Writing specifications

Drafting a specification for whatever is required is one of the most important tasks in the procurement process. The specification must give potential suppliers enough information to know what it is needed, however, it cannot be too prescriptive or target a particular brand or product. There is no pre-determined length for a specification it may be:

  • simply a few words [eg boxes (of 100) 25mm paperclips] or
  • run to many pages and contain technical drawings etc [eg the specification for the design of a new building]

There are a number of simple rules to remember when drafting a specification

  • Write it as an output specification.  Describe what you want the goods/services to do. [example]
  • Don't use brand names to describe a product. [example]
  • Don't use vague words -think about what the words mean and whether the reader will understand their context [example]
  • Don't use jargon which should be avoided if at all possible [example]
  • Don’t use acronyms which are not commonly known

Sample Specifications
If you are starting to draft a specification it may be worth checking to see if something similar already exists.  You should find that it is easier to modify an existing specification (assuming it is relevant) than to start from scratch. Use the document as a starting point, think about each aspect of the description and challenge it.  Ask yourself:

  • Is the element relevant to my needs'
  • Does it describe what is required'
  • What words need to be changed, removed etc

The Toolkit section of this website provides some sample specifications for various goods and services.