Writing a specification of requirements

Schools provide a specification of requirements to ensure that suppliers are fully aware of their needs and can submit their best offer. Learn more about writing an effective specification.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


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

When buying certain goods or services, a school may need to prepare a specification of requirements document for the supplier.

Different types of specifications

Type of  specification Description



States the action(s) that the supplier will take to meet the school’s needs.


Example: Cleaning staff will vacuum all classroom floors daily.




States the end outcome that the 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.


Depending on what the 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 specification) and also state the end outcome that the service should deliver.

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, than an input requirement.

Developing the requirements

Before starting

By speaking to the people who are most likely to be impacted by a purchase, the requirements most in need of being conveyed can be established. These are the people who will most regularly use the good, or benefit from the service.

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

Phrasing the requirement

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

All good requirements have five traits.

Trait Description



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 if 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’).




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

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


When stating 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 ensure that 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 doing so makes the point more clearly.

Reviewing requirements

When all requirements have been drafted, review them, to confirm that they clearly convey the school’s needs.

To ensure that the requirement is appropriate, ask:

  • 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?

To ensure that the requirement is written effectively, ask if it confirms:

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

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