Software Development RFP. Looking for gems in the mud?

When you are going to design a software application, there are two ways to get it right. You can do the coding yourself relying on your own specialists and their skills. Or you will need some software development proposal from an outsourced vendor. 

A well-written Request for Proposal (RFP) and carefully outlined proposal format for a software company can help:

  • to attract experienced developers attention;
  • assess whether your potential vendor has the ideas and skills to partner with you in your software project development.

Software development Request for Proposal: what, how, when

What is RFP in software development?

RFP for software development is a document designed to inform potential vendors about the project, learn about their domain expertise, and receive estimated project cost and timeline.

Typically, RFP for software consists of the following steps:

Step 1. You get in touch with selected vendors to find out if they are interested in a new contract. If your RFP contains commercial secrets or other sensitive data, you may ask them to sign an NDA before sharing any details.

Step 2. You send the RFP to vendors. It is best to keep it reasonably brief. Up to 10 pages is an optimal size.

Step 3. If a vendor decides they are right for the project, they may ask more questions to better understand your project and to clarify your requirements.

Step 4. Potential vendors send you their proposals. They may include initial effort estimates, project team makeup, and team members’ hourly rates. Information about the company, its clients, and its results may be included too.

Step 5. Once all the proposals are studied and the choice of a vendor is made, you sign a contract and kick off the project.

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Software development proposal example: common and peculiar

Usually, the process of RFP organization is not limited to looking for vendors/suppliers and buying equipment/services procedures. Request for Proposal preparation starts far ahead of the moment when participants are invited and bids are announced. Look at Figure 1 to see what the standard RFP process consists of.

Fig. 1. Standard RFP process

Fig. 1. Standard RFP process

Speaking about a Request for Proposal for a software development project, it is obvious that structurally it corresponds to common RFP patterns. Differences refer only to some minor matters which are reflected in vendor-connected sections, such as qualification and skills of the development team, their portfolio of successful activity in similar projects, etc.

RFP example for software project, in general, may contain the following sections and information:

Fig. 2. Sample request for proposal for software development structure

Fig. 2. Sample request for proposal for software development structure

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Software development proposal template. Simplify your roadmap to the right vendor

Though the reasons to conduct a Request for Proposal are numerous, and projects can vary from ordering cleaning services to buying heavy machinery, RFP templates for software may look very similar in structure to any of the mentioned above. 

[Current Date]

[Project title]

[Project overview]

[Company’s name and background information]

  1.Project goals.

[Company goal 1]

[Company goal 2]

[Company goal 3]

To reach these goals, [your company] accepts bids in response to this Request for Proposal.

The project details are as follows:

  1. The scope of work.

[Description of the project and a detailed scope of work.]

  1. Target deliverable schedule.

[Add the date when the project must be completed.]

The expected project completion date is [add date]. If this date is not met or needs to be adjusted, include your readjusted proposed date, as well as the reasoning for shifting the schedule. All proposed dates will be taken into consideration.

  1. Existing roadblocks or technical issues.

[Describe the time, resources, or other constraint factors that affect the proposal and the project.]

[Your company] currently has [insert list of roadblocks.]

  1. Budget constraints.

The budget for this project is [insert your price plus exchange currency information if vendors are outside the home country.]

  1. Evaluation metrics.

[Your company] evaluates bidders and proposals based on the following criteria:

Previous experience/past performance.

Samples and/or case studies from previous projects.

Experience and technical expertise.

Projected costs.

Responsiveness and answers to questions in the following section.

  1. Questions bidders must answer to be considered.

[Create comprehensive questions that are project-related to properly assess potential vendors.]

[Question 1]

[Question 2]

[Question 3]

  1. Submission requirements

Bidders must adhere to the following guidelines to be considered: [guidelines list]

Only bidders who meet all metrics in the evaluation section should submit a proposal.

Proposals must be sent by [insert date.]

Interested bidders should submit the RFP and address it to [point of contact name and email address] by no later than [insert deadline.]

Samples and references should be included along with the proposal.

Proposals should not exceed [number] pages long.

Failure to comply will result in an automatic rejection.

A proposed schedule must be included and clearly expressed.

  1. Contact information.

For questions or concerns in relation to this RFP, please reach out to [point of contact name] at [point of contact phone and email address.]


RFP for software: pros vs cons


Some experts say the RFP process is no longer considered the best way to select a vendor, regardless of industry. Though we still see a lot of companies relying on it when searching for software development vendors. 


Let’s take a closer look at why Requests for Proposal for software became so popular, and why they fell out of favor.


RFP for software: voting in favor


The undoubted advantages of RFP for software development:

  • Multiple points of view on your software project. Participating vendors will offer different approaches to project development. You will be able to evaluate various approaches in detail before choosing one.
  • Understanding the real capabilities of vendors. Vendors need to provide tailored offers according to your software proposal example in response to your RFP. So, you can see if the vendor’s skills really align with your project.
  • A clear process of selection. RFP requires a standardized format of proposals. That makes it easy to compare vendors side by side.
  • It is possible to knock the price down. RFP makes cost one of the selection criteria. That helps keep a vendor’s pricing from going out of hand.
  • Time-saving in perspective. Even though it takes time and effort to write RFP, it helps to avoid repeating the same information to vendors. By using RFP, you can collect questions from all participating vendors in a single Q&A session to answer them at once.


RFP for software: votes for veto


But what can go wrong with the RFP process? Sometimes, RFPs no longer provide the opportunity for the orderly, objective means of evaluating multiple participants, as originally intended. Thus the following flaws come at the front:

  • RFPs are time-consuming. Modern businesses have to be nimble. Building the requirements, evaluation of methodology, and potential bidder search are too long for a fast and timely reaction. 
  • RFPs are expensive. You may not pay directly for the wasted time but all customers pay indirectly. Vendors who participate in RFPs maintain the overhead cost of bid-response teams. And you have to compensate your internal team’s time commitment to develop and evaluate the project.
  • The best software development companies don’t respond. Conducting an RFP doesn’t automatically mean the best provider will respond. You may never choose or even meet the best suitable vendor using a traditional RFP process.
  • The written requirements don’t always accurately describe the intended outcome. Requirements in your RFPs may not accurately support your goals because of a lack of necessary experts, too many restrictions, or mirroring an existing solution.
  • The methodology of selection is flawed. You need to know what questions are relevant to your vendor-choosing process, rather than creating a check-the-box exercise. It may seem practical; however, it can mask the true value of a potential partner. 
  • The selection team doesn’t have the right members. A lot of companies put on blinders when developing a team for starting and running an RFP process. The members of RFP management groups do not have a clear picture of what to do and how to do things.e.


The Conclusion


There’s no standard template or universal recipe for writing a request for proposal for software development. We’ve provided you with some important considerations and guidelines instead. Keep them in mind while following RFP format for software projects that meets your needs.

If you don’t want to bother yourself with writing RFP technical requirements or have trouble studying RFP templates for software development, you can simply schedule a call with our team. We will be glad to provide you with our assistance.


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