A Complete Guide to Request Proposal (RFP) For Software Development

Guide to RFP documentation

Getting the right software development company for your customized software development sheerly banks on your homework and the methods you adopt for the selection process. The selection process is complex and equally risky because if you fall into the trap, you not only lose your hard-earned money but also get the final product that is not up to the mark.

The Request For Proposal (RFP) is a detailed and carefully thought document that helps you shortlist software development companies and also proceed with a business deal. This is the first step that would ensure you that the software development life cycle shall go as planned with least or no hassles. Nevertheless, you should be careful in preparing the RFP because if you fail to do so, you end up barking up the wrong tree.

Why is RFP an important step for your software development?

When you think of building customized software as per your business requirements, clarity and accuracy are the two factors of paramount importance. In addition, you also need to mind the software project development time and budget required. Request for proposal document helps convey your business needs and objectives to the service provider without any ambiguity. Here are the business benefits you get from RFP documentation –

  • Find and shortlist software development company who is actually capable of meeting or exceeding your expectations
  • Request for proposal documentation can bring out the real potential of the software development service provider
  • You will come to know the strengths and weaknesses of your IT partner
  • Request for proposal documents can speed up the negotiation process and finally help you select the right company
  • RFP process documentation is known to facilitate estimating software development cost and time
  • Request for proposal documentation initiates a healthy competition between service providers and ultimately benefits the enterprises who are looking for the best software development company to outsource their project

It is important for each entrepreneur or startup owner to understand documentation in software development outsourcing before signing the final deal with an outsourcing software development company. And, the documentation begins with drafting a foolproof request for proposal.

How to write a software development request for a proposal?

It is an easier way to write a request for a proposal and let software development companies or vendors come to you with their bids and offers. Now, a big question is how to write the best Request For Proposal document for software development project so that you get the most genuine service provider.

Here are the simple eight steps to go for a model RFP document –

RFP steps

Project Overview

The first thing required for any software development outsourcing is its project overview. The project overview includes a clear idea about the RFP. Generally, the project overview is described in a few sentences and the purpose of this is to let the company know what you expect from them. The companies, on the other hand, would find whether the project is worth bidding on. It all depends on the potentiality of your software project and the developers’ expertise and/or interest.

Live example on writing a Project overview:

“Company XYZ is seeking a software development company to build an eCommerce web app that is a user-friendly, all-in-one platform for accepting orders online and offering unparalleled consumer services”

Company description

Just like any general document, in this section, the information about the company is provided. Entrepreneurs should accurately describe what they are up to, what they are into, and most importantly what is company’s goal and targeted audience or customers. Other than that, you are free to mention something that is related to the project being developed.

Live example to write your Company description:

“The company is a US-based shoe manufacturer specializing in sport shoes made from natural clothes and eco-friendly materials. The company produces shoes for all sizes and for all three men, women, and children. Founded in 2000, the company has witnessed tremendous growth over the years and has a strong presence in its state i.e. New York. In fact, the company has been in mainstream media for its quality products. Now, the company wants to expand its presence on the Internet and wants a bespoke web app so that to increase its customer base and services beyond its present geographical boundaries.

Project goals

Here, in this section of the RFP in the software development process, the primary goals are mentioned. Business owners can describe and clarify their expectations with possible figures and features. Also, business processes, methodology, and current status of the business operations can be mentioned, if needed.

Live example of how to describe your Project goals:

What we are aiming at:

  • User-friendly and engaging platform
  • Features of placing orders, tracking, and returning
  • Chatbot to assist esteemed customers 24/7
  • Easy-to-use admin tool for updating, editing, and removing items
  • In-built analytical tool to build further business strategies
  • An option to customize and scale the eCommerce web app further

Project scope

Among all steps or sections, the project scope is the most important part of Request for Proposal documentation. In this section, the description of all scope of work is clarified to the software development outsourcing company. Bursting the software development myths, you should also not ignore the fact that quality assurance can be ignored and no separate mentioning is required.

Nevertheless, this section is not a project specification document and therefore you should avoid describing everything in detail. However, the information provided should be enough for software developers to get an idea of deliverables and gauge their capabilities to decide whether all that in a specified time frame is possible. The service providers should also be able to check their technology stacks for software development to be able to build the product and meet the objectives.

