[SURVEY RESULTS] The 2024 edition of State of Software Modernization market report is published!
GET IT here

How To Write a Project Specification For a Dev Shop [2024]

Last updated on
January 11, 2024


What to include in a project specification document?

  1. Introduction - overview of the project and context
  2. Business outline - information about your company, project, target audience
  3. Business requirements - description of project's value proposition and business model
  4. Functional requirements - high-level descriptions of functionalities, features, platform, internal interfaces, hardware interfaces
  5. Non-functional requirements - usability, performance, security, scalability, availability, operating systems, maintainability, interfaces, device coverage
  6. Design requirements
  7. Testing and quality requirements
  8. Materials - knowledge about what you already have, mockups, graphic design, usability testing, information about existing app
  9. Organization - project management and communication processes, project timeline, budget constraints, workflow, people you need, ownership over the project, people involved, change management, any limitations, responsibilities of a vendor’s team

To learn more about each step, read on.


How To Write a Project Specification For a Dev Shop [2024]


Contrary to popular belief, great apps don’t just spawn out of thin air. They are an effect of careful planning, work of many people and long time of development. Preparation is as important for you as it is for the people that will eventually work for you. That is why it’s good to come prepared to talk with a software development agency you want to outsource your project to.

So how to write a good project specification?

Below you’ll find a set of essential information that should appear in the project specification document that you hand out for assessment and estimation.

What is project specification document?

A project specification document, also known as a software requirements specification (SRS) or a functional specification, is a comprehensive document that outlines the detailed requirements and specifications of a software development project. It serves as a blueprint and a communication tool between the client and the development team, ensuring a shared understanding of the project's goals, functionalities, and constraints.

The project specification document provides a detailed description of the software system, including its features, functionality, behavior, and user interactions. It defines what the software should do, how it should behave, and the expected outcomes of user interactions. It covers both the functional requirements, which describe the desired features and capabilities of the software, as well as the non-functional requirements, which specify the qualities and constraints of the system, such as performance, security, and usability.

Why should you write project specification?

A well-written project specification document ensures a common understanding between the client and the development team, reduces ambiguities, and serves as a reference point throughout the software development lifecycle. It helps align expectations, guide the development process, and facilitate effective communication and collaboration between stakeholders.

Good to keep in mind while writing a project specification

  • Take advantage of talking with specialists. No one expects you to know everything and have everything planned. The developers and Business Analysts that you’re addressing will be able to propose solutions and ideas, as long as they know it’s needed.
  • The more constraints you put upon the project, the more difficult it will be to bring it to completion within them. Try to keep an open mind when possible.
  • Try to not overdo it with description length – too short and concise info will not give a clear enough picture of what you need and a too long and detailed one will be difficult to sift through.

Components a project specification document for a software development agency – 9 steps

Step 1: Basics & introduction

The best way to start off is to make the document transparent – the top section should contain the most basic contact info: company name, website, people involved and their contact details. Plus, here you can give an introduction, informing what this document is about and why you send it.

Step 2: Business outline

Knowing what your company does and what role the app will play in your business will help a vendor understand you and your needs better. When a development team understands why they’re coding something, they’ll be able to match their solutions to your goals.

  • What does your company do?
  • What role will the app play in fulfilling your company’s goals?
  • Is this a completely new project, a new version of an existing one or upgrading what you have?
  • What problems do you want to solve with this project?
  • What goals do you want to achieve with it?
  • Who is the target audience?

Step 3: Business requirements

Provide a list of your business requirements the software needs to address. Here you can also give description of project's value proposition.

Step 4: Functional requirements

Describe your needs towards technical side of the project. Provide:

  • high-level descriptions of functionalities,
  • features,
  • platform,
  • internal interfaces,
  • hardware interfaces.

There are two ways to approach the features topic. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

List – a detailed list of components and their desired attributes is a good way of handling teams over which you want (or need) to have more control or those that you feel need more guidance. The minus here is the limitations it puts on the Developers, especially if they are a self-organizing, highly specialized and self-sufficient team.

High level description – this is a great way to work with specialists. By roughly describing your needs regarding what you want the app to do, you allow for the team to plan their own solutions, tailored to your needs, when the real work begins. Instead of giving the Team a To-Do list, it allows for you to draw from experience of the Developers, Designers and Business Analysts that you plan to employ.

