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The RFP for software development – how to write a perfect request for a proposal document?

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Do you need software development that will meet the specific requirements of your company? You should start with formulating the so-called RFP for software development, which is a request for quotation. It ensures you will receive customized proposals. How to create it? Is there a universal RFP template? Learn more about it from our practical tips.

The RFP for software development – what is it?

The RFP, or request for proposal, is a formal document for bidding quotation that contains a project description and the related requirements. It can be sent to various companies, which later respond with their implementation offer along with an estimation of costs. You can often find the RFP in IT industry.

Many people think that when writing an email to a programming company, it is enough to include only a general statement, e.g., “I am looking for a company that will take care of software development for my catering business”, or a query such as: “Can I outsource software development for a beauty salon that allows you to book services?”.

However, after this kind of a message, you can only receive a laconic reply, or a very extensive offer that will be addressed to each person sending the inquiry, so it will not be personalized at all.

creating a RFP for software development

The RFP for software development – how to create it?

How to write an RFP for software development? It is not a difficult task, but you and other people from your company, who are responsible for particular departments, need to be involved in the process. To prepare a good request for proposal for software development you cannot forget about including project requirements and questions regarding all relevant aspects, such as, infrastructure, project management, data security and pricing. When you send it to service providers, you can expect a detailed proposal created especially for you, which will suit your needs.

A request for proposal for software development – how is it different from an RFI and an RFQ?

When discussing an RFP for software development, it is also worth mentioning an RFI and an RFQ, which are quite often confused.

The RFI is the so-called request for information. It is an exploratory document in which you ask for general information about services or suppliers. Its purpose is to check if there are service providers on the market that can meet your needs. It is less specific and contains a very general project description. The questions asked there are broad and open. This is an option that is best used at the preliminary research stage when you are looking for the validation of the project implementation.

The RFQ, on the other hand, or the quote request, is a document that deals with financial matters. When you put it together, you should focus on a specific cost breakdown related to a given project, e.g., price for each module, total estimation for a software development project, maintenance costs, etc. It is also worth asking questions about the payment form. You should address such inquiries to service providers when you know exactly what you need (e.g., updating an existing system) and so you are looking for a company who will perform the task step by step, according to your guidelines.

A software development project – how to get proposals?

What should a well-structured RFP for software development look like? The document should be divided into sections, thanks to which service providers will be able to find out not only the actual project status, but also obtain information about the company, the requirements for operating methods, as well as the schedule and way of selecting the final service provider. The RFP structure should include:

  1. A project’s summary
  2. A company description (company name, company culture, modes of operation, target audience, etc.)
  3. The detailed project’s scope, requirements, following details:
  • the preferred method of managing software projects
  • requirements needed to plan operational infrastructure
  • specification of the goals you want to achieve
  • requirements related to the final product itself
  • methods of product creation and development process
  • practices for quality assurance (project overview), impact on individual stages, etc.
  • project management after its delivery
  • the form of submitting offers (e.g., PDF presentation, video, etc.)
  1. Offer submission deadline
  2. Criteria of the candidate selection

Additional information you can include in an RFQ 

You can also add less important background information, such as, budget constraints, contact requirements (e.g., email or phone only), as well as cooperation tips (e.g., the need to delegate one selected person to coordinate the project). However, it is most crucial to accurately describe your preferences regarding project management and the final product.

Of course, it all depends on what kind of product you want. If you want to build world class software, you need a completely different document than one when you want to update a project. What does it mean? Well, the prepared RFP for software development should then be much more extensive than, for example, for software development projects which can be completed in a month.

RFP IT project – what to include in each section?

Let’s discuss each section so that you can better understand how to write a request for proposal for software development.

A summary in an RFP for software development

The request for proposal summary should contain the project information. But what does this mean for the person who prepares the document? You need to describe specifically what the particular project goals, system requirements, and restrictions are that made you seek help. It is also worth adding a few words about user stories. This short introduction will allow the potential service provider to assess what solutions your business needs, as well as what forms of project management will be most interesting to you.

A company description in RFP

The company background should not be long, but it must answer the most important questions. You need to include information about the company’s mission, its business goals, target audience and the reasoning behind software development. It is also worth adding a few words about the business values that guide you in your enterprise on a daily basis because this will allow the IT vendor to assess what skills and behavior you expect from parties cooperating with you.

A project scope

When it comes to the scope of the project, there are a few things you need to take care of. We have discussed every aspect below.

