Specifications, like vision documents, are a form of communication. When used effectively, they convey important information in a simple and easy-to-consume way. When used poorly, they are hard to read, tedious to create, and frustrating for everyone who comes in contact with them. Often, customers write lousy specs. Most of the time, weak or failed specifications come from a misunderstanding about what vendors are capable of and what they can’t possibly achieve.
A technical specification details the engineering approach needed to fulfill the feature specification. It only needs to be detailed enough to describe the most complex or reused components that other engineers might reuse. Also, specs provide supporting evidence for the work items needed for a feature or condition. Sometimes, the depth or technical nature of a feature specification eliminates the need for a separate technical spec.
Here’s a list of the important things specs can do:
– Describe effectively the functionality of what will be built.
– Help designers clarify decisions by forcing them to be specific.
– Allow the review, questioning, and discussion of detailed plans before full implementation begins.
– Communicate information from one to many.
It is an important task of sales engineers to receive, interpret and transmit the specifications desired by customers so that the quotation process could be the closest to meeting the real requirements of the customer’s project. If there is a team-wide template for specs, it should be written with these criteria in mind. In another case, the sales team’s leaders should put together a template for the team.
Everyone who will have to read or write specs should be asked to review the list and give feedback on it before specs are written. Maybe there’s something listed that the team doesn’t need specs for, or something isn’t listed that should be added. This can be a quick discussion. Even a short chat about it sets expectations for what the specs will contribute, and gives the team a chance to provide suggestions for better ways to go about doing it.
References: [Berkun, 2008] Making Things Happen