Chapter 4 – Specifications

The term "specification" refers to that portion of a solicitation that describes the characteristics of a commodity or service required by a department.  It is used interchangeably with the terms, "purchase description," "purchase specification," "purchase requirement," "commercial item description, and “scope of work."


A specification may include requirements for samples, prototypes, inspection, testing, warranty and packaging. The specification portion of a solicitation should not contain bidding instructions, contractual terms and conditions, pricing formats or similar materials.

4.1 Authority for Specifications

The ordering department has the authority and responsibility for specifications. Since the purpose of a specification is to translate a user's need into the delivery of goods or services, the development of specifications must be a cooperative effort between the ordering department and Procurement. However, prior to release of a specification, as part of a solicitation, the buyer must be satisfied that its inclusion will result in a fair and equitable purchase.

4.2 Types of Specifications

There are several types of specifications. The development, selection and use of a particular type of specification, is dependent on the situation, time, information available and needs of the user. P2P staff is available to assist with determining which type to use.

  1. Performance Specifications (also known as functional specifications) are preferred since they communicate what a product is to do, rather than how it is to be built. Among the ingredients of a performance specification would be the following:
  • A general description;
  • Required characteristics to performance (minimum/maximum) including speed, storage, production capacity, usage, ability to perform a specific function;
  • Operational requirements, such as limitations on environment, water or air cooling, electrical requirements;
  • Site preparation requirements for which the contractor will be responsible, such as electricity, plumbing, or for which the MFA will be responsible;
  • Compatibility requirements with existing equipment or programs;
  • Conversion requirements for maintaining current equipment or system until switching to the new equipment or system;
  • Installation requirements;
  • Delivery date;
  • Maintenance requirements;
  • Supplies and parts requirements;
  • Quantity and method of pricing;
  • Training Requirements;
  • Warranty; and
  • Service location and response time.
  1. Design Specifications employ dimensional and other physical requirements and concentrate on how a product is fabricated, rather than on what it should do.  Design specifications are normally prepared by architects and engineers for construction or custom manufactured products.  Among the ingredients of a design specification would be the following:
  • Dimensions, tolerances and specific manufacturing or construction processes;
  • References to a manufacturer's brand name or model number; and
  • Use of drawings and other detailed instructions to describe the product.
  1. Brand Name or Equal – When a specification mentions a manufacturer's brand name or model number, it shall also include the words "or equal."  In this regard, "or equal" is interpreted to mean, "substantially equal and capable of performing the essential functions of the referenced brand name or model."  Any specific features of the referenced brand that must be met shall be identified in the requisition. This will help make certain we have as many options as possible. 
  2. Scope of Work for Services – This is a written description of the contractual requirements for the materials and services contained within a Request for Proposal. The following is an outline of the types of information needed to scope out the work that is included in a requisition for purchase of professional or other services:
  • General Requirements. Describe the service provider/contractor's responsibility to provide a service, a specific study, design or report for the requesting department.
  • Specific Requirements. Address the specific tasks, sub-tasks, parameters and limitations that must be considered in producing the service or final project.  Such factors as the following should be included:
    • Details of work environment;
    • Minimum or desired qualifications;
    • Amount of service needed;
    • Location of where service is to be performed;
    • Definition of service unit;
    • Time limitations;
    • Travel regulations or restrictions;
    • Special equipment required; and
    • Other factors affecting working environment.
  • MFA Provided Materials or Services. List any plans, reports, statistics, space, personnel, or other MFA-provided items that must be used by the contractor.
  • Deliverables, Reports and Delivery Dates. Identify the specific delivery dates for all documentation or other products the contractor must furnish.  Be clear about the expectations of the MFA for the contractor's performance.

4.3 Statement of Work 

A statement of work (SOW) is a formal document that details the work, deliverables, locations, timelines, pricing, and other requirements of a contractor in performing specific work. The SOW is typically used after the RFP process, builds on the scope of work, and is used to manage the agreement once it is time to execute. The SOW can also be used as a “task order” when placing an order against an established contract. See Appendix B for assistance in writing a SOW.

4.4 Specification Drafting

Departments are responsible for the first draft of specifications to be submitted to Procurement. Lengthy and complex specifications may be submitted as an attachment in EAS on the requisition. After Procurement has reviewed the specifications and written any special terms and conditions in addition to our standard terms and conditions, the department will be forwarded a draft for review and approval. Keep the following in mind when writing specifications:

  • Be specific and detailed in presenting mandatory requirements in construction projects, goods or services, (e.g., licensing, drawings, blueprints, bonding requirements, and insurance).
  • State a requirement of fact once, and avoid duplication.
  • Don’t present something as mandatory if it is really optional;
  • Try not to write specifications or scopes of work that restrict response to a single bidder/offeror.