Writing a specification of requirements

When buying certain goods or services, your school may need to prepare a "specification of requirements" document for suppliers. This document will help suppliers submit their best offer because they are fully aware of your needs.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Staff responsible for buying in schools
  • Boards

Types of specifications

There are 2 different specifications, input and output.


An input specification states the action that the supplier will take to meet the school’s needs.

Example: Cleaning staff will vacuum all classroom floors daily.


An outcome specification states the end result a supplier’s goods or services are expected to deliver. The supplier has the freedom to achieve that outcome by any way they choose.

Example: The print solution must enable the school to track, manage and reduce print volumes. 

Developing your requirements

Depending on what your school is buying, a mix of input and outcome specifications may be required.

For example, for cleaning, certain tasks may need to be described in a prescriptive way (input) and also state the end result that the service should deliver (outcome).

You should always look to include outcomes in your specification of requirements. It is often easier for schools to judge how a supplier has performed against an outcome specification rather than an input specification.

Before you start

By speaking to the people who are most likely to be impacted by a purchase, you can establish the most important requirements to specify. These are the people who will most regularly use the product or benefit from the service.

Gather details and lessons learned from previous contracts for the same or similar goods or services.

Communicating your requirements

Think about which requirements are essential and which are nice-to-haves. Capture this in the requirements specification.

A good requirement should be SMART:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time bound

These factors will help your school to see if the supplier is meeting their requirements.


The supplier should know exactly what action needs to be carried out or provided by their staff in order to meet the requirement.


Your school should be able to measure with certainty whether the supplier is meeting the requirement.


The supplier should be able to meet the requirement when they make all reasonable efforts to do so.


The supplier should be able to clearly understand how the requirement contributes to achieving an overall goal (such as 'providing a clean school environment').

Time bound

The supplier should understand when they need to complete the action by.

What to avoid

When stating your requirements, avoid the use of:

  • brand names, trademarks, or trade names (this will allow suppliers to offer alternative products that meet the outcome)
  • jargon (to make sure the requirement is clear and unambiguous).

Presenting the requirement

Long paragraphs can be difficult for a reader to follow. Some information is best presented in bullet point form. Other information is best shown in a table.

Try presenting requirements in different ways to see if it makes your point more clearly.

Reviewing requirements

When all requirements have been drafted, you should review them to confirm they clearly convey your school’s needs.


  • why are we asking for this?
  • what results do we want to see from this?
  • is it possible for the supplier to deliver this good or service in this way?

If your requirement is written effectively it should confirm:

  • the exact good or service required
  • how the good or service will be delivered
  • who will be involved in delivery
  • where and when the product or service will be delivered or delivered by.

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