3 Best Practices for Writing Technical Specifications

Posted on 
September 1, 2020
Robert Meisner
Packaging Assoc. Professor & Program Director, U.W.-Stout

Specifications are the contract all stakeholders agree to when creating a new product, and getting them right is vital to a successful project. Traditional specification management processes aren’t designed for the constant change and evolution of the marketplace.

But how do you achieve better version control, streamline communication, and get your customers the products they love faster? No matter your industry use case, specification management is more important than ever.

We sat down with Robert Meisner, Packaging Program Director at University of Wisconsin - Stout, to discuss the top 3 best practices for writing specifications and requirements documents.

3 Best Practices for Writing Technical Specifications

1. Define the Project

So what does a good specification look like? The first step to writing successful specifications is to fully define the project. A complete understanding of what the goals, needs, and specific requirements of the project will result in less specification writing iterations and greater speed-to-market. “If you get the project 75% done and a new player comes in, there shouldn’t be confusion on why your specifications were written the way they are,” Meisner said. Time invested in extrapolating crucial project information has a higher ROI when it comes to the overall project your specifications are written for.“

You should know all the environments your package will be in, the assumptions and risks of the project, and any critical success factors,” Meisner said. Documenting these functional requirements in tandem with your technical specifications puts all stakeholders on the same page right off the bat, so you can focus on creating amazing products and packaging.

Pro tip: Digitize your project charter documentation and attach it to your technical specifications along with any related information. This way, the charter is always accessible and keeps the project goals in sight.

2. Duplicate Specs

Let’s be honest: specifications can be tedious to write. By duplicating existing specs, it's easy to increase turnaround time, and not to mention, saves you from reinventing the wheel every time you write a new specification. Duplicating specs also saves you from making crucial errors that can occur when trying to write a specification from scratch. This can also prevent SKU proliferation, because it forces the spec writer to assess existing specifications.

“Frequently, companies have similar products, whether it be similar structure, graphics, or packaging. Having digital specifications, duplication is really easy,” said Meisner. “You still have to take your time and be careful, but you don’t have to start from square one every time you want to make something new.”

3. Nomenclature Accuracy

One of the biggest issues we see in specification writing is nomenclature errors. Oftentimes, the same specification exists over and over under different names or different specifications are stored under the same name. This makes it difficult to find accurate data, resulting in miscommunication or even project delays. It’s important to establish a naming convention for better data management and clarity during the product development cycle early on, so you can prevent any possible information silos. This also helps in future product development, so you can quickly find an existing spec to use instead of starting from scratch.“Error avoidance is a major consideration with spec development,” Meisner said. “The bigger a company gets, the more problems inaccurate nomenclature causes. Error avoidance is paramount if a company wants to scale up.

Pro tip: Add a technical glossary to your specification document to define and standardize the language you use.There’s a lot to consider when writing specifications, but the keys to success are knowledge of the project, speed, and accuracy of the data. Specifications continually evolve throughout the development process and product lifecycle, so nailing the fundamentals of spec writing are essential. The importance of specifications has led to the creation of Specification Management software. Using software for Specification Management allows you to digitize and share live specifications across your company and supplier base, so you can quickly find information and never worry about outdated specs in different forms like Microsoft Word or Excel again.

Learn how a spec-first approach is revolutionizing how things are made. In The Evolution of Products and Packaging, Specright CEO Matthew Wright provides a first-hand account of the trends that ushered in an explosion of SKUs and an increase in supply chain complexity that plagues manufacturers, brands, and retailers still today.

Over the course of Wright’s journey, the answer to this complexity seemed simple: to keep up, the professionals would need to embrace data to make better, smarter, more sustainable products and packaging. You’ll recognize stories of the common pitfalls organizations slip into when it comes to managing their most important data and get a glimpse into the future of how data can drive the answers to some of our most pressing supply chain challenges."


Robert Meisner

Robert Meisner is an Associate Professor and Program Director for the Bachelor of Science degree in Packaging at the University of Wisconsin Stout. holds a BS in Industrial Technology with an emphasis in Packaging and a Master’s of Science Degree in Packaging Science. He held packaging positions with 3M, Ideal Industries Inc., Imation Corporation, Eastman Kodak Co., Emery Worldwide Airfreight, and United Parcel Service Supply Chain Solutions before joining the University of Wisconsin in 2007.

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