Specifications lock in a high proportion of the price you will pay and the value you will receive, over the lifetime of a contract. There are likely to be opportunities to change a specification to influence the price you pay and the value you receive over the lifetime of a contract. This will depend on your contract and the relationship you have with a supplier. A better bet is to write the very best specification at the outset and avoid the hassle, expense and goodwill of making changes after awarding a contract.
Why write the very best specifications?
The very best specifications communicate an awful lot more than just what you need to buy, they:
- Are written to attract the interest of the very best suppliers
- Make your organisation more attractive to do business with
- Minimise interpretation and uncertainty
- Allow suppliers to use all their expertise
- Convey your expectations
- Nullify any advantages incumbent suppliers have
- Shape future working relationships
- Develop a common or shared understanding
Achieve valuable insights
The value to you if you take your time and use suitable expertise to write the very best specifications is:
- More accurate prices
- Lower risk premiums
- A reputation as a must have customer
- Less need to change specifications after contract award
- A more in depth understanding of what you need, not what you want
- Not over specifying
- Improvements you can benefit from straightaway
Thoroughly investigating what you need is an integral part of writing the very best specifications. Clients have before told me the specification I have written or have facilitated for them is wrong. Unfortunately they have been out of touch with what they are buying or need to buy and this has brought them back to reality.
How we help
We use our experience and expertise in writing specifications to help you by:
- Critiquing; by comparing your specifications against specific performance criteria to provide suggestions on how you can improve them
- Supporting; you to write your own specification by working closely with you from determining the impact you want it to have until it is complete and it complies with specific performance criteria
- Writing; a specification with input from those in your organisation who are responsible for administering the contract and managing one or more suppliers performance, and those whose influence will impact on this
The first of the above is relatively straightforward and we tend to do this using email and phone conversations. The second is more involving, as clients tend to contact us when they hit difficulties and not, as is ideal, when they decide they need to write a specification. Here we often visit clients in their offices after having been brought up to date and then provide support by email and telephone.
Writing a specification for you is much more involving, and the number of times we will need to visit you and your colleagues depends on the complexity and risk of the specification. We interview you and your colleagues, and supplement this with emails and phone calls, to find out what you need and then write this into a specification.
What you need
In each of the above, increasing in breadth and depth from Critiquing to Writing, you will need to:
- Provide information on the goods or services you need
- Discuss any incumbent suppliers performance
- Describe specific results you need to achieve
- Agree the desired impact on potential suppliers
- Arrange access to those with direct and indirect influence
For South Bucks we wrote a specification that described the refuse and recycling services they were receiving and the changes they wanted the supplier that won the new seven-year (plus another seven-years) contract to supply. This gave bidders a lot of information about what they needed to change from and what to change to. Bidders were able to identify actual, not perceived risks, and price them accurately. Writing the specification in such a way as to minimise bidders risk premium helped to motivate potential suppliers to tender prices that would, over seven-years, achieve savings of £1.5 million.