A specification is a statement of attributes of a product, process or service. It is a detailed description of work to be done or materials to be used in a project: an instruction that says exactly how to do or make something. A specification is a statement of needs and its purpose is to present to potential suppliers a clear, accurate and comprehensive statement of the organization‘s needs in order that they can propose solutions to those needs.
At the same time, the specification should enable the organization to readily evaluate offers, provide the basis for performance measurement and be a record of evidence in any dispute. A specification is also known as an operational requirement or a statement of requirement. It can take the form of a conformance specification – where the organization sets out how the supplier should meet its needs – or a performance or output-based specification where the supplier is given scope to propose solutions to an expected and known end result? A well written specification should describe the need accurately.
Basic functions / purpose of a Specification
1. Communication: clear unambiguous specifications facilitate communication between the purchasing organization and the supply market and also facilitate communication internally with users.
2. Comparison: clear unambiguous specifications facilitate a fair and more accurate comparison of suppliers‘ bids for contracts, as all bids are being compared on the same basis.
3. Indicate fitness for purpose of use –
4. Specification of a work is required to describe the quality and quantity of different materials required for a construction work and is one of the essential contract documents.
5. This also specifies the workmanship and the method of doing the work. Thus specification of a work serves as a guide to a supervising staff of a contractor as well as to the owner to execute the work to their satisfaction.
6. A work is carried out according to its specification and the contractor is paid for the same. Any change in specification changes the tendered rate.
7. As the rate of work is based on the specification, a contractor can calculate the rates of various items of works in tender with his procurement rates of materials and labour. Thus tender rate without specification of works is baseless, incomplete and invalid.
8. Provide evidence – Specifications can also be used as a record of evidence in any dispute.
Why are functional and performance specifications preferred to technical specifications?
Suppliers can offer alternative and innovative ideas and solutions.
Offerors can focus on providing the best solution.
The focus on outcomes should result in better value for money.
Principles of specification writing
1. If something is not specified, it is unlikely to be provided.
2. The specification is equally binding on both the supplier and the vendor
3. Every requirement increases the price – all specifications should therefore subjected to rigorous value analysis
4. The shorter the specifications as possible be presented in performance terms.
5. Specification should whenever possible be ‗open‘ not closed ‗closed‘ specification
6. Specification must not conflict with national or international standards or safety or environmental laws and regulations. National and international specifications, should be incorporated into individual specifications.