For most it seems obvious that we should be aware for which platforms we’re to build the app. Web, desktop, mobile – Android and/or iOS. But if there are any additional requirements that you know exist, knowing them up-front saves everyone a lot of time.

Versions – what backward compatibility do you have in mind and why?  

Dependencies – are there any APIs that need to be taken into account? Third party applications that we’ll need to connect to?

Stacks – are there any particular stacks you would want to use here? Why? If there is existing code, what language is it?

Step 5: Non-functional requirements

Provide information about your requirements concerning:

  • usability,
  • performance,
  • security,
  • scalability,
  • availability,
  • operating systems,
  • maintainability,
  • interfaces,
  • device coverage

Step 6: Design requirements

Provide information about design - do you need an external partner to provide it or do you have it already?

Step 7: Testing and Quality Assurance requirements

What are your expectations towards Quality Assurance?

Step 8: Materials

Data - knowledge about, or better yet, access to what you already have, will help us tremendously to evaluate the project and what needs to be done. This can be a multitude of things:

  • Mockups, frameworks and graphic designs
  • Usability test and user feedback
  • Backlog, project roadmap, release plan, etc.
  • Any other existing documentation

Existing App – is your project a new version of an already existing application?  

  • What’s not right with the current version? What needs to be improved?
  • What do you and your users like about the current version that you want to leave in and/or improve?
  • What’s the existing codebase and documentation, and can a custom software development agency get access to it in order to appraise it?

Step 9: Organization

Cover your expectations and provide essential information about:

  • project management and communication processes,
  • project timeline,
  • budget constraints,
  • workflow,
  • people you need,
  • ownership over the project,
  • people involved from your side,
  • change management,
  • any limitations,
  • responsibilities of a vendor’s team,
  • acceptance criteria, stakeholder roles and responsibilities,
  • external dependencies.

All development teams work with certain sets of rules – it’s best to know if your rules are similar to the devs’ and what areas need to be adjusted in your future cooperation; which in turn will make the workflow that much more smooth.

Additional helpful questions:

Limitations – is there a budget constraint? Are you aiming for a specific deadline (if yes, why)?

Ownership – who do you want to lead the project – to make technical decisions, prioritize work, decide on Acceptance Criteria and so on?

People Involved – will the project be executed fully in a single development house? Will there be other developers involved? Will people from other areas (like Directors or Marketing Specialists) have input in the team’s work?

People you need – will you require a full team? Or just specific roles to be filled? Please consider if you require:

  • Front-End / Back-End / Fullstack Developers
  • Product Owner / Business Analyst / Scrum Master
  • UX/UI Designer / Graphic Designer
  • Manual Tester / Automation Tester

Workflow – are you used to working with any project framework like Scrum, Kanban or Waterfall? Will it be your requirement to work using it?

Software development requirements document - example

1. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to define the software requirements for an educational web application. The application aims to provide an online platform that facilitates learning, collaboration, and access to educational resources for students and teachers.

[Company name, website, people involved and their contact details]

2. Business & Project Outline

2.1 Company Description

Our company is an established educational institution that specializes in providing online learning resources and courses for students of all ages. We have a team of experienced educators and subject matter experts who create high-quality educational content.

2.2. App's Role in Business

The web application will serve as a central platform for our educational services, offering a seamless and interactive learning experience for our students. It will enable us to expand our reach, deliver courses effectively, and provide a comprehensive learning environment.

2.3 Project Status

This project involves developing a new version of our existing web application to enhance its features, improve user experience, and incorporate new technologies.

2.4 Problem Statement

We want to address the challenge of engaging and retaining students in online learning environments. We aim to provide a more interactive and personalized learning experience that encourages active participation and supports student success.

2.5 Project Goals

The goals of this project include:

  • Enhancing student engagement and motivation through interactive learning features.
  • Providing a user-friendly interface that facilitates easy navigation and access to educational resources.
  • Improving the efficiency of course management and content delivery for our educators.
  • Expanding our course offerings and providing diverse learning opportunities for students.
  • Increasing student satisfaction and retention rates.

2.6 Target Audience

The target audience for our web application includes K-12 students, college students, and adult learners seeking to enhance their knowledge and skills. We aim to cater to both individual learners and educational institutions looking for supplementary online learning resources.

