Every year, IT directors or business-people who want to develop their software projects spend billions of dollars on professional IT services. According to Grandview Research, the global market’s size for IT professional services was estimated at USD 777.28 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 11.2% from 2022 to 2030.
It is agreed that there is a lot of money at stake. Therefore, enterprise IT managers or C-level enterprises must have robust processes to conduct a Request for Proposal (RFP) and develop a subsequent Statement of Work (SOW) that will be used to interact with the selected vendor.
However, many clients who want app development services lack technical knowledge on how to write a request for proposals. Accordingly, the best way to create RFP document is with the RFP template—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Soon we will give you a sample RFP template for software projects, which you can access for free. It will help you create an RFP without any external help. But first, let’s dive into everything you need to know about RFPs.
Through this article, we hope to shed light on this important topic to help you leverage RFPs to your benefit and in the best interest of your software project. We will go through the essentials of the RFP process, how to write a structured RFP for software development, and practical tips for leveraging it efficiently.
What is an RFP for software development?
According to the Forbes Technology Council, vague requirements are one of the most frequent causes of failure in development. When it comes to searching for a dedicated software development team, the customer needs to clearly formulate their requirements during the earliest stages. In many ways, for experienced software service providers such as Jaydevs, the RFP document becomes the statement of work for the contract and sets the tone for the entire project development process.
Finding the right software development company for your actual project is a challenging process. However, requesting a proposal (RFP) makes it significantly easier.
A software development request for a proposal is the initial document you write before selecting a software development company that comprehensively describes your project. It is used to request proposals from various software vendors you have shortlisted for your project.
An effective request for a proposal ensures transparency, clear requirements, and reduced risks. The more clearly you highlight your requirements, the more precisely your project will be executed. This document will be read by vendors and software development companies that are interested in the work, and capable of doing it will respond with a detailed proposal. Multiple bids are then compared in order to find the best software vendor.
Note: RFP for software development should not be so detailed that it prevents the contractor’s creativity, or so vague that the contractor is left stumped.
Who should write an RFP?
While writing an RFP for software development, it helps to have members from all the relevant teams that can help you identify what exactly your project requires. Since the most crucial goal of the RFP document is to choose an IT vendor, only someone rooting for the project’s success can choose the best option.
An RFP for software developemnt is usually drafted by a person with good knowledge about the project. This can be a company CEO, a co-founder, a product owner, or a team directly involved in the project and fully aware of all the specifications and constraints. More specifically, the important thing is that the RFP is writing with a technician who understands how things described in the request for a proposal can be accomplished. In simple terms, clients specify what should be done, while technicians specify how it should be done.
Note: sometimes CEOs and other high-level executives may not have a broad understanding of a project’s details, unless we are talking about a small startup. Therefore, assigning the RFP software development to those closer to the day-to-day work routine is always wise.
Why is software development RFP important for IT projects?
The benefits of an RFP for software development
The benefits of using RFP for software development lie in maximizing efficiency while minimizing risk. A properly formulated request for a proposal allows you to:
- RFPs help select the most dedicated software development team. As soon as you have an RFP, it becomes easier for you to evaluate potential vendors side by side and understand whether the software development team truly suits your project and meets specific technical requirements.
- RFP assesses the various points of view concerning your project. You receive a quality technique of revising, formulating and streamlining your idea regarding the project needs.
- A contract free of surprises. If you put together a complete, detailed request for a proposal, you’ll know exactly what each contractor is committed to providing. There are no surprises or unexpected wedding bills since you’ve already asked about the costs. By knowing exactly what services and, at what price, you could always remain within your budget.
- Save time. A detailed RFP will help you save time and strength as you would spend less time on recurring questions about the details of your project. You would filter out development team contractors, and don’t need to rectify errors that may have occurred from discrepancies in the phrasing of tasks or project requirements.
RFP vs. RFI vs. RFQ
In some cases, an RFP can be confused for a request for information (RFI) or a request for quotation (RFQ).
Request for information (RFI) is used when the client knows what they want from the bidder but require more detailed information. Thus, an RFI is aimed more towards clarifying the information provided by the IT vendor or contractor.
Another document often confused with an RFP is a request for quotation (RFQ). Again, this document is less detailed and focuses only on how much the vendor or contractor wants to receive for their product or service. Additionally, RFQs can ask for information about how the vendor or contractor will meet your requirements.
In short, RFIs and RFQs are subsets of RFPs, which is the first level for proposals to solve a business problem or project need. As a result, it is usually much more detailed and with strict technical requirements, including a list of technologies and timelines.
The RFP Process: How to write an effective request for a proposal
The request for proposal has to be comprehensive enough to involve the most critical aspects so that it can offer a clear image of what you want to achieve, but without being overwhelming. The following paragraph shows five steps in a standard request for proposal process.
