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Product specification

Must be agreed with the customer

Every project exists to produce an item that a customer needs this may be a tangible product, for example, an ocean going liner or a service, for example, design services (although it could be argued that this will produce something tangible in the way of plans, prototypes, reports etc).

Whatever is produced the Project Manager must make sure that the ‘end item’ specification is clear and unambiguous.
For example, if you are designing an ocean going liner and the customer requires it to afford sleeping quarters for 2000 people it would naturally help to know the make up of the passengers, for example, single berth, double, family and what about crew members, etc?

Ask the customer

These aspects must be agreed with the customer.
The only way this will happen is to meet with the customer in a formal manner to discuss all aspects of the product.

Could include

You need to be clear on all the performance, physical and raw material criteria within the scope of a particular cost.

For example:


All criteria must be measurable in a form that is agreed with the customer.
When looking at ‘performance’, does it meet the requirements of the customer?
What is the target specification and what are acceptable tolerances?
For example, if a cable must bear a maximum weight how much higher should the breaking strain be?
Tolerances may well have safety implications.
Trying to meet excessive specifications may have large cost implications.


What is the target specification and what are acceptable tolerances?
Physical characteristics are often easier to perceive and measure but to what accuracy?
A target specification may well be 2.2 Kg in weight with a tolerance of 0.05 Kg.

Hence, the product can weigh anything between 2.15 – 2.25 Kg and meet specification.
Such tolerances may be commonly used in production as a means of controlling quality using Statistical Process Control techniques within a Total Quality management system [see the section on factorial experiment design (FED) and Statistical Process Control (SPC)].

For the majority of products ‘physical specification’ will be agreed via drawings and plans.

Raw materials

The specification of the manufacturing materials will affect the ‘performance’ and may impact upon meeting required tolerances.

The setting and agreement of specifications requires a formal process.

Quality control will be responsible for determining whether products meet specification.

Some typical areas where specification discussion might arise could be:

  • Engineering drawings
  • Performance characteristics (measurable)
  • Regulatory guidelines
  • Software specifications
  • Tolerances

Others may include a need to meet regulatory and legal criteria.
These will need to be considered but are best addressed within the mission statement and Strategies adopted via S.W.O.T. analysis.

It is important to agree exactly what it is you are going to discuss with the customer as requirements can vary enormously. Large projects will almost certainly be broken down into parts for individual departmental specialism e.g. engineering, information technology, regulatory. Each of which will have a distinct input into clarifying customer needs.

Under PRINCE2® 2005 these are described under 'Acceptance Criteria' [see Product Description in file ‘Acceptance criteria.doc’ in the product package] and quality criteria in the 'Product Description' [see the folder 'Product Description' in the product package] of the final product.
The Acceptance Criteria are referred to in many of the PRINCE2 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] processes.

PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.

Non - PRINCE2 information