Why Market Requirements Don’t Really Exist

Wouldn’t it be great if we could require the stock market to provide us 15% increases in our portfolio every year…or if we could simply require a sunny day for a picnic?

You might be familiar with the term ‘market requirements’ or a ‘market requirements document’ as a deliverable in the definition phase of a product life cycle process.  To understand why market requirements don’t really exist, we must first provide the definition of a requirement.

Product requirements are determined by answering the following question:  “What shall the (product) design provide (output) @ input conditions?   (Input conditions are functional inputs provided by the user, or environmental conditions.)  We also “specify” certain performance limits (upper or lower specification limits) or capabilities of the product and design constraints.

If we apply this definition to “the market” the question becomes:  What shall the market provide (output) @ input conditions?

We cannot design, control or place limitations on “the market” because the market is an environment

However, we can analyze the market: identify market segments, understand customer needs, competitive landscape and conditions under which the product will be used.

Another concern with using the market requirements terminology is the author of such a document might be inclined to require, specify or design a product.  Customer needs come first, however, and should be understood first and foremost.  The market analysis should therefore be focused on ensuring a complete understanding of customer needs and the competitive landscape, not to simply enable an individual’s design ideas early (…usually too early) in the product development process.

If a market analysis does include product requirements or features, they should be identified as such, and the corresponding customer needs (the product helps to address) explained accordingly.  Emphasis on clarifying customer needs, intended use and product success factors in the market analysis also enables additional participants (engineers & designers) to innovate product capabilities, requirements and design ideas.

The market analysis ensures we understand customer needs and value, product requirements are “the what” the design provides (to ensure customer needs are met); the design is “the how” the product requirements will be met.

(There is another important consideration: requirements validation, which I’ll address in a future article.)

In summary, a market should be viewed as an ever-changing chaotic environment and competitive landscape that must be analyzed and not “required” to act in a way we desire.

An integrated and hierarchical approach to ensuring customer needs and value are understood and embedded in the requirements and design process can save a company millions of dollars in product development costs.