There are two ways of developing a software application. One is you can code it on your own, if you have a team with the required skills. Second is you can RFP outsource the development process to a freelancer or a mobile app development company. In the first scenario, you’ll directly convey your requirements and app idea to the in-house development team and the work can begin in a standard process.
But, if you go with the second way of mobile app development, you’ll have to create a Request For Proposal (RFP) document, which you’ll send to the development companies in order to get their proposal. A well-drafted Request For Proposal document can help you identify the right developing partner.
Since the inception of Nimble AppGenie, we’ve had thousands of conversations related to potential projects. For some projects, it was enough to present our approach of execution for similar projects and showcasing a portfolio similar to the app envisioned by the client. In other cases, we’ve gone through a long and complex process to find collaboration between us and the client. This type of process may involve technical interviews and discussions about the project roadmap. However, in recent years, we’ve been having more queries containing Request For Proposals or RFPs.
What is an RFP and why is it being used?
A Request For Proposal is a document that explains enough details about your software project and the services you require, so that the potential software development partners can send you their bespoke proposals. The proposals will contain information regarding the technology preferences, development methodologies, development and deployment process, estimated cost, and many other aspects.
An RFP is very necessary for complex projects that require technical recommendations. Hence, in the hunt of the right software development partner, you should draft an RFP for your project. With an RFP in place, you’ll be able to identify and address certain challenges with your project and this will also help find possible solutions for these issues. Responses on the RFP will allow you to compare different software developers, their pricing models, competencies, and development process. A perfect RFP document will enable you to:
- Compare different software developers based on their alignment with your project
- Have a deep understanding of your project.
- Identify potential challenges with your project.
- Save time on introducing and explaining the project to software developers in several meetings. You can simply send the RFP to potential software developers. It will give them the required insight into your project and based on that they can respond.
Are RFI and RFQ the same as RFP?
Based on the type of information you are seeking for your project, you may have to send different documents of requests. However, there is some similarity among all of the request documents, but first, let’s briefly discuss other request documents:
Request For Quotation (RFQ)
Often referred to as RFQ, a Request For Quotation is the document that companies prepare when they want to compare software developers by their proposed cost. Preparing the RFQ is very starightforward but it isn’t advisable to rely only on the price while selecting the perfect software development partner.
An RFQ is an indication that you’re not seeking suggestions from the software developers, you just want someone to code for you in the lowest possible budget. If you think this is suitable for your project, go for it. But, if you want the software developer to proactively find the best possible solution for your project, you should consider drafting an RFP instead.
What will you require to prepare RFQ?
- Detailed list of requirements
- User Experience flows and user journey
- Wireframes or sketched designs
Request for Information (RFI)
If you want software development companies to officially present you with their information related to their capabilities, services, pricing etc. you should draft an RFI. It will enable you to gather information about that particular software development company, and based on the information received, you can decide whether or not you want to share your project details with them.
RFI is also used for screening. It will help you select 3-4 software development companies to whom you will send your RFP.
What you’ll need to draft an RFI?
- General information about your project
- Your business goals
- Some questions that are related to your project and that will help you select the best partner.
Request For Proposal Process
Drafting an RFP to find a perfect software development partner is not only time-consuming but also stressful and difficult, if the process is not done in the proper manner. This is likely to be one of your first steps towards getting your software built, and the choice you make here will directly affect the end product. To make sure that you capture the potential of different bidders, you should have a plan for carrying out your RFP.
- Planning the RFP
- Drafting the RFP
- Issuing the RFP
- Reviewing the Responses
Planning the RFP
Before you jump into writing the RFP document, you need to plan it first. First thing you should do is to assign a project manager to make sure that the RFP process keeps moving forward. You should be aware of your project constraints such as competitiveness, industry regulations, project deadlines, target market, the work you’ve already done, etc. You’ll be mentioning these constraints and challenges within the RFP.
Some common project constraints:
- Desired project launch date: This will help the development companies to identify your business goals and determine the necessary resource allocation and cost.
- Already procured software, hardware, and licenses. This will help the development companies to determine the most appropriate technology choices.
- Budget range: Set your financial expectations upfront so that the app development company can provide a relevant proposal in accordance with your budget.
Drafting the RFP - Take help from the Request For Proposal Format
Now when you’ve planned for your RFP, now is the time to create it. To make sure that the bidder gets a clear picture of your project, you should draft your RFP based on the following Request For Proposal format.
