What Is a Specification Tree?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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A specification tree is a visual representation of the details of a technical system. It usually consists of several rows of boxes, each containing a piece of information, arranged in hierarchical order and connected by vertical and horizontal lines. Specification trees are used in the development of products, operating systems, and other technical projects.

The specification tree is a tool that is frequently used by individuals and organizations to keep on track as they are developing specifications for new or existing entities or projects. It may be used in conjunction with a spec or data sheet and an operational manual. A specification tree can also be used to help create these tools before a larger project is started.

These charts help to prevent system errors by ensuring that important details of a project have been properly mapped out. They also ensure that all relevant parties, from team members to supervisors and executives are on the same page and have the information necessary to perform their roles in the project. A specification tree can be created by one individual or it can be a collaborative effort, with several people or teams contributing data.

The nature of the information included on a specification tree depends upon who is building it. It can be highly technical or simply contain a series of strategic steps. Some of the industries that commonly use the specification tree include manufacturing, engineering, and business.


A specification tree can contain not only the necessary information for a project, but also instructions for its completion. It can be a way for all parties involved to keep apprised of the elements for which they are responsible. Specification trees may also reveal problems in planning before the project begins, thus reducing the chance of errors or wasted resources.

The information on many specification trees is organized with the high level information on the top row, while the other levels descend in order of importance, complexity, or chronological task order. While the vertical rows typically show a hierarchical order, the horizontal rows outline interdependent relationships among the different categories. The specification may also be divided into single and multiple rows and labeled as special categories as well.

Larger or more publicly recognized organizations may have their specifications, and the specification tree to outline them, prepared by a standards organization. These groups will primarily select and outline specifications. They may take responsibility for management and updates as well.


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