How to Write an RFP for Software Development: Explained

08 Aug 2022

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A moment has come: you are starting your software project and expect much from it. Let's assume you have compiled a list of potential development partners already; now, you must select a winner from them. There is a special document that will assist you with it. It is called a Request For Proposal (RFP).

You need to compile this paper and send it to selected companies. Operating with the software development RFP, they can provide you with a tech solution faster, considering the project's requirements, goals, or constraints. In your turn, you’ll save time, increase the efficiency of negotiations, and maximize the chances of success for the endeavor.

So check this article to learn how to write a request for proposal for software development, what it should include, and what a good RFP can bring your business.

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What Is RFP in Software Development?

An RFP for software development refers to primary documents compiled by the customer of the digital product. It describes a tech project for which the compiler (customer) needs a contractor (provider company). As a rule, a request for proposal for software development contains info sufficient for the implementer to get a complete picture of its future partner and the output the client expects to see.

An RFP also outlines:

  • Project requirements: terms, result, goals, work scope
  • Information about concluding an agreement, contract conditions, estimates
  • Recommendations on the preparation and submission of the RFP answer
  • Tech peculiarities helping the developer identify technologies and tools properly

RFPs are not just an IT option. It is a standard business practice to announce the auction for the best offer. However, the software development request for proposal has features associated with complicated IT products and their creation. Further in the text, we will consider just such RFPs.

What is an RFP?

What is a Request For Proposal ( RFP)?

Goals for compiling an RFP

A software development RFP is helpful for both customers and their future partners. Nonetheless, the parties' goals are not equal, although both of them need this negotiation and everyone is interested in its quality. So often, the supplier can help the client: by providing a sample RFP document for software development, giving a preliminary consultation, etc.

The main RFP objectives for the customer are:

  • Choosing a software supplier that best meets the requirements and the company's expectations
  • Presentation of the company and the project to professional audience
  • Collection of ideas, strategies, and approaches that different vendors offer regarding development
  • Assessment of the market and financial conditions based on data from several proposals
  • Ability to officially announce the trading (often required in corporate practice)
  • Saving time on further negotiations: the RFP becomes a technical task allowing to evaluate project's features, perspectives, and pitfalls

The other side is also interested in getting an RFP: software development peculiarities can only be defined based on detailed info. The executing company must understand what it’ll deal with and how relevant its expertise is. Even the initial RFP software development template helps the implementer think through the workflow and choice of tools in advance.

The goals for the contractor are:

  • Improving the quality of the counter answer for the delivery of more valuable results
  • Informing the customer about how the company interprets, considers, and understands the project requirements
  • Ensuring transparency of objectives and the cooperation process through the info exchange
  • Establishing partnerships based on the appropriate cooperation model
  • Optimization of project time and budget

Why you shouldn't neglect RFP

What is RFP in software development? It’s a kind of bridge between the expectations of one side and the capabilities of the other. By compiling it, you achieve much better results — and much faster. It is crucial, in particular, to bring a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to market.

RFP document for software development is full of many benefits:

Understanding of business goals

In projects, especially big and complicated, RFP simplifies the understanding the product, help choose the solution and achieve proper business results

Optimization of resources

An RFP saves time on initial negotiations and allows you to reach the market faster, having determined all the necessities in advance

Realistic project estimation

The RFP helps clarify all parties' expectations, timelines, budgetary limits, and tech feasibility for development

Healthy competition

By choosing between multiple props, the customer ensures equal opportunities for everyone and a “fair win”

Details to Know Before Drafting RFP for Software Development

When you use an RFP template for software development, involve people familiar with the project. It is perfect if these are the same experts who will evaluate the return proposal. Depending on the team composition and size, these can be business analysts, a product owner, etc. It would also be helpful to involve technical experts, if any.

Remember that most IT firms work with Agile methodology (Cleveroad too), and it is better that your employees take it into account. If there are no necessary specialists, you can always order IT consulting from specialized providers, asking for a request for proposal software template or useful advice.

