How to Spec a Project?
Getting a plan for your project may not seem like a must at its early stages, but it turns out to be of vital importance for successful business plan implementation. In this article, I am going to explain what a specification is, why you need one, what to include and what to avoid when writing a project spec, and what the obstacles to getting a good document may be.
At Starkflow, we believe that project specs help businesses identify their needs and form the best fitting team for them. So how do you complete a good project specification? Let’s find out.
What’s a Project Specification (Spec)?
A project specification, often referred to as project spec, is a document containing a detailed description of goals for business plan implementation, such as all objectives, functionality, and, most importantly, the purpose and goal you are pursuing.
The document also has to list software to be used and performance details, all from a user perspective but not be longer than several pages.
The purpose of the document is to inform developers about what they have to do exactly. It has to be a collectively developed paper, so work together with everyone from the manager to developers.
Specs can be for any tech project, i.e., a website, an Android or iOS app.
Basically, the document lists everything related to project development. But why is it so important for successful project completion?
Why do you need one?
In short, because you get a detailed plan of everything you need in different areas of plan development. Not creating one, in turn, leads to extra expenses and a low-quality product because of delayed deadlines.
Remember that even if you have developers who are true experts, it does not mean that you do not need to worry about preparing a good project specification.
Project Spec: Outline
Generally, the specification will differ depending on what you are working on, but each has to consist of particular sections. Here is the list of what sections you want to have in your document:
- Its description and objectives
- List of all the app/software pages/screens with all the features
- User path/stories
- Design mock-ups and wire-frames
- Tech stack and other related info
These are quite straightforward; next, let’s move on to some more abstract things of specking a project.
Aspects to Consider
1. The larger the project, the more important the spec is
The first thing to remember is that the more people involved and tasks to be done, the more chances to make a mistake there are and therefore, the more guidelines are needed. Eventually, the more important the specification document is.
Your specification must be clear and detailed, and its importance increases with the size.
For example, when we worked with Shopia, the task we had was to hire engineers that would keep up the work on their e-commerce website. The team would have to work fast and effectively since Shopia is the fastest growing online store in the Middle East region.
Because of how big the workload and hence, the list of tasks was, they listed their requirements for the candidates in detail, which helped us shortlist the most suitable candidates in a timely manner so that Shopia could form the team shortly.
That is why we believe that a good document is what really contributes to effective business plan implementation eventually.
2. There is still room for flexibility
Flexibility — you can still have it. But not in the beginning.
First things first, you need to have a spec to launch your MVP quickly, with quickly meaning between 4 to 12 weeks. So start with a solid draft of your document.
3. Get the first version of your spec ASAP
Then, after you have launched the MVP, start testing and experimenting. In such a way, you can be as flexible as you need to find what works best. That is when you can start adjusting your spec.
Keep in mind that if you aim to be flexible since the very beginning instead, this can affect the time frame significantly.
For instance, Townshop was already running when they reach out to us looking for a brand manager to set up a marketing team. Because their company had been launched while still requiring some work to be done, they managed to grow their fund while Townshop was functioning in order to expand to creating a marketing team.
This is why it is worth launching your MVP regardless of whether your spec is fully completed or not.
4. Collaborate in one document
Kind of continuing the previous point, you need to have the first version of your specification launched very fast so that it fits the time frame of your MVP launch. So how do you do that?
Make a rough draft in just a couple of hours. Spending days on crafting a perfect spec will not help you get one, and you do not need it right away. So starting with a draft is enough.
Then, send the draft to developers and adjust as you get feedback.
Do not think too much about it every time: it is better to get some parts done, review, adjust them, and add what is missing.
Eventually, you will gradually move to an excellent specification.
So this point is more on the adjusting process: you have to make the file accessible for the team to edit all at once. Therefore, do not isolate the doc to one person at a time.
Instead, collaborate via Dropbox or Google Drive to get the full picture. When you or your team are not sure about particular parts, discuss them on Skype or on Trello.
Using collaborative tools will help you move with your spec faster.
5. Write from a customer perspective
When you explain parts that require specific knowledge to be understood, write from a customer perspective. Where possible, use simple language to make your spec understandable.
Here are the tech parts you need to include and make clear:
- list of all the pages/screens with all the features
- user path/stories
- design mock-ups and wire-frames
- tech stack
Simplify these to avoid confusion and make them accessible to users/customers.
6. Include visuals
A good way to simplify complex stuff, such as the parts listed in the previous point, is to add visuals. Everything that can be displayed with images must be visual. Layouts and designs, detail positioning, even schemes to show connections — all these are better perceived as images.
7. Do not stop working on it
After you launch your MVP, continue working on your spec. Keep making adjustments and track progress on how your MVP develops and consider ways to improve it by updating your specification.
This is what Thea & Schoen did when they realized the need for a bigger team after starting to work on lighting designs for large skyscrapers throughout the New York Metro area. While the business was growing, the scope of work was changing accordingly, so they adjusted their plan accordingly.
Eventually, they introduced their needs to us, and we proceeded to find engineers to complete software for the planned extension, 4 of whom ended up joining Thea & Schoen.
Even though you might have considered all the listed aspects, there are still some possible obstacles that you cannot control. Some of the barriers to a good specification may be:
- Tech stack
- Regulatory bans
- System configuration
- IT infrastructure
Evaluate how these can prevent you from writing a great document before starting to do so in order to prevent the potential issues that may occur.
To sum up, here is a check-list to make sure your spec is beneficial to your project. To succeed, your spec is to be:
- not overloaded with requirements
- oriented on the future
- easy to understand
If you have the document ready and are looking for a remote team or a particular candidate but do not want to deal with the hiring and administration, contact us, and Starkflow will take care of your business.