RFP (request for proposal) is a document that outlines your problems and business needs for potential vendors to evaluate and provide a proposal. Similar documents include RFQ (request for quotation), used when a client wants to get price estimates only, and RFI (request for information), which is used for vendor research.
For most business owners, writing a request for proposal is rather a complicated task. The challenges are the same regardless of the format you use, be it mobile development, web development, or desktop app development project requirements. This article highlights the structure, expert advice, and actionable tips on how to write an RFP.
What Is an RFP?
Before choosing a software development company, you should prepare a document that outlines all your business and project requirements. It should outline the details of the project, deliverables, and timelines as well as requirements to the vendor itself such as relevant experience, available resources, engagement model, etc.
The main objective of an RFP is to allow the business owner to compare bids and figure out which company suits him better. Besides that, an RFP helps to choose the best engagement model for further cooperation.
A well-thought-out request will return quality proposals, cost-effective projects, and ultimately better results.
Things to Cover in an RFP
Although there are no rigid rules and you can provide any information you want, there are some common elements to include in an RFP. The key thing is to make sure you provide all the necessary information.
With insufficient information, it will be difficult to understand whether a vendor is competent and capable of performing the job. To understand what amount of information to include in your RFP, you should first analyze the requirements of your project.
1. Executive Summary and Company Description
Provide a brief description of your company and outline the project’s objectives, requirements, constraints. This overview should include background information about the requesting organization so that a software development provider could get a better understanding of your e company’s focus. The company should explain its main area of expertise and what product or service it provides or is planning to provide to its customers.
2. Project Goals
There are a few things to keep in mind when explaining the project goals.
The objectives should not be described in abstract terms. For example, if you need to create a web app you should specify the goal as “promote multichannel customer interaction” or “reduce cost and improve customer experience”. Make sure that the goals you describe are final or express the desired path.
It is recommended that the RFP includes your budget frames. When a vendor knows how much money a company can spend on a project, they are much more likely to offer a better deal.
Furthermore, indicating your budget will ensure that your project will be delivered within the desired timeframe. Similarly, the vendor can evaluate if the project can be completed within the estimated time and budget.
4. Scope of Work and Deliverables
It’s important that you describe the scope of work as clearly as possible and specify what you expect from the vendor. This section of your RFP should be the most detailed (which means it will be the longest).
There are numerous factors that will influence the scope of your project. The wealth of information will allow the vendor to provide you with as accurate cost estimate as possible.
5. Response Time
You do not know how long the development process will take, but you almost certainly do have a deadline to stick to. If there is a strict deadline, such as the launch of a new product or ad campaign you must include it in your RFP.
Please keep in mind that the time it takes for a project to be completed varies greatly. If you’re straightforward with your vendors about your timeframe, they’ll be honest with you about the likelihood of its completion.
6. Possible Constraints
Just like you expect vendors to be upfront with you about their prices and abilities, you must also warn them about the bottlenecks that could potentially delay project completion or even prevent certain vendors from being able to deliver the project.
Tips on Creating a Great RFP
1. Make MVP Your Priority
When preparing your RFP for a software development provider, it is always important to keep in mind the option of creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Almost every project has a particular set of features that compiles a solution able to fulfill the end-user needs. For example, the most crucial aspect of a chat app is the ability to exchange messages. Custom backgrounds for the app, on the other hand, could be considered a feature of lower priority. So prioritizing the list of features is one of the best RFP process practices that will increase the accuracy of the evaluation.
2. Don’t Ask to Make “a Facebook” but Do Provide Examples
Frequently, we hear our prospective clients saying something similar to “Make us a copy of *an app* and include *a feature*”. While this is a rather basic way one pitches an idea to someone, this approach usually results in a misunderstanding of the solution’s functionality on the evaluation stage.
Every application has many costly features, which may not be needed for a particular custom solution. Putting all features in a list is always a good idea. This will help to prioritize core functionality, which will result in a faster production process. Despite that, it is always a good idea to include an example of an already existing solution that could illustrate what exactly you are looking for.
3. Show Business Value of Your Idea in RFP
A list of features is nothing if it doesn’t include a context. One of the RFP best practices is including an explanation of a business goal you wish to achieve using this solution. This will help your potential vendor to better understand what exactly this software must do in the context of your existing business needs. While analyzing the contextualized solution, a technical specialist will be able to utilize their experience and quickly point to possible ways to come up with an efficient solution.
4. Share Your Experience
If you have already worked with software outsourcing companies, don’t hesitate to share your experience either positive or negative. Learning about negative experiences gives us more insights into possible pitfalls. This also provides us with a better understanding of your inner production processes. This information will help to avoid similar problems from happening by choosing a better engagement model for the project. A positive experience allows us to double down on previous successes and improve further work.
5. Ask for Expertise if You Don’t Know How to Solve a Problem
It is not necessary to pre-decide the stack, design a solution and approach a vendor with specific steps in mind. It is perfectly normal to have a goal, but have no idea how to reach it. A well-defined idea is enough for us to plan, analyze, and estimate.
RFP is an important step in custom software development. We hope that this blog post gave you all the necessary insides into the request for proposal guidelines that will improve your RFP preparation and decision-making processes.
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