Features vs Requirements – Requirements Management Basics

One of the questions that seems to frequently come up in my discussions these days is:

What’s the difference between a Requirement and a Feature?

Let me try and explain this difference in this short blog post.

What is a Requirement?

One of my favorite books on requirements, “Software Requirements,” by Karl Wiegers defines a requirement as follows:

A statement of a customer need or objective, or of a condition or capability that a product must possess to satisfy such a need or objective.

Another of my favorite books on requirements, “Mastering the Requirements Process,” by Suzanne & James Robertson defines a requirement as follows:

A requirement is something the product must do or a quality it must have.

Great definitions, both. Taking these into account, I’d define it as follows:

A requirement is a capability that a product must possess or something a product must do in order to ultimately satisfy a customer need.

A requirement tends to be more granular, and is usually written with the implementation in mind. Those who consume requirements tend to be engineers or technical audience.

What is a Feature, Then?

Again, culling from the books linked above, I’d define a feature as follows:

A feature is a set of related requirements that allows the user to satisfy a business objective or need.

A feature tends to be a “higher-level” objective than a requirement – and is usually more focused on business needs rather than implementation.

Usually a feature is something you’ll print on a detailed datasheet of your product/service – i.e. intended to be shared with your customers and prospective customers.

An Example

Do you find the definitions above a little hazy? Here’s an example to help give you a more tangible feel. Let’s say you’re designing an online bookstore to compete with Amazon. [P.S. I wish you good luck, you're gonna need it! ;) ]

For such a project, here’s an example of a feature:

  • 1-Click Ordering

Here are some examples of requirements related to this feature:

  • User shall be able to activate 1-click ordering within his account
  • User shall be able to deactivate 1-click ordering within his account
  • User shall be able to order books with just 1 click
  • User shall be able to “Undo” his 1-click order for a period of 30 minutes from the time he placed such an order

I hope you find this brief blog post helpful to understand the distinction between a requirement and a feature.

Editor’s Note:
Interested in an affordable, enterprise-quality software to help you manage requirements in a better way? Check out FREE 30-Day trial of Accompa or Sign Up for a Demo.

I'm your author, Michael Shrivathsan, an expert in product management with successful experience at several innovative companies in Silicon Valley, USA over the past two decades. I'm also a USPTO patent recipient. For my day job, I'm the VP of Product Management at Accompa, we make the popular requirements management software used by Product Management, Business Analysis, and related teams.

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