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Writing A Functional Specification
Writers hate coding, and developers hate writing. And never the twain shall meet...except, perhaps, in a functional specification.

| Getting Formal |

According to http://www.whatis.com/, a functional specification is "...a formal document used to describe in detail for software developers a product's intended capabilities, appearance, and interactions with users...". Webopedia at http://www.webopedia.com/ has a similar definition - it calls a functional specification "...a formal description of a software system that is used as a blueprint for implementing the program...".

A functional specification is written primarily for the development team, with the objective of providing the members of that team with all the information they need to begin designing an application. It aims at outlining the entire experience of the application, without really getting into the details of implementation, thereby providing the developers with a comprehensive knowledge base and reference for any and all questions concerning the project. The idea here is for the kinks in the design to be worked out at a conceptual level, and (more importantly) for the customer to get a clear idea of what the deliverable is and how it will work.

Once finalized and approved by the customer, the functional specification can be used by a software developer to create a detailed software design document, which contains high-level architectural diagrams of the system, together with descriptions of the components used and their relationships via a modeling language. Application development then becomes a matter of implementing what has been frozen in the specification.

The level of detail in this document varies from project to project and company to company, and depends on the level of complexity inherent in the project, and the amount of time and staff available to compile the data obtained into a structured report. If you're an independent developer or a project manager with a small team, you might prefer a smaller, simpler document; if, on the other hand, you have a full-fledged team behind you, work in a large, process-driven organization and/or have a complex project to tackle, you might prefer a document that drills down to the very last level of detail.

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