- Project overview - In the first section, you should summarise the most important pieces of information. This will help the bidder to understand your project at a strategic level.
- Objective and goals - Here you’ll write the problems and challenges your software application is expected to solve. You’ll also talk about the purpose of the software application and what you want to achieve with it.
- Rough project scope - You should include a rough project scope in your RFP. It doesn’t have to be very technical, instead you can just roughly describe what you’re trying to build. You should write down all the benefits that you think the end-user will get from using the software. You should list down the desired software features, along with the priority ranking for these features. This will make it easier for the software development bidder to plan the project in phases.
- Milestones and deadlines - It doesn’t matter if you have a clear deadline or not, for the sake of the RFP, you should put a delivery deadline based on your idea. It will help the bidder assess the required resource allocation for the given timeline. You can also mention project milestones in the RFP.
- Technical specifications - You may already have a technology preference for your software solution. This preference may be in terms of operating system, developing platform, hosting services or cloud services. If you do have existing preferences, it is best to include all of them in the RFP.
- Put some questions - Every development company has their own set of service agreements. Hence, it will be useful to ask them about their support services, warranties (if any) and payment terms.
- Selection criteria, submission deadline, and selection process - This section is here for you to convey the selection process and criteria to the bidders. With this, the development house will have a better idea about what type of software development company that you are looking for. This will also help them understand the date that they need to submit their response by.
- Contact details - Provide your contact details and details of where you want the bidders to submit their response to. The contact details can also be used if the app development company needs to ask any questions.
Issuing the RFP
Once you’ve crafted your RFP, you should share it with relevant individuals within your network, send it to the development companies that you’re already in touch with and publish it on relevant sites/platforms. Once you have done this, you will need to start managing the responses and responding to the questions asked by the bidders.
If this next process is not managed well, the RFP responses can quickly get out of control. You will receive dozens of responses, and you should start shortlisting companies after receiving the first few responses. You should be prepared to coordinate the responses and connect with the companies with favourable responses. You can give them an opportunity to present their proposals in person over a video conference or face to face meeting.
It is true that you will not have the time and resources to engage with many bidders. Throughout the time, we’ve seen companies responding to only the top 5 bids, and I would recommend the same number to you.
Reviewing the Responses
Reviewing your potential partners to make the final choice will require you to analyse the responses they’ve made to the RFP. You will also have to answer the questions, which they may have raised. One way to evaluate the responses is to use scores for particular criterias.
For example, you can decide on important criteria for selection. These criteria may include the vendor’s past relevant experience, recent deliverable quality, client reviews, awards and recognitions, pricing, expertise, answer to RFP queries and so on. You can assign importance weightings (ranging from 1 to 10) to each particular criteria. The final score will help you make your decision.
Things to avoid while writing an RFP
- Keeping everything as the top priority - You might feel it right to consider every feature equally important. But in reality, you’ll have to prioritize the software features so that the bidder can have the opportunity to craft the most realistic and optimum solution in accoradnce with your budget and timeline. If you are realistic with the RFP, the bidder will also be realistic with their response.
- Suggesting solutions - The goal of an RFP is to ask bidders the solution to your problems. This way, you’ll better analyse their strengths and cognitive capabilities. If you yourself become the problem-solver and push your solutions in the RFP, you are likely to limit the range of possible solutions. Thus, let the bidders surprise you with their problem-solving skills.
- Rushing for the response - Responding to an RFP takes time. The bidder will have to analyse your RFP, brainstorm ideas, find a perfect solution, and estimate the budget. All of this isn’t possible to do overnight. To expect a high quality response, RFPs should come with a timeline of 2-3 weeks.
It isn’t difficult to draft a perfect RFP
It really isn’t, when you know what to include. In this article, we’ve discussed the essential elements you can include in your RFP, but you shouldn’t be limited to these components. Try to include all the information that can be helpful for the bidders to craft a perfect solution for you.
One thing is clear, if you want big software development companies to take your project seriously, you should have an RFP. If you are not sure what to include in your RFP, you can refer to the above mentioned Request For Proposal format. It will allow you to create a great RFP document.
Jermaine Trotman is the co-founder of Nimble AppGenie, a company renowned for its bespoke mobile app development and web development in e-wallet app development and fintech development.