Understand the scope of the project with Live example:

For our example of eCommerce web app development, we can mention the following factors

  • Infrastructure: important software and hardware infrastructure to make sure of all types of securities at all software development stages.
  • Design: functional design ideas and features are to be defined. Clarity on all requirements for the backend and frontend shouldn’t be missed.
  • Milestones: the project development plan mentions all the stages with milestones i.e., time frame. It also outlines which part of the software tool is developed when and how.
  • Management: mentioning the project management methodology (in case you are aware of technology) makes it crystal clear to the software development company whether they are up for the project.
  • QA and QC: strict norms are to be followed for quality assurance and quality control processes. You can either specify the tools you know or ask the firms to mention them while bidding.

In addition to the above-mentioned factors, you can also outline any idea about UI/UX design, your strategies for developing content, and maybe marketing strategies such as SEO, and the like.

Timeline for response

This section helps you check the sincerity of each software development outsourcing service provider. You should set a timeline for a response from bidders and when they miss the deadline, the submissions should not be accepted. You can clearly mention that you are pretty strict about the time frame given for bidding or proposal submissions. This also gives away the message that if any offshore software development company is hired by you, they need to meet the milestones and meet deadlines because you are quite concerned about it.

Try to define the following timeframes:

  • Deadline to submit the proposal or bid
  • Deadline to shortlist the potential company (deadline for you!)
  • Dates for final interviews with the concerned (key) persons
  • Date by which the final deal is sealed

It is important for you to communicate with your key persons for mentioning each date or deadline for every event. The time frame given to the companies and your staff should be feasible and reasonable to carry out the tasks. Tight deadlines may end up in compromised quality and reasoning.

Live example on adding Timeline for response:

Accepting bids: August 1, 2022

Reviewing bids: August 20, 2022

Shortlisting and interviews: September 1, 2022

Final interviews: September 7, 2022

Company selection: September 15, 2022

Project kickstart: September 21, 2022

*Note: This is just an example. You may consider the number of days for each deadline according to the size of your project and the complexity of your product.

Budget constraints

From a buyer’s view, this is an important section because all the dreams of developing a customized software depend on the budget it requires. If the cost of custom software development turns out to be too high, it makes no sense in going for the project development. Hence, either you can specify the software development budget beforehand only, or can tentatively ask the service provider based on their experience of developing a similar project in the past.

Understand the cost to develop your project with Live example:

“The company aims to spend around USD 50000 to 75000 for the entire software development procedure and deployment. Nevertheless, we are open to negotiations and flexible to consider your quotation provided it justifies the reason. The project shall be developed as per the milestones and so the payment will be released accordingly.

Bid structure and requirements

You need to mention some bid structures and mandatory fields without which all the bids will be declined. The format of the bid or proposal helps you choose and shortlist the agency quickly because the information given in a structured way is always easy to parse and grasp. Also, structured data is easy to compare and ultimately will cut down a significant amount of time in choosing the final bidders.

What shall be your requirements and structure for project bid? Understand with Live example:

“Only the bids with the following information shall be considered. Any proposal with any field missing shall be rejected without any notice.”

  • Company’s name and description
  • Company’s location and service method – local, online, onsite, offshore, etc.
  • Company’s employee strength, departments, and team sizes
  • Outlined project plan
  • Time and cost breakdown
  • Project management tools and capabilities
  • Suggestions on the project (features, scope, and scalability)
  • Scope of improvement of the project
  • Any project flaws noticed or observed
  • Additional services (add-on services)
  • References

Point of contact

If the Request for Proposal documentation is posted on a public platform or paid portal, you need to give the companies a point of contact. On portals, freelancing websites, online directories. or marketplaces, you need to submit your content along with the point of contact. Correspondence details should be submitted by both the parties i.e., buyers and service providers. It could be anything -from an email to a phone number or video calling or chatting platform.

How to define the Point of contact for your project? Here’s the Live example:

Should you require any clarification regarding the project, don’t hesitate to contact the Business Department of XYZ. Here are the details:

Contact person: Tom Hawkins

eMail: [email protected]

Your proposal should be sent to [email protected]

The subject line should be: A bid for eCommerce web app development by <your company’s name>

Apart from the above-mentioned steps, you should also consider mentioning several confidential agreements such as NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), MSA (Master Service Agreement), and SoW (Statement of Work – Service Level Agreement). Such agreements shall save your project from being in the wrong hands because they bind both parties, especially the service providers, with legal documents.

Final words

Request for Proposal is an important phase of the software development life cycle because it is the first step toward selecting the right software development outsourcing company and the entire business deal shall depend on it. Carefully written RFP documentation shall get you the best deal in the market and shall also assure you that the final product is aligned with your business goals. Once RFP is in place, you can hire remote developers from any reputed offshore company without worry.

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