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last updated: 29th July 2011

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
A number of sample tender documents including outline specifications are available in the Sample Documentation 'Book'.  The list is updated on a regular basis. 

If you are starting to draft a specification it may be worth checking to see if something similar already exists.  If it does, 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
     

You should find that it is easier to modify an existing specification (assuming it is relevant) than to start from scratch. When you are ready to issue your tender documentation, consider placing the new or revised specification document in the Sample Documentation section so that others may benefit from your work as you did from someone else's.

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