Step 1. Executive summary, company description, and project goals
The executive summary is simply a project overview of your overall goals, requirements, and limitations.
Project overview is a brief introduction that includes the current state of the product, whether it’s still an idea, a prototype, or a developing solution.
You are searching for a software development vendor to help you create a mobile-friendly app. So, write a brief description of the project and introduce your company. Make it concise but informative.
Note regarding project goals:
- These should go beyond your scope of business. For instance, the purpose of creating a website is to promote multichannel interaction with your customers, not just for product sales.
- They should specify the growth area of your business—for instance, double in sales by 2022.
Why is this an important step? By providing project information and company background, you will ensure that the suppliers understand what your company wants. This allows them to propose solutions that correspond to your business goals.
Step 2. Software Development Project scope
When we move to the technical aspect of your request for a proposal, everything gets a bit more complicated. This part will probably be the longest component of your request for a proposal for a software development company.
Why is this an important step? The software development team aims to determine the amount of work, i.e., project lead time and cost by multiplying it to the appropriate developers’ hourly rates.
2.1. Project management requirements
In this section, you stipulate how you plan to maintain communication and manage the dedicated software development team; you should ask what project management tools they use and how you will be updated about each milestone.
Communication: Regulation interaction with the software team is necessary to determine, describe and manage tasks and perform process modeling. Trello, Skype, and Jira are popular project management tools that standard software development companies use.
Methodology: Choosing the right methodology is important as it determines how you will work with the developers. There is no universal methodology for working with a dedicated team since each have their own set of principles, processes, and advantages.
Some may ensure you succeed while others may lead you to failure. Your choice of methodology depends on the project and your requirements; for instance, Waterfall, Agile, Kanban, or something else.
Make sure you or your team is comfortable with the project management tool that your vendor will be using. This will ensure a smooth workflow and success.
Note: Don’t forget to decide whether you need a Project Manager in advance. It is important because, if you have no PM, you must manage the team yourself. For this, you must possess sufficient time and management skills.
2.2. Infrastructure requirements
Specify the main software infrastructure requirements to ensure project security at every stage of the development.
Computer Protection/Internet Security/Data Security. Software developers must use:
- Antiviral software managed on the domain level
- Network Attack Blocker
- IPS (Intrusion Prevention System)
- Network Security
- SaaS Security
- Spam Protection
They must also adhere to high security standards i.e., backup generators and uninterrupted power supplies. For example, to ensure data security, it is necessary to implement regular infrastructure monitoring, password management, and email authentication.
Intellectual Property Rights in Software. To protect your IP, you may use contracts, NDAs, and internal methods to ensure the safety of your IP address.
2.3. Functional requirements
Enumerate your required functions. Provide clear requirements for internal and external development.
When listing the functions you propose, always correlate them to the benefit they provide so that designers and software developers precisely understand the task you are trying to resolve. Below you will find a list of possible functions that you may use when stipulating project requirements in your request for a proposal.
For example, the orders processing system must inform the manager about new orders.
For example, the buyer must be able to add goods to the “Favorites” folder.
- Optimization-oriented (maximum benefit for the user).
For example, the buyer doesn’t have to confirm the order after it is placed.
- Object-oriented (list of characteristics).
For example, the order must have the following properties: user information, delivery address, list of items, cash, or card payment.
For example, orders need to be synchronized with an ERP system to allow for account adjustments and process orders quickly.
Template for the description of each functional requirement:
- Feature: the name of new functions.
- Description: description of what the new functions will do.
- Goal: task or action that the user wants to perform.
- User problem: pressure point.
- Value for user: how the proposed solution will help the user.
- Assumptions: business, user, or technical assumptions.
- Forbidden: everything beyond the scope of this function.It is important to choose the metrics for evaluating each of your functions in advance. By doing so, you will be able to understand whether they achieve their desired results.
How to formulate?
We believe that [name of function] will make it possible to achieve [result].
Example: Multi-language support will increase the number of customers within the international market by 40%.
Note: When it comes to writing a request for a proposal, functional requirements are important but not critical. However, it is crucial to convey the business objective. Here’s an exaggerated example: I want convenient Netflix-style navigation, Amazon-style filtration mechanics, and Spotify-like design. As for functionality, the chosen software development company may provide recommendations.
2.4. Quality assurance & Testing requirements
This section is aimed at maintaining and improving product quality, as well as reducing or eliminating production errors. It is impossible to develop a software solution without a reliable quality assurance process.
Based on the project’s requirements, choose the type of test that is most suitable for your needs. You can find out which options suit you over at Guru99.
If necessary, state the software testing tools you require:
- Testim – scalable AI-based testing automation.
- Kobiton – best suited for application testing automation on mobile devices.
- mabl – testing automation platform with low code level.
- Global App Testing – best suited for integration with third-party tools.