3. Business Requirements

The software should address the following business requirements:

  • Provide an engaging and intuitive user interface that encourages user participation.
  • Offer a wide range of educational resources, including lectures, course materials, and supplementary materials.
  • Enable collaboration between students and teachers through discussion forums, messaging features, and virtual classrooms.
  • Support teachers in creating and managing courses, assigning and grading assignments, and providing feedback.
  • Ensure scalability to accommodate a growing user base and handle increased demand.
  • Implement robust security measures to protect user data and maintain compliance with data protection regulations.

4. Functional Requirements

4.1 Functionalities

  • User Registration and Authentication: Users can create accounts, providing necessary personal information, and log in securely.
  • Course and Resource Management: Teachers can create and manage courses, upload course materials, and share supplementary resources.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Students and teachers can interact through discussion forums, messaging features, and virtual classrooms.
  • Learning Activities: The platform should offer interactive quizzes, assignments, and simulations to enhance learning outcomes.
  • Progress Tracking and Reporting: The software should track student progress, generate reports, and provide feedback to support individual learning journeys.

4.2 System Architecture and Integration

  • The system architecture should be designed to accommodate scalability and handle increasing user loads.
  • Integration with external services, such as payment gateways or content delivery networks, may be required.

5. Non-Functional Requirements

The software should meet the following non-functional requirements:

5.1 Performance

  • The system should have fast response times to ensure a seamless user experience.
  • It should handle concurrent user interactions efficiently to avoid performance degradation.

5.2 Security

  • User data should be securely stored and transmitted using encryption techniques.
  • Access control mechanisms should be implemented to protect sensitive information.

5.3 Usability

  • The user interface should be intuitive and easy to navigate, catering to users of varying technical abilities.
  • Clear instructions and appropriate feedback should be provided to guide users through the application.

5.4 Compatibility

  • The web application should be compatible with commonly used web browsers and accessible from different devices.

5.5 Data Management

  • Data models and database schemas should be designed to efficiently store user profiles, course information, and activity data.
  • Data validation rules should be implemented to ensure data integrity and consistency.
  • Regular data backups and recovery procedures should be established to prevent data loss.

6. Design Requirements

6.1 User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Design

  • The UI should have a clean and modern design, reflecting the educational context and branding.
  • Wireframes or mockups should be created to illustrate the layout, navigation, and visual elements of the application.

7. Testing and Quality Requirements

The software should undergo comprehensive testing to ensure functional correctness, usability, performance, and security. Quality assurance measures should be followed to deliver a robust and reliable product.

8. Materials

Existing materials, such as mockups, graphic designs, and usability testing results, will be provided to assist in the development process. Any information about existing applications or systems that need to be integrated should also be shared.

9. Organization

9.1 Project Timeline and Milestones

  • Milestone 1: Requirements Gathering and Analysis (Month 1)
  • Milestone 2: UI/UX Design and Wireframing (Month 2)
  • Milestone 3: Development and Testing (Months 3-6)
  • Milestone 4: Deployment and User Acceptance Testing (Month 7)
  • Milestone 5: Project Completion and Handover (Month 8)

9.2 Project Management and Communication

A dedicated project manager will oversee the project, ensuring effective communication among all stakeholders.

9.3 Acceptance Criteria

  • Users can successfully register, log in, and access the educational resources.
  • Teachers can create and manage courses, while students can enroll and access course materials.
  • Communication and collaboration features allow users to interact effectively.
  • Learning activities are functional, providing assessment and feedback.
  • Progress tracking mechanisms accurately monitor user activity and generate reports.

9.4 Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities

  • Client: Provides project requirements, feedback, and final approval.
  • Development Team: Responsible for the design, development, and testing of the application.
  • Project Manager: Oversees project execution, ensures deliverables are met, and facilitates communication between stakeholders.
  • Teachers and Students: Provide feedback, engage in testing, and use the application for teaching and learning purposes.

9.5 Communication and Reporting

  • Regular status updates will be provided to the client, either through email, meetings, or a designated project management tool.
  • Progress reports and demonstrations will be scheduled to gather feedback and ensure alignment with project objectives.

9.6 Change Management

  • Change requests will be evaluated based on their impact on project scope, timeline, and budget.
  • Changes approved by the client will be documented, implemented, and tested accordingly.

Common mistakes to avoid while writing a project specification document

While writing a project specification document, there are several common mistakes that should be avoided to ensure the document effectively captures the project requirements. Some of these mistakes include:

Lack of clarity

Failing to provide clear and concise information can lead to misunderstandings and ambiguity. It's essential to use precise language and avoid vague statements or assumptions.

