When a development company creates a bid in response to an RFP for software development services, it does so based on the specifications given by the requestor. Therefore, omitting important requirements can lead to receiving bids that are too high because a company assumes more work is required, or too low because it assumes less.
To get the best quality bids, which will eventually lead to the best quality software development services, companies should strive to create a highly detailed RFP. The video below describes the elements that could be included within an RFP. While this example isn’t an RFP for software development services, the point is the same: provide as much detail as possible to get the best quality of responses. Below, we highlight some of the key components that are important to include in an RFP.
This section should appear first in the RFP but should be written last. It provides a summary of the RFP, including a brief background on the company, the challenges that present a need for the project, and the project goals and requirements. A software development vendor reading the overview should get a good sense of whether they have the ability to provide the requested services.
This section should offer some context for the project. Include a brief history of the company, the products and services it provides, its vision and mission statements, and its position within the market.
Here is the place to lay out your vision for this project: the problem it will solve, who will use the software, what they will be able to do with it, and how it will help the company evolve. If your project is a website, include a preliminary menu structure. If it’s an app, include preliminary design ideas.
Include the amount of funds available for the project. This figure can be expressed as a range (low to high) that you need to stay within.
Scope of Work
List the specific services you want the software developer to perform. Services could include analysis, project management, software development, testing, and so on. Provide enough details so vendors can understand the issue and the high-level services you’re interested in. But leave enough out to allow them to recommend a solution.
A timeline includes the date the project should be completed as well as important project milestones. Consider listing a completion date well before the date you actually need the project finished to allow time for unexpected delays.
Here you can identify any requirements for technologies, methodologies, and tools that will be used for the project. For example, you might list the operating systems the software must work on. You can also reveal any technical issues or known roadblocks that might interfere with project completion. Be forthright about obstacles and provide as much detail as you can to give vendors a clear picture of what they can expect.
Include a list of resources to be provided by your company and those to be provided by the vendor. For example, you might provide third-party software applications that require integration, while expecting the vendor to provide training and testing environments, software manuals, and other documentation.
Having consistent formatting across all RFP responses will make reviewing them much easier. To ensure formatting is the same across all submissions, create instructions for how you would like proposals to appear. This section could include the number of pages, number of samples or references allowed, and, of course, a strict deadline. To make the process more streamlined, you could provide a form to be filled out by each vendor.
You’ll want to request information about each vendor, such as how long they’ve been in business, how many clients they’ve served that are similar to your business, how many people they have available to work on your projects, and so on.
In this section, tell bidders how their proposals will be reviewed. For example, you may have a system that includes points for things like previous experience, past projects or case studies, technical expertise, domain knowledge, speed, cost, and thoroughness in responding to RFP questions. Explain how much weight each criterion carries. For example, depending on your company’s needs, technical expertise may be more important than cost.
Terms and Conditions
Here you’ll spell out any formal requirements needed to do business with you, such as the vendor being a specific type of legal entity, having particular insurance coverage, or being able to file certain tax reports. You might also require that the vendor have certain certifications, be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement, speak specific languages, or be located in a particular geographic region.
Some Final Tips
For the best results, narrow down the number of vendors to whom you send your RFP for software development services. Typically, between three and five is a good number to target. If you’re not sure about a particular provider, consider using a request for information (RFI) to get the details you need to make your decision.
Bidders may have questions as they’re putting together their proposals. Assign one person to be their point of contact and provide that person’s contact information in the RFP.
Creating an RFP is a project in itself. To get the best bids and, ultimately, the best work on your project, take the time to think through each section carefully. Just as you want neatly formatted proposals, make sure the RFP is well-organized and easy to read. If needed, hire a content development agency to help you put together this document.
Finally, take your time reviewing proposals, keeping in mind that you’ll be working with the people you select for the duration of the project. Make sure the vendor you choose is not only a good fit to complete the work you need to be done, but also a good fit for your company’s culture.