- QAProSoft – free, open-source testing automation ecosystem.
- Selenium – open-source set of tools for software automation and testing. Provides results for testing with several solutions: for example, Selenium WebDriver, Selenium IDE, and Selenium Grid.
2.5. Platform’s requirements
Choosing the number of platforms can be influenced by factors such as, time, target audience, and budget. Determine the platform(s) on which the solution must be implemented:
The number of required platforms directly affects the cost of your software development project. In addition, keep in mind that every platform will require a different level of developer experience and skills, which results in financial constraints.
Step 3. Timeline
Time plays an essential part as it helps set priorities. Therefore, you need to ask yourself two important questions:
- Is there a scheduled launch date for your software development project?
- When does the dedicated software development team need to start working on the application?
Why is this step important? By having this information, the suppliers can gather a clear idea of whether they can:
- Allocate the necessary number of specialists for your project.
- Meet the specified deadlines.
- Realize that the interim development stages are completed.
Step 4. Pricing model and budget
You can stipulate the supposed cost of the entire project or a breakdown of the budget for each stage of software development.
If the cost assessment for the project doesn’t fit your budget, the dedicated software development team may help you decide what to leave for later.
For instance, if you require a real-time chat function, there are two ways, where each has a different cost:
- Chat that allows you to track when a person is typing or when your message has been read; set dates and delete/edit messages. This method is more expensive.
- Simple real-time chat that performs its main purpose which is to communicate. Alternatively, this approach is cheaper.
Why is this step important? Reality doesn’t always match our expectations. Therefore, it is important to capture the expected results at a known amount.
Step 5. Vendor bids and software vendors selection criteria
Before choosing a software vendor for your project, provide a list of evaluation criteria that suits your needs. Decide for yourself which information, from potential contractors, you need. For instance, ask a supplier to provide the following:
- A brief description of the developmnet company (i.e., company name and background, structure, qualification, and location).
- A brief description of the development team (i.e., experience, and resumes).
- Information regarding processes (i.e., how software development projects are managed, how quality is controlled, and what tools are used).
- Project plan (i.e., stages and timeframes).
- Technical vision for the project (i.e., technologies and architecture).
- Budget estimation (i.e., required project expenses, rates of specialists, and possible additional expenses).
- Intellectual property conditions.
- Suggestions for improvement of the project and functions not mentioned in the project description.
- Previous customers’ testimonials.
You will receive various offers, and each company will have its strengths, reputation, and capabilities. Some will be competitive due to low costs while others will provide higher quality. Remember that the purpose of an RFP document is to assess how much the IT vendor meets the requirements of your project.
Why is this step important? Including this section in your request for proposal may make comparing the bids you receive easier. By having collected responses to the aforementioned questions, you would be able to compare and select the best option.
Great RFPs are easy
A good and beneficial RFP for software development is clear. On the other hand, some customers produce 40-page RFPs which make the request inefficient, as they contain a multitude of requirements with zero context. In other words, excessively long, complicated, and convoluted phrasing is not the key to effective cooperation. They are unnecessary bells and whistles that will prevent the team from getting to the point and understanding how they may help you. How to avoid that? It’s simple: don’t put in too much text—a simple 3-page document would be enough to get your point across.
Some other tips for writing an effective RFP
- Don’t chase low prices. If you only consider the price, you may end up with lower quality, less functionality, slow development and, ultimately, even higher costs overall.
- Don’t focus on one solution in your request for proposal. We suggest detailing your pain points but not going into the details of the solution—let vendors offer solutions that may be much more effective.
- In the template, write down all the features you need your product to have. The more specific your needs are at this stage, the more accurate the price will be and the fewer surprises you will encounter later.
- Don’t send your RFP to too many potential vendors. The idea that “more is better” seems logical. Why send a proposal request to five or six vendors when you can send it to fifty? After all, you’ll get a much better estimate of the base cost and capabilities. Yes, but you forgot to consider the information overload of having to evaluate proposals effectively. Look at it this way, if it takes about 120 minutes to evaluate each proposal, the time and effort quickly increase. As a result, none of the offers are properly considered, often skipped, or evaluated based on the approximate price at the end of the offer. To save time and effort, we advise creating a preselection of companies that meet your initial idea of a suitable vendor: 3 – 5 companies are the best option.
At Jaydevs, we understand how important it is to respond carefully and intelligently to your proposal requests. Our expertise in the market shows that we are a serious and experienced partner. One of the main reasons Jaydevs has grown is because we have been open and honest about our abilities. If a project doesn’t suit us or if we don’t have the right developers for you, we’re upfront about not being able to take on your project.
You can schedule a call with our sales team if you don’t want to bother with writing a proposal or face trouble describing the technical part. Jaydevs is a software development company with extensive product development experience, senior-level developers and much more. Therefore, we will be happy to listen and write down your requirements!