Very often visionary entrepreneurs get frustrated because they have ideas in mind and hold the finished product in their hands, but the two don’t match.

You might have a vision as great as Steve Jobs’s iPhone, but the key is figuring out how to get the real product to match what’s in your mind’s eye.

During last Wednesday’s Entrepreneurship 101 lecture, Steve Carkner, president of Panacis Inc., offered a solution created out of his own experience as a successful entrepreneur, product developer and angel investor: product development documentation (view the slides from the presentation here).

No matter how simple or complex your product is, you can avoid disappointing product development by following Carkner’s four-step path and creating four planning documents.

  • Customer/market requirements: This document will allow the product engineering team to hit the technical points that make the vision of the product a reality.
  • Functional requirements:  This document makes sure that the product matches every technical goal you had imagined for it.
  • Product/engineering specification: Without this document there will be nothing to measure against to know when the design work is done.
  • Test and verification specification: Without this document there will be nothing to measure against to know whether the volume production matches the design.

Besides helping with product development, creating the right planning documents also helps you to:

  • persuade investors;
  • hire the right people;
  • unify and motivate the team;
  • perform quality assurance and quality control;
  • plan and control budgets;
  • choose the right engineering or manufacturing partners;
  • communicate with customers;
  • void any potential loss of knowledge if team members leave; and
  • align new team members.

“Fail to plan, plan to fail” might be a cliché, but it does reveal the truth that failing to have a plan will result in wasted time, effort and money. Even worse, in startup scenarios, failing to plan may result in loss of opportunity if the product fails.

In the video below, Carkner illustrates how to make the right product development documents with a case study developing a flashlight for road warriors. Watch the video and start to make your product development plan right now.

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Lily Liu

Lily works as the Manager – Educational Programs at MaRS, providing entrepreneurs across Ontario with intensive entrepreneurship training. See more…