Project management

As we have mentioned, in an IT outsourcing RFP, it is extremely important to describe well the project scope and the effects you want to achieve. Without it, you will not receive a reliable offer or quote. Of course, it is commonly acknowledged that what you present in the RFP document is only a rough project plan, and you will prepare the final version in cooperation with the supplier.

project management expectations in a software RFP

When it comes to project management, in the software request for proposal you need to describe your expectations towards:

  • ways of communication – you need to establish not only whether you will meet online or just use emails, but also how often and at what time such meetings should take place;
  • development platforms that a software vendor will use;
  • methods of testing software projects;
  • tools that will allow you to keep track of following stages of software projects;
  • team structure and ways of working – whether team members can work online or there is a need for designating the coordinator who will take care of the project;
  • preferred project management methods if you work with them – e.g., scrum or kanban;
  • ways of reporting and creating executive summary.

Infrastructure in a software development RFP

This element is strongly related to project management because of technical requirements. In the RFP for software development, it is necessary to precisely describe what software and hardware infrastructure the company has and whether it is ready to upgrade it in any way. In addition, it is worth discussing the protection of intellectual property and data security. The software development company should answer these inquiries carefully. This element of the project scope is extremely important when it comes to securing activities for the future.

Ask the vendor what data security systems they will use. Do not forget to get information from the software development company about additional security practices and what their NDA looks like. We guarantee that this is the part to eliminate those service providers who have no idea of ​​the importance of data protection.

Project specifications 

Remember to define precisely (as much as possible) the project goals you want to achieve and the actions that will lead to them. They can be very general if you do not know exactly what software development should look like, but you have in mind the effect you want to get, or detailed if you are able to provide specific instructions. However, you should not impose the software solution on your service providers. Instead, just write out your precise requirements. For example, “I want the system to obtain customer data from our internal, as well as a publicly available state database.”

A detailed product description

It is also necessary to list all the requirements for the final product. It is one of the most important parts of the entire RFP for software development. Describe how you imagine the user experience after using the software, and what opportunities it would provide. Additionally, highlight which tasks should be automated and ask for suggestions from the service provider. At this level, it is also worth determining which experts will be needed to make the product (e.g., UI / UX designers, security experts, software developers, business analysts, etc.)

Software development methodologies

In this section, you should ask all questions related to software development and the product’s delivery. If you have any special functional requirements, they are worth mentioning as well. In addition, it is important to ask about the project management tools or suggest your own ones without which you cannot imagine the process (e.g., Asana, Trello, or Slack). Of course, at the end of the collaboration you always receive an executive summary, but it is better to also have an option to check at what stage the contractor is, during the development phase.

Quality assurance and testing

This is an extremely crucial phase because without proper control of the software development process as well as reliable extended testing of the deliverables, you cannot put it further for users. To avoid possible project pitfalls, which occur most often at this stage, you need to constantly supervise the progress. Here, your knowledge of project management tools will come in handy, but that is not all! The request for proposal for software development should therefore contain questions about the testing process and tools used during this phase. If you notice that a given contractor does not give you enough details or does not show much expertise in this part of the software project, you should avoid working with such a company.

Product management after its delivery

The project scope also includes the actions taken after the official completion of work on software projects. In this section, ask what the final project overview will look like and establish the communication process between your company and the software development team. What is more, you should discuss the product maintenance, the cost of any additional changes, and the warranty for the product.

The form of the offer submission

Once you get through the most important part of your project, it is time to inform your service providers of the technical requirements for bidding. In the software development RFP, you must specify in which format vendors should submit proposals and what should be included there.

You should request that each reply to the offer includes the following aspects:

  • company details of the business providing software development services;
  • experience in similar software development projects and credentials (if possible);
  • the description of employees who would work on the project and their qualifications;
  • the expected budget;
  • the expected outcome of the final product;
  • the description of all processes mentioned above (business analysis, testing, communication, etc.);
  • project improvements.

If you want the bidding process to be easier, you can create a special form where potential collaborators can answer specific questions. Thanks to this, any IT vendor will be able to submit their terms of cooperation faster.

The offer submission deadline

In an RFP for software development it is crucial to include the deadline for the proposal process. You should schedule actions that need to be taken, including the deadlines for sending the proposals, bidding, initial selection, both initial and final interviews as well as the final selection of the software development vendor. Remember that preparing a high-quality offer with all the components that are most important to you is a difficult task, so make sure to give service providers enough time to put them together. Usually, the estimated time is from 7 (for not very complicated projects) to 30 days (for very demanding projects).

RFP deadline

The evaluation criteria

In the request for proposal for software development, it is also worth adding which selection criteria will be taken into account when choosing the final contractor. Each company has its own preferences, so it is extremely important to determine exactly which aspects are the most important and which you can turn a blind eye to.

The selection process

Remember that beside creating a clear software development RFP, you also need to select a person to collaborate with. You must keep in mind that the selection process should be very thorough and thoughtful because software projects are products that will serve you for many years and fulfill both your and your customers’ needs. You should set at least three stages of selection:

  1. Prequalification – this is the time to evaluate potential vendors who could create software development tailored to your needs. Here, you should rely on portfolio and references.
  2. Selection of candidates for the interview – out of the selected candidates who are able to support this specific project, exclude those who do not meet many requirements compared to other applicants, e.g., do not have an analytical department and have not used testing tools so far.
  3. Final selection – at this stage, you probably already have the best software development contractors in front of you. In this case, you should choose those that best suit your needs, e.g, they offer specific testing methods or agree to be in touch in the evening hours. After this analysis, you should be able to make the decision on the final service providers.

