Specification of a Cake? Spot the Business Lesson!

Posted on September 25th, 2015 by

Picture of a Cup of Coffee

Today, the ever resourceful team at SpringTide today took part in the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ event for Macmillan Cancer Support.

As an additional bit of charitable fun, there was an Office sweepstake to guess how many spots are on this cake –

Decorate Cake with spots on

It was interesting how different members of our team had different approaches to this challenge. Non-analytical methods and analytical methods, diving the cake into sections and using an average, counting a row and estimating rows, halving, halving again and again and then using a mean or average of 4 sections…

All these methods have analytical merit, but what is the definition of a dot, and what is the definition of ‘on this cake’? This gave us some ‘cake’ for thought… If the definition of a dot was a green dot, it goes to say we could be over estimating the guess. If the definition of a dot was ‘a small sphere no bigger than 2mm diameter’ then again the estimations could be incorrect.   What if the side of the cake we can’t see is not covered in dots at all? Are we actually being asked to count what we can see or in addition count what we cannot see?

Product Specification

Using the cake as an example and putting this into the context of a current category or area of spend, it is vital that a comprehensive understanding of the category is known: that the detail of the product is defined in clear, factual terms and asking the right questions to ensure a buyer has the ability to clearly describe and define all aspects of a product or service. Product or service specification is therefore crucial to ensuring the market is better placed to provide the relevant quotations for the right service or product.

Specification of a product or service must be complete and accurate and always should be challenged: this cake may be fit for the event today – but tomorrow it may need to be made a different colour and have icing piped on it, depending on the specific occasion.

So: specification needs to be relevant, practical, complete and accurate. By challenging the specification we can be assured that we have:

  • assessed the current specification with regard to existing needs and use,
  • determined whether this specification is now right for the outputs of the business or if it needs changing and
  • ensured that the market is able to provide quotations on this specification without exclusions, limitations or compromise.

To delve deeper into a specification, distinct areas should be reviewed in order to ensure we have a detailed knowledge of product, service, costs and provision:

  • What should the product or service deliver and is it being delivered?
  • Do we understand any unique areas of application and frequency?
  • What are the current limitations of this application of product or service?
  • Who else could provide this product or service (are we limiting the supply chain by our specification)?

Once a clearly defined and mutually confirmed understanding of the category and its market is agreed, it is then vital to make an assessment of the supply chain knowledge by:

  • asking ‘Are there any rights to the specification?’
  • asking ‘Could challenges be made further down the supply chain?’ and
  • assessing the flexibility and ease with which any necessary changes can be made

So there was a serious professional lesson to be emphasised by our little challenge this morning! By testing and challenging the category ‘Cake’, together with its application and markets, you will ensure that you are minimising any risks to the business and future supply. Plus you will have a better chance of emerging as a winner from the next coffee morning!

Click here to learn more about Macmillan and the great work they do.  Alternatively if need help with your analytical skills and product specification then get in touch with us today!