The Art of Planning and Writing Specifications and Requirements


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One of the most difficult tasks that purchasers face is converting user or internal customer needs to new specifications and requirements. For most, it’s easier said than done, while others simply dread the thought of constructing a Statement of Work. Failure to develop a properly defined scope of work, specification, or requirement may mean the solicitation will need to be abandoned and repeated with corrections. Purchasers who are involved in putting together specifications, requirements, or SOWs need to be aware that it is worth the investment, time, and effort to create a high quality outcome. Thus, it is important that purchasers understand the importance of good specifications and requirements, as well as their contractual and practical significance.

This presentation will offer you practical techniques, tools, and process methods for constructing effective specifications, requirements, and SOWs.

Key areas of focus that will be discussed in this workshop are:
 Internal customer or user needs
 The importance of a scope of work
 SOWs and work requirements
 The Statement of Work
 Writing specifications and requirements

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The Art of Planning and Writing Specifications and Requirements

  1. 1. Session Code: CI THE ART OF PLANNING AND WRITING SPECIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS Thomas L. Tanel, C.P.M. President and CEO CATTAN Services Group, Inc. Monday, April 26 2010, 10:40 AM
  2. 2. Presentation Outline • • • • • • • Introduction Internal or customer needs The importance of a scope of work SOWs and work requirements The Statement of Work Writing specifications and requirements Conclusions and Q&A
  3. 3. Development of Specifications and Requirements • Most critical part of the solicitation and contracting process • Each purchase requires its own specification • The specification communicates the user’s requirements to the service provider
  4. 4. Internal Customer or User Needs • It is an evolutionary process • Involves continuous liaison among: – Internal customer or user – Specification writer – Procurement/purchasing staff
  5. 5. Internal Customer or User Needs • Purchasing staff should be involved from the beginning: 1. Internal customer should consult because it saves time and money in long run 2. Early Purchasing Involvement (EPI) to assure a meeting of the minds 3. Over 70% of potential cost savings occur during the concept, design or SOW stage
  6. 6. Internal Customer or User Needs • Purchasing must drive the efforts • Purchasing needs to understand what attributes are relevant and significant • Purchasing must focus on creating just what users want
  7. 7. Importance of the Scope of Work • Why is it important? – Converting user or internal customer needs to new specifications and requirements – Converting user or internal customer needs for existing or given specifications and requirements
  8. 8. Scope of Work—What To Include Minimum essential elements to include in the Scope of Work • Provide background information • Specify contractor deadlines • Ascertain how contractors identify costs • Identify unique requirements • Require confidentiality or non-disclosure • Warrant or verify licenses, certifications, etc.
  9. 9. Scope of Work & Issuing the RFI • An RFI is generally used for market exploration • It is used to notify contractors of an opportunity. • It may be used to help a purchaser determine, based on the responses, which contractors will be invited to submit a detailed RFP.
  10. 10. Structuring A Scope of Work • Scope of Work definition—The work involved in the definition, design, and production of the components for a project’s deliverables and their assembly into a satisfactory working whole. • A scope of work describes the work to be performed usually includes a timeline and level of effort so a supplier or vendor can respond to the RFP with a proposal and cost estimate.
  11. 11. Scope of Work— Components • • • • • • • • • • Project Background and Objectives Project Description Timetable/Schedule Vendor or Contractor Cost Proposal Political or Business Environment Additional Contractor Qualifications Additional Contractual Terms Contractor Liability Issues Evaluation Criteria Administrative Items What does the Scope of Work include? Is there a time phased requirement for completion?
  12. 12. Specifications Defined—A Document • Describes the essential technical requirements for items, materials or services including the procedures for determining whether or not the requirements have been met • Specifies, in a complete, precise, verifiable manner, the requirements, design, behavior, or other characteristics of a system, component, product, result, or service
  13. 13. Simple Versus Complex Specifications • Simple specification defines the requirement with less information • Complex specifications are written, lengthy documents for one-off requirements
  14. 14. The Statement of Work (SOW) • SOWs will rarely consist of pure functional, performance, or design specifications. • They will almost always consist of a predominant type or some combination. • It is important that their legal and practical significance be understood.
