Projects of every conceivable size are the cogs and gears in the world of businesses and industries. These efforts, successes and failures to achieve, are in some ways, the mile markers of human progress. Collectively, over time, they record the accomplishments of building cities and developing products. A core element of successful projects is the tool of specifications. Specifications often take the form of detailed documents that contribute to a project’s success or failure.
The responsibility of developing specifications usually falls upon engineers, specialists and technicians within organizations. An electrical or RF engineer specifies the frequency and power requirements of a quadrature hybrid coupler for a radio station’s transmitter. Medical technologists define the equipment needed for a new testing laboratory. Actuaries quantify acceptable risk coverages in insurance policies. These are but a few examples that highlight the importance of good specifications.
Appropriate specifications fulfill many roles in the life of a project. Details contained within these documents aid management immensely in decision making. When a project is undertaken, tasks and accountabilities must be assigned. Resources needed for each step of execution must be allocated. Scheduling of different sub-tasks is required to keep the project moving. Good specifications contribute to each of these elements.
Specifications and Task Assignments
Once an agreement is reached that a project merits consideration a project manager is assigned to define the scope. This person, in a sense, develops a specification for the entirety of the effort. They must subdivide work required, identify needed personnel and assign roles. Scoping of the work is often informed by input from other managers. That input benefits from preliminary specifications that help to identify the most appropriate task assignments within the organization.
Specifications and Resource Allocation
This element of project management relies heavily on specifications. After tasks have been assigned, each task owner should provide the project manager with a list of specifications detailing required equipment, labor and capital. Assembling these specifications, the project manager can define the dimensions of the required resources and weigh the likelihood of project profitability. An incremental report back to upper management at this stage helps determine whether the project proceeds.
Specifications and Scheduling
Assuming the decision is made to go forward with a project, the roles and resources are now formalized, and work commences. The project manager is well-advised at this point to have already laid out interdependencies among sub-tasks and defined a timeline. Specifications contribute here by identifying equipment or other resources with longer lead-times. Overall project progress is often driven by these constraints.
The role of specifications in successful project consummation is easily overlooked. Experienced project managers, equipped with this awareness, will focus on defining specifications early in a project’s life. Achieving on-time and under-budget goals may well depend on this singular concept.