2.7.4 What types of specifications can be used?

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There are three basic approaches to the development of a specification as outlined below. 

Input or process specifications

This specification is process based and is usually used when procuring services where certain processes need to be adopted. For example if a contracting authority requires a “back to employment” training programme for 16-23 year olds, although the training content may not be prescribed, the specification may state that training should be delivered in such a way that is accessible to people with disabilities. Alternatively, if a contracting authority requires a management development and training programme for senior officers it may specify the type of training to be delivered such as case studies, role play and so on.

Output or performance specifications

It is normal practice to use output specifications were you believe the sector can offer a innovation, creativity, additional value added services within the bid or the client is not clear what is available within the market place, examples include ICT systems, advertising campaigns and so on. An example might include the requirement for a contracting authority to have a network security system designed and implemented where the specification leaves it open for the bidder to suggest how this will be achieved.   With the construction of works output specifications are normal practice when the client wants an integrated approach to the delivery of a project e.g. design, build, and operate solution. Under these circumstances it would be undesirable to limit the innovation of potential suppliers solutions to a detailed specification.

Technical design specifications

The use of technical specifications is limited to markets were there is a very precise business need or statutory requirement, for example, the maintenance of specialist equipment in buildings such as lifts, heating , air conditions etc.  It is essential under these types of contracts that suppliers are clear on their legal and statutory requirements.

The following tables outline the Advantages and Disadvantages of different methodologies that need to be considered by contracting authorities

 

Table 2-16: Advantages and disadvantages of input specifications

Advantages

Disadvantages

Suppliers are clear on the inputs required by the contracting authority;
The contracting authority is able to determine the processes used in the delivery of the contract
The contracting authority can specify inputs that can more easily be monitored. 
Contracting authority has more control over the processes used to achieve the outputs
The specification documentation generally requires more effort to produce
Suppliers have less opportunity to show innovation in their approach to the contract
The inputs set out in the specification need to be well researched to ensure they are the most economically advantageous option to reach the objectives of the contract

 

Table 2-17: Advantages and disadvantages of output specifications

Advantages

Disadvantages

Suppliers have greater opportunity for innovation, as they are free to offer solutions that in their view best meets the specification;
The specification documentation requires less effort to produce;
There is more opportunity to pass risk onto the supplier, as they have responsibility for the way the specification is met;
The contracting authority can specify outputs that can easily be monitored.  There is likely to be a wider choice of suppliers
Generally requires a more proactive approach to monitoring
May make evaluation more difficult as one may end up comparing “apples” and “oranges” with a wide variety of prices. In these circumstances, contracting authorities will require more complex evaluation criteria.
May not be happy with the process used to achieve the outputs (this can be alleviated by adding the most important processes into the specification)

 

Table 2-18: Advantages and disadvantages of Technical Specifications

Advantages

Disadvantages

With prescriptive specifications there is little scope for misunderstanding.
Evaluation should be more straightforward as price can be a greater deciding factor.
Emphasises critical requirements
Technical specifications may take longer to prepare
Discourages innovation.
Puts more risk on the contracting authority. If specification is incorrect contracting authority will have to pay for variations
Greater chance of over-specifying and therefore increasing the price unnecessarily.

 


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