  15. 15. Three Generic Classes of Statements of Work (SOWs)
  16. 16. Functional Specifications • The broadest type of work description that requires only that the contractor achieve an end result. • Does not specify the means of achieving that result, nor does it specify the processes or procedures which the contractor is required to use in performance.
  17. 17. Performance Specification  Next in the breadth of the types of SOWs is a performance specification.  Differs from the functional specification in that it specifies the means by which the performance objective is to be achieved.
  18. 18. Design Specifications  The most restrictive of the three types because of the level of detail.  Not only is the means of performance specified, the processes and procedures which must be used in performing the work are prescribed.
  19. 19. Benefits of a Well Written Statement of Work (SOW)
  20. 20. Statement of Work— Performance Based Contract The key factor in the success of The key factor in the success of the Performance Based Contract the Performance Based Contract is your ability to write good is your ability to write good Statement of Work requirements. Statement of Work requirements.
  21. 21. Performance Based Requirement—Example Standard Maximum Allowable Degree of Deviation from Requirement (ASL) Operate Taxi Customer must be picked up within 4 minutes of the agreed upon time. 5% 8% Operate Scheduled Bus Bus must not arrive at the stop later than scheduled time or depart earlier than schedule time plus or minus 2 minutes. 4% 10% Operate Unplanned Bus Bus must arrive not later than 4 minutes from agreed upon time between customer and dispatcher. 5% 4% Required Service ASL (Authorized Service Level) Method of Contract Surveillance Deduction from Contract Price for Exceeding the ASL
  22. 22. Planning the Statement of Work or Specification • Writing a statement of work (requirement) or specification (spec) to make it “contractible’ and “administrable” is a serious challenge to the cross-functional writing team. • We recommend the following 7 steps on the next 3 slides.
  23. 23. Planning the Statement of Work or Specification 1. A review of the requirements and documents 2. A review of the various documentation 3. The identification of potential cost drivers and items subject to price volatility
  24. 24. Planning the Statement of Work or Specification 4. The establishment of a preliminary work breakdown structure (WBS). 5. Identification of the participating functional departments
  25. 25. Planning the Statement of Work or Specification 6. Description of work tasks in terms of data to be delivered 7. Specification of work tasks in performance terms
  26. 26. Attributes of Good SOW Requirements • • • • • • • • Complete Consistent Correct Clear Traceable Modifiable Verifiable Implementation free
  27. 27. Guide to Preparing a SOW—Elements • Introduction & Background • Objectives • Scope of Work • Task Identification • Timeframe & Deliverables • Contract Budget • Other Factors to Consider Minimum essential elements to include in the Statement of Work
  28. 28. The Language of Specification • Remember, you are writing specifications. • Try not to you use words that allow a broad range of interpretation • Avoid vague and ambiguous adjectives and adverbs
  29. 29. Specifications & Requirements— Write, Edit, … & Rewrite • Rewriting and editing are, literally, half the battle. • It is important that it is perfect: – – – – no spelling errors, no grammatical errors, no logic errors, and no mock up errors either.
  30. 30. Specifications & Requirements— Write, Edit, … & Rewrite Some basic things to do during the editing process: 1. Check your table of contents. 2. Edit from beginning to end at least three times after you think it is done. 3. Have someone else proofread for you.
  31. 31. Specifications & Requirements— Write, Edit, … & Rewrite 4. 5. 6. 7. Review it. Avoid self-conflicting input. Check for tiering specifications. Identify paragraph cross-references which cite other paragraphs within the same document. 8. Complete your final editing
  32. 32. Specifications & Requirements— Write, Edit, … & Rewrite • Finally, prepare the functional spec or requirement for another review. • Have everybody sign off on it once a consensus has been made.
  33. 33. Common Causes of SOW Misinterpretation • No pattern, structure, or chronological order • Wide variations in different task descriptions • Having tasks, specifications, and special instructions scattered throughout the SOW • Failure to use a table of contents • Failure to obtain independent 3rd party review • Using imprecise language
  34. 34. Conclusion and Q&A • Conclusions • Questions and Answers • Thank You • Upcoming Track Sessions © 2010 CATTAN Services Group, Inc.
  35. 35. Track 5: Services Procurement • Monday – BI – CI 9:20 – 10:20 am Strategic Sourcing for Entertainment 10:40 – 11:40 am Planning & Writing Specs & Requirements • Tuesday – EI 10:20 – 11:40 am Can Creative Vision Help Your Bottom Line? – FH 1:30 – 2:40 pm Optimizing Meetings Spend – GI 3:00 – 4:00 pm Another Way to Negotiate Service Contracts