How to choose the right service provider?

Now you are probably wondering how to smoothly go through the decision making process. Choosing a contractor who will be reliable, timely and responsible is a difficult task, especially in the first stage of selection because then many companies declare that they will achieve project goals, which is not always true. We have 5 tips that will surely help you.

  1. Go thoroughly through the provider’s software development activities

Obviously, every software development company that wants to get a client presents itself in superlatives. No wonder that the portfolio includes only the best projects. However, if you have the opportunity to contact someone who has worked with a particular software development company and wants to share their opinion, you should definitely do it! Besides, check how the solutions described in the portfolio work in reality. Many companies need software development that will be useful for potential customers, and that is very helpful for you! It is a good practice to test such implementations yourself.

  1. Be fair when you compare potential vendors 

Many people dismiss certain software development companies from the start due to unfair comparisons. The worst you can do is only pay attention to the price. Unfortunately, some companies still choose the cheapest software vendors for cooperation, ignoring the fact that the lower cost means less experience, poorer facilities and longer project deadlines. Remember to always compare service providers in every field and be aware that a company that offers world class software will be more expensive and demanding than a fledgling competitor. It is a good practice to ask everyone participating in the selection process to indicate their ideas for solving the same problem and the implementations that were used in a given industry or in a specific area. This will help you compare companies in the right way and choose the one that creates software development at the level you require.

  1. Analyze your communication with vendors

It may seem that efficiency and form of communication does not have a huge impact on cooperation, but it is on the contrary. The suitable vendor will be able to lead the conversation so that you feel calm and understood. Be vigilant if you notice that some aspects of communication with a given service provider do not meet your standards when submitting offers.

  1. Give yourself time for the decision

Choosing the right software development provider is a very demanding process, so do not make decisions spontaneously or under pressure. Take time to analyze potential vendors and think carefully about each and every aspect. You can be sure that the hours you spend on it will pay off through satisfactory cooperation later. It is also worth consulting it with other people who will be involved in the collaboration, such as the business development department.

  1. Offer a trial period

If you are not 100% convinced you chose right, offer a trial period in which the software vendor will only do some part of the work. This is a good practice that will give you a sense of security and allow you to get to know the service providers in various situations. This is important because it will let you know how they will behave in the most critical aspects of the collaboration.

choosing a service provider

An RFP template – is there one to follow?

Are you wondering where to get the RFP template? We might surprise you, but there is no specific RFP for software development template to use. There are also no legal or systemic requirements to regulate this issue in any way. However, if you are concerned that you will not be able to create such a document yourself, you can easily find a sample RFP document for software development on the Internet.

What to avoid when creating an RFP?

There is one thing that you should consider for sure. Every good RFP template includes a lot of substantive content and relevant questions related to a project! Many people are irritated by the fact that they need to describe precisely the functional requirements for a project because it takes a lot of time and commitment. However, remember that the more general your inquiry is, the less specific the proposal you will receive. What other mistakes do entrepreneurs make when creating an RFP for software development?

  • They do not precisely describe the subject of the contract
  • They impose unrealistic deadlines (this applies to both the project and the offer submission itself)
  • They set exorbitant and unreasonable expectations regarding software development
  • They do not ask questions in the RFP document
  • They do not prepare properly the texts (they do not fix factual or grammatical errors)
  • They do not discuss key issues and are reluctant to answer additional questions from potential vendors.

Software projects and an RFP – summary

What is RFP in software projects then? In conclusion, it is definitely a great help not only in the recruitment process, but also during work. What are the benefits of preparing it?

  1. You receive a personalized, detailed proposal with all the information on how to create software development to suit your needs.
  2. The RFP process allows you to gather all the project information in one place.
  3. Selecting candidates is an easier process after creating an RFP.
  4. The RFP document serves as an invitation, so there is a greater chance of negotiation and a bidding process between companies.
  5. You save time and budget during the project implementation (well-established cooperation, not prolonged in time, for which you will pay the specified amount).
  6. The RFP document is a guarantee that in the event of unsatisfactory cooperation, you will quickly find mistakes and easily point out where the previously approved project requirements have been omitted.
  7. Thanks to the RFP process, you know which companies may be useful for you in the future and how to contact them.

How do you write a software request for proposal? Now you should know. If you want to learn more about cooperation with companies from the IT industry, check our blog out. We describe there, for example, how to create a functional specification document. We also offer custom software development services, so if you need help, we will be happy to take care of your project!

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