:

  • Purpose (Balancing Customers Wants / Needs / Wishes Into MUST / SHOULD / COULD Requirements: Product Road Map)
  • Problem it will solve (Prevalence & Customer willingness to pay. How efficiently & cost effective vs. competition. If new to world – How difficult is to copy by someone else)
  • For what Customers (Customer Segmentation and customer prioritization. Whom should we target first and then next in phases)
  • Feasibility & Effort required (Is this requirement feasible? Can it be developed internally?, does it need to be outsourced?)
  • Validation (How to validate the requirement completion and customer acceptance)

Decoding the product features to act agile in product development


·         Required For Product To Work

·         Delivers Value At The Base Level

·         Marketable As Low / Base Tier Offering

·         Customer Needs


·         Parking lot / wish list. Potential thoughts for the future growth

·         Product Enhancements

·         Customer Wishes


·         Drives next tier of product functionality or variations

·         Marketable As Mid-High  Tier offering

·         Customer Wants

Prioritizing the product requirements into MUST SHOULD COULD categories helps organize the focus of the startup efforts and capital utilization. It also creates the road map of product evolution.

In startups perspective MUST SHOULD COULD mean different than what they mean for established businesses. Established businesses thrive for the Could Features and if time and resources do not permit settle for at least the MUST features to have competitive advantage vs. startups thrive to deliver on the MUST features to prove their concept and enhance their product by working on the Should & Could features as they grow.

All product features / requirements need to be classified into MUST SHOULD COULD categories. MUST features are defined as the absolute needs to be implemented in order for the product to perform to excite customer minimum interest to pay for it. SHOULDs are defined as the priority requirements that have higher value proposition, but are to be worked on only if time and resources permit or even at a later phase of the startup growth. COULD are the cream features which might require lot of effort and do provide a lot more value which can be leveraged as a high tier offering at a higher price.

Questions which would help startups classify MUST SHOULD COULD on their product requirements better are as below. Yes to any of questions below imply that requirements belong to the respective category.

MUST Requirements

  • Is it required to make the product functional and sellable
  • Does it solve the key customer pain point
  • Does this justify the effort level estimated

SHOULD Requirements

  • Does it impact a lot on Customer value if done later than MUST?
  • Does it have a workaround that it might be done later

COULD Requirements

  • Is this a Wish / Nice to have?
  • Does this require very minimal effort?
  • Is this a Enhancement to the original product requirements implemented already?




·         Reach To Right Customer Audience For Tangible Feedback

·         Solution Selling Approach: What Customer Pain Are We Solving


·         Product / Service Features Selected For Building The Minimum Viable Product After Classifying The Features/Requirements Into Must, Should & Could

·         Prototypes of the Product / Service  Good Enough To Attract Potential Customer Interest & Feedback

·         Defined / Selected Customers To Reach & How To Reach them


·         Demo / Video Of Product / Service Concept

·         Product/Service Concept Landing Page With Specific CTA To Gauge Customer Interest

·         Voice of Customer Events (In Person, Online, Surveys…)

·         Working Prototypes

·         Smoke Test Requirements


·         Product / Market Fit Assessment & Validation

·         Customer Interest Levels & Wants That Are Willing To Pay For

·         Validating Value Proposition

·         Understanding Growth Potential

·         Gauging Pricing Points

·         Develop & Validate Business Model

A Minimum Viable Product is not just a product or a rigid process definition that fits for every startup. The importance with the term minimum viable product is more towards the continuous process of creating it and receiving the intended feedback before progressing further, than just creating a toned down product version to get generic feedback.

Just google minimum viable product and you will find numerous definitions of this term, but the key to success with this process is to understand and execute it beyond just its pure definition.

Every startup thrives on an Idea which would solve a specific pain for their potential customers. Turning the Idea into a product / service requires defining numerous features / requirements driven by passion to deliver more and the strategy to capitalize on them. To implement them all requires lot of capital, which is always scarce for startups, unless the startup has lot of money to spend and take big risks. Minimum Viable product / process comes in handy for such startups that would rather validate their idea and progress with a subset of their potential customers spending less capital upfront and fine tune it further to gain wider acceptance. It does not mean a half done product or appeal in the raw form, but something that will excite the customers to give prominent feedback and commit for orders on initial launch / production

Understanding the inputs, outputs, drivers, and the means to conduct the MVP process helps startups fine tune their product / market fit strategy.


Understanding what is to be achieved out of the each of the MVP process enhances the effort put into to perform it. Key outcome of the MVP process at a high level is save capital spending and do the right thing that the customers are willing to pay for.


Refer to my PART1 article on MUST SHOULD COULD to know more about classifying the product features / requirements. This will be a pre-requisite for MVP. Once the MUST features / requirements are captured, startups should evaluate which of those features would present a mock of the complete product that still initiate valuable customer feedback in order to validate the product &/ business hypothesis and improve the overall product functionality to better suit customer interests.


The key drivers for Clear value proposition in the form of an MVP is to clearly define and network with the right initial customer base who provide valuable feedback. Secondly MVP process should try to focus on the customer pain point that is being addressed with their product / service in customer feedback process to learn more about how the startups product / service could resolve it in better form. This is also termed solution selling approach which shifts the focus in feedback from the product to   the actual customer pain that is being addressed and connects them well with the startup instead of trying to sell their product / service in traditional door sales approach.


Finally, the methods for performing MVP are numerous as listed in the picture. Picking the right one that works best in relevance to the inputs, outputs, & the drivers is the key. For example Drop Box concept demo video initiated customer signups to the order of 50K when it was first released. Today Drop Box boasts XMillion users. The considerations in picking the right MVP method are : Cost , Customer Understanding Levels, stage of startup growth, ….



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