Incomplete or missing requirements

Not capturing all the necessary requirements can result in gaps or oversights during the development process. Thoroughly analyze and document all functional, non-functional, and technical requirements to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Unclear objectives and goals

Failing to define clear objectives and goals can lead to misalignment between stakeholders and the development team. Clearly state the purpose of the project, the desired outcomes, and how the software will address the business needs.

Lack of stakeholder involvement

Neglecting to involve all relevant stakeholders during the specification process can result in incomplete or inaccurate requirements. Engage stakeholders from various departments or roles to gather comprehensive input and ensure their needs are considered.

Poorly defined acceptance criteria

Unclear acceptance criteria make it challenging to determine when the project's deliverables meet the specified requirements. Clearly define the criteria or tests that will be used to evaluate the software and determine its acceptance.

Overlooking non-functional requirements

Focusing solely on functional requirements and neglecting non-functional aspects such as performance, security, or usability can lead to suboptimal software. Give due consideration to non-functional requirements to ensure a high-quality product.

Lack of documentation consistency

Inconsistent formatting, structure, or terminology throughout the document can create confusion and hinder understanding. Maintain consistency in document structure, language, and formatting to improve readability and clarity.

Failure to account for external dependencies

Ignoring external dependencies, such as integration with third-party systems or compliance with industry regulations, can result in delays or costly modifications later. Identify and document all external dependencies to ensure their inclusion in the development plan.

What to remember about while writing a software development requirements document - tips

When writing a software development requirements document, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Here are some key points to remember:

Clear and concise language

Use clear and concise language to convey requirements accurately. Avoid ambiguity, jargon, or technical terms that may not be understood by all stakeholders.

Stakeholder involvement

Involve all relevant stakeholders in the requirements gathering process to ensure their needs and perspectives are captured. This includes end-users, clients, developers, testers, and any other individuals or teams impacted by the software.

Specificity and detail

Be as specific and detailed as possible when describing requirements. Include information about desired functionality, user interactions, system behaviors, input and output data, error handling, and any other relevant details.

Prioritize requirements

Clearly indicate the priority of each requirement to guide the development team's focus. Distinguish between must-have, should-have, and nice-to-have requirements to facilitate effective decision-making during development.

Use cases and user stories

Utilize use cases or user stories to provide concrete examples of how the software will be used in different scenarios. This helps clarify user interactions, system behavior, and expected outcomes.

Testable requirements

Ensure that each requirement is testable and can be validated against defined acceptance criteria. This helps ensure the quality and correctness of the software.

Non-functional requirements

Don't overlook non-functional requirements such as performance, security, scalability, usability, and compatibility. Include specific metrics, thresholds, or constraints for these aspects to guide the development process.

Validation and review

Validate the requirements document with all stakeholders to ensure accuracy, completeness, and alignment with their expectations. Seek feedback and incorporate necessary revisions before proceeding with development.

Change management

Establish a process for managing change requests during the development process. Clearly define how changes will be evaluated, approved, and incorporated, considering their impact on the project's timeline, budget, and scope.

Documentation maintenance

Continuously update and maintain the requirements document as the project progresses. Document any changes, decisions, or updates to ensure the document remains a reliable reference throughout the software development lifecycle.

By keeping these points in mind, you can create a robust and comprehensive software development requirements document that effectively captures the needs, expectations, and specifications for the software project.

Remember to be straightforward and concise

Good software specification allows the team you want to employ to address your business needs, the scope of your project and your expectations with more robust info than they’d derive from a simple brief.

As long as you show your vision and outline your needs in an unambiguous manner, every step after that draws from this clarity and creates better conditions for the success of your project.

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.

Our promise

Every year, Brainhub helps 750,000+ founders, leaders and software engineers make smart tech decisions. We earn that trust by openly sharing our insights based on practical software engineering experience.


Matt Warcholinski
Chief Growth Officer

A serial entrepreneur, passionate R&D engineer, with 15 years of experience in the tech industry. Shares his expert knowledge about tech, startups, business development, and market analysis.

Read next

No items found...

Get smarter in engineering and leadership in less than 60 seconds.

Join 300+ founders and engineering leaders, and get a weekly newsletter that takes our CEO 5-6 hours to prepare.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.