Passionate Requirements

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Writing passionate requirements is not about writing with passion.  It is about writing the requirements that cause people to be passionate about your product.  Find the most important problem, for your most important customers.  Understand the essence of what is important to solve that problem, for only those people.  Then write passionate requirements.

Passionate Requirements – Revisiting

This is the latest in the Big Ten Rules of Writing Good Requirements series, and rather than extending, it replaces the previous article on writing passionate requirements.  Writing with passion was important in 2006 (and still is today), but it is nowhere near as important to a product manager as writing requirements that focus on people’s passions.

Passionate Personas

Writing passionate requirements can be boiled down into four steps:

  1. Approach your market from as outside-in, customer-centric market. Define your market based on your customers, not the other way around.
  2. People do not get particularly passionate about buying products – they become passionate when using great products. Pay particular attention to the real user problems your potential customers want to solve.
  3. Use Kano analysis to classify and understand the nature of your potential customers’ most important problems.  Your customers will be passionate about your solution.
  4. Write passionate requirements that specifically address these most important problems for your most important customers.

Seth Godin is the master, when it comes to tapping into people’s passions.  Here are some pretty powerful quotes from Purple Cow, a must-read book (updated for 2009).  Bold is mine.


  • “The old rule was this: Create safe products and combine them with great marketing.  Average products for average people.  That’s broken. The new rule is: Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.“
  • “Half-measures will fail. Overhauling the product with dramatic improvements in things that the right customers care about, on the other hand, can have an enormous payoff.”
  • “Differentiate your customers. Find the group that’s most profitable.  Find the group that’s most likely to influence other customers. Figure out how to develop for, advertise to, or reward either group. Ignore the rest. Cater to the customers you would choose if you could choose your customers.”
  • Seth Godin, Purple Cow

Mr. Godin’s message is not just one of marketing, but of a strategic focus.  For product managers, part of that strategy manifests in designing great products.  Products that are so good, for your core users,that these customers altruistically spread the word about your product.  When you read Viral Product Management for discussion of altruism and selfishness as triggers of fancasting, remember that you’re leveraging Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point for a subset of customers.

When you’re engaging your customers as part of a conversation ecosystem, you can not only benefit from this “free” word of mouth marketing, but also get valuable insights, develop strong relationships, and create incredibly loyal customers.  This conversation economy is what the authors of Tuned-In are talking about tuning in to.

[from The Conversation Circles]

Powerful Problems

leads to 

When you understand which group of customers to build your business with, the next step is to figure out which problems they find to be the most important to solve.  You not only want to build solutions to problems people are willing to pay to solve, you want to build solutions to problems these people are willing to pay to solve.

User research (primarily), and market research (secondarily) lead you to an understanding of which problems are important to your target personas.  The book, Blue Ocean Strategy, is built on a single reactionary premise – companies that discover the importance of, and solve, different problems for their customers than their competitors, win.  The authors contend that this is creating a new market.  My opinion is that this is simply gaining better insight into the problems that are important to your customers.  It is still a great book – skip the ‘create a new market’ stuff, and focus on their ‘understand your market’ elements.

As another product manager I respect said to me (paraphrasing) – “You always have competition [offering a solution to a problem], if you disagree, it means that you don’t know who they are.”  Reminds me of a quote from Rounders – “If you can’t find the sucker at the table in the first half hour, you are the sucker.”

Passionate Requirements

Passionate requirements, therefor, are requirements that define and clarify the problems that your target customers find to be the most important.  Focus on the problems for which a subset of your market will be passionate about a solution.


You want to write well – write your requirements with passion – that is still important, so that your requirements get read and absorbed.

However, the outside-in view is more important.  Worry about How to Write Good Requirements, after you’re solid on Why You Write Good Requirements – to develop great products.

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