2. Look out for an ‘output based’ specification

This is unlikely to have a ‘label’ attached to it saying it is this type of specification. A specification is a specification, but I mention an ‘output based’ specification here because, importantly, it shows the expected outcome – what service the buyer expects at the end of the day and what outcome is expected to be achieved by the successful bidder in delivering the contract.

Always bear in mind that it doesn’t specify exactly how you are to go about it – that is for you to show in your answers. In simple terms, the buyer shows you the result, or the ‘destination’ and you then have to illustrate the journey necessary to achieve that result.

This, of course, encourages innovative responses. You get the chance to provide these responses if you see sections of the tender such as ‘Method Statements’ or ‘Supplier Responses’. The important thing to keep in mind about an output based specification is that you still need to read it extremely carefully. Although it doesn’t give as much intrinsic detail, and this may be quite obvious in its lack of detailed information, it should still say what the buyer is trying to achieve at the end of the day. You may have to ‘read between the lines’ to clearly identify the ‘outcome’ and then gear your answers accordingly.

Within it you will often find performance measurables, e.g. Key Performance Indicators. These will show what you are evaluated on – amongst other things – at the tender stage, and also measured on during the contract management stage following the contract award. Always link to these measurables in your method statement answers within the tender. Remember that the buyer still has to have a decent specification, even if it is brief, and it should be one that enables them to evaluate priced responses on a like-for-like basis. It can’t be too vague or else unsuccessful bidders will challenge on the basis that “You didn’t tell us what was expected so how can you say that my answer was wrong or any worse than the others?”

In summary, if you can identify it as having an ‘outcome’, and it asks for your proposals and innovation, concentrate as much as you can on what it is they are actually trying to ask you to explain – keep this in mind at all times until you have finished writing. That said, don’t see an output based specification as an opportunity to be given free rein to go off at a complete tangent. Keep every single answer relevant to the outcomes and objectives stated in the document and you stand a much better chance of winning the tender.

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