Define the process for product development (agile vs waterfall)

One of the most important and difficult tasks in many projects is to define the product. Therefore it is important to pay attention to the product definition process.

Defining a product is not just a question of documenting requirements it is a process that requires creativity and decision making. Therefore think of the process as requirements elicitation

Key activities:

  • Set up planning session
  • Define approach (e.g. waterfall or iterative)
  • Plan key activities e.g. Preparation , Collection of business needs,  Definition of solution,  Validation, Prioritization and scoping, Iterations
  • Define involvement and make calendar planning 
  • Communicate plan


From a planning perspective the product definition process can be challenging because it often involves parties outside the project organization (that needs to be booked) and because it can be difficult to estimate how long time it takes.

Planning considerations: 

  • Consider splitting collection of business needs and definition of solution
  • Allow sufficient time for the collection of business needs and definition of solution. This process is often not a linear process
  • Start booking resources early
  • Consider one time or iterative process om product definition


Classical project management processes (waterfall) would argue that a detailed requirement specification with all details was made before starting building the product. This approach works fine if it is 100% clear what the project shall deliver. Experiences have however shown that priorities and understanding of what product to create tends to change over time. Therefore an efficient approach to product definition can be to create an initial definition that has enough details to start development and then add specific details as they are required throughout the project. With this approach product definition is an iterative process that takes place throughout the project and not only in the beginning