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App Development
9 minutes read

How to Create a Strong RFP for Software Development

By Tony Meazell
By Tony Meazell
App Development
9 minutes read

Creating an RFP for software development is typically one of the first ways businesses contact software development companies when trying to find a vendor to partner with on their development project. This is an important stage in the app development process, and it can either lead to a successful project and end result, or it can lead your business to make the wrong choice for your software vendor

Creating an RFP for software development that will help you find the best software development partner is a lot easier than it may seem. Unfortunately, many businesses tend to overcomplicate this process. As a result, in many cases, they end up choosing a software development company that leaves a lot to be desired ethically and performance-wise. 

This post will show you why many RFPs lead to bad results and how your business can create a strong RFP for software development

What is an RFP for Software Development?

A request for proposal (RFP) is a business document that is created to describe a project and solicit bids from qualified software developers. Many businesses choose to launch their software development projects with an RFP because it gives them the opportunity to describe the scope of their project, the deadlines associated with it, and their target budget. 

An RFP also gives businesses the ability to review proposals from several software developers at once and determine which one is the best fit for their project, needs, and budget. 

RFP for Software Development: The Common Pitfalls 

Before we can share how to create a strong software development RFP, you need to understand the common mistakes businesses make. Most of the common mistakes that get made are due to a lack of understanding of the software development industry

There are three basic types of software development companies. First, there are the high-quality, successful companies that carefully choose the projects they can excel at. Second, you have really large companies that can take on all projects, but they might not be the best communicators, and there will likely be a lot of bureaucracy involved in the project. Finally, you have the bottom feeders who will attempt to take on anything but lack skill or expertise, and they might even tell you outright lies. 

Obviously, your business wants to hire a software development company that lands in the first group of companies. However, in many cases, your RFP will drive these top-tier companies away because many companies treat an RFP for software development as a pricing exercise. Whether you need web development services or a custom mobile app, don’t make the mistakes many companies make with their RFPs, including:

  • Spamming vendors
  • Standardization
  • Lack of key information
  • No access to decision-makers

Spamming Vendors 

What most businesses do is send their RFP for software development to as many vendors as possible. While consulting with more than one software development company is good practice, it is not a good idea to spam every vendor you can find with your RFP.

The most obvious reason you don’t want to spam vendors is that the bulk of the replies you will receive will be from the bottom feeder companies. This will only distract your business from the companies that are actually worth your time and attention. Take your time and choose a handful of successful companies to approach with your RFP.

Standardization

A big mistake many companies make with their RFP is to request a ton of standardization from the software development team in their reply. Remember, with your RFP, you are reaching out to a software development company to see if they are the right fit for your project. If your RFP calls for too much time and effort to be spent on a response, the top-tier companies will simply ignore you. 

The large companies who reply to every RFP will get back to you, but in many cases, their response will be lackluster since they are always working on so many different projects. They might even outsource this work to another country altogether. 

The bottom feeders, who are desperate for clients, will do whatever it takes to secure your business, even if that means typing all responses in Comic Sans and keeping a 2.25 margin around every edge per your standardization requests. When you standardize, you give bottom feeder companies a blueprint for everything you are looking for. 

It is like they have all the answers to the test, and they will tell you everything you want to hear. Even if that means reverse engineering case studies, lying about the size of their company, and even drumming up fake references.

Keep in mind, the more hoops you make a company jump through, the less likely you are to get a successful company to respond to your request in a meaningful way. 

Lack of Key Information 

A common mistake that many businesses make with their software development request is withholding or failing to provide key information. One piece of key information that should be included in every RFP but is often withheld is the budget. No successful software development company will jump through hoops for you if they don’t know what your budget is. In fact, knowing what your budget is will often simplify the process for everyone involved. 

Another key piece of information that is often withheld in RFPs is where the business is in the approval process. Is this project even approved by the decision-makers in your business? Or are you just trying to price out a project? Withholding this important piece of information will lead to most successful companies ignoring your RFP. 

Remember, successful companies will be busy with other software projects. So if you want them to take on your job, you need to be clear about the project management requirements, your budget, your timeline, and whether or not the project even has the approval of key decision-makers. 

No Access to Decision-Makers 

Another common mistake businesses make is not allowing software development companies access to the people actually making the business decisions. It is very difficult to establish a working relationship with a software development team if you don’t allow them access to the decision-makers in your business. In this situation, your RFP comes off as either a pricing exercise, which is a waste of time for successful developers, or it seems like your development project is not ready to be taken seriously yet. 

If your business wants to engage in meaningful discussions with a software development company about your product idea, you need to give them access to the key stakeholders in the project. 

How to Create a Successful RFP for Software Development 

Now that you know more about what makes a bad RFP, you are ready to learn how to create a strong RFP for software development. In all honesty, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to create a good RFP, but you might have to adjust your expectations. 

Here are some good tips:

  • Be flexible 
  • Reciprocate 
  • Be honest 
  • Let the vendors lead the process 

Be Flexible 

There is no reason that every response to your RFP needs to be formatted or set up in the same fashion. Standardization does nothing to promote quality responses from vendors. On the contrary, rigid standardization response requirements will drive away quality software developers. 

Every software development company is unique. Let them be themselves, and let them show you what makes their skill set and their projects unique. Be flexible in the responses you are open to receiving. The great companies will respond in their own unique, creative way, and this will help you figure out which vendor is best suited for your project. 

Reciprocate 

If you want your RFP to be successful, you need to offer as much information as you ask for. A software vendor can’t give you accurate information about your project if you don’t give them clear information regarding your goals, business, project, and budget. Furthermore, it is unfair to ask a software development firm to give you information about themselves and their business if you offer nothing in return. 

Be Honest 

Be upfront and clear about your goals, expectations, budget, etc. This will save you a lot of time, and it will help the quality software development teams give you good, accurate advice about how you should proceed with your project. Businesses might fear being sold or “tricked” into a sale if they are too honest about what they are looking for. 

These businesses fail to realize that by withholding information, such as their target budget, they are inviting the less reputable companies to offer the lowest reasonable price for the job. Of course, the cost is a major concern for every business. This is understandable. However, you need to be honest about your budget to determine if your project is even possible at that price. 

Let the Vendors Lead the Process 

The best advice we can give about software development RFPs is to let the vendors lead the process. Obviously, you will have to reach out with a proposal in order to begin communicating with software vendors, but once contact is made, let them lead the process and give them all the information that they ask for. 

By taking this approach, you give the software developers themselves the ability to show off what makes them the best choice. Allowing vendors to lead the process will quickly separate the top-tier quality software development companies from the less reputable ones. 

Remember, if they say yes to every single question or concern you have, they are likely lying in order to gain your business. 

Final Thoughts 

Creating a software development RFP does not have to be difficult. The important thing is to be clear, open, and honest about everything on your end. Don’t hold every company to the same standard when it comes to replies to your proposal. This is counterproductive. The goal is to find an app development partner that you can trust. 

When creating an RFP for software development, you need to ask yourself, are you trying to find a good vendor or a desperate one? 

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