An RFP workflow

Drafting an RFP

The first step, as always, is the tabula rasa. In our case, it is a primary software development RFP template. Be sure to discuss key points with all decision makers before filling the copy with the data. When compiling a request for proposal software template, you can use special tools to simplify the info processing: formatting, structuring, modifying. You will be surprised how much time you save.

Sending RFP to chosen companies

Now you need to send the finished document to the performers, whom you must select in advance. Take the time to search: this is an important point on which a lot depends.

We can make it easy for you to find a partner for a project. Read how to choose a software development company in our article!

RFP response analysis

Having received a request for proposal, software development firms examine it and give you a response. Also, the provider may ask you questions to not to miss nuances. In most cases, clarifications of all crucial points are attached to the RFP in software development in advance, but be prepared to send additional info.

Once you receive the responses, analyze them to choose a flawless winner. If you are unsure, conduct additional rounds of interviews with candidates. To simplify the selection, create a scoring frame: assign certain points to the answer to each item, and you just have to find out who has more of them.

The difference between RFI, RFQ, and RFP

While exploring any sample RFP for software development, or this topic in general, you may come across other kinds of requests: for information (RFI) and for quotation (RFQ). These three documents are united by a global goal: streamlining communication between the company and its potential partners. However, these requests are used in entirely different situations.

The RFP for software development (template and subsequently completed) is the final step in the discussion cycle. Before it, you can send RFIs providers, which helps to better learn about their experience, capabilities, resources, strategy, corporate culture, etc.

The customer companies can combine these papers with requests for quotations (RFQs) to make the best business decision about a candidate. These documents allow them to compare price offers and providers' services visually.

Let’s illustrate it:

The difference between RFI, RFQ, and RFP

The difference between RFI, RFQ, and RFP

In practice, an RFP can contain all the necessary info if it is well written, so you can base your journey using only it.

How to Write a Request for Proposal for Software Development: Steps With Examples

The RFP refers to a process-oriented practice and some rigorous rules regarding the elements. In spite of this, many details vary depending on the timing, specifications, etc. Therefore, there are no strict requirements about what to include — just make sure it's neither too much nor too little.

To make this non-trivial task easier, we have compiled a short list of how to write an RFP for software development by parts:

  1. Introduction/Project overview
  2. About a company: overview, background, contacts
  3. Project goals and business value
  4. The scope and deliverables
  5. Tech requirements
  6. Possible roadblocks/constraints
  7. Schedule and deadlines for response and further actions
  8. Format/structure of vendors’ proposals

Create a quality RFP quickly

Our team will provide you with a software RFP example and a solution for your project

And now, let’s dive deeper. To make it easier for you, we have prepared a brief description of them with software development RFP examples from real Cleveroad cases.

Introduction/Project Overview

Here, we describe the project as a brief summary and need to specify:

  • The stage your product is at: an idea, a prototype, an outdated solution, or part of a platform to develop
  • Project aims: what do you expect to see as a result
  • Core challenges to be solved
  • Description of the business: domain, needs, etc.

This section usually contains several sentences. They have to be written in such a way that providers can understand if they can create the product you need.

Cleveroad example: A UK-based provider of healthcare consultations from National Health Service-trained general practitioners and clinicians is looking for a vendor to build a turnkey system for providing and receiving healthcare services online, including appointments management and telemedicine consultations. The system has to be easily submitted for certification by the UK local authorities.

About a Company

This section contains crucial information: what your company does, what products and services it supplies, its mission, values, target audience.

It is advisable to connect this info with your idea of ​​a software: how crucial it is for business, what value it brings, how it will help consumers. If you need to improve the current solution, describe why it does not suit you: shortcomings, processes that need improvement, desired features.

Here you should also indicate all contacts to connect with you (or the person who will be responsible for communication with providers). This data is duplicated at the end of the document.

Cleveroad example: Our FinTech company has been on the market since 1998 and has reached US$3,319.00 AUM (assets under management) by January 2021. We provide investment services to audiences from Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.

Some clients from this area cannot invest enough funds on their own and want to participate in the process as micro-investors on shares. In order to expand the business to reach this part of the audience, we need a micro-investment management platform that complies with FinTech regulations in countries covered by SAMA.

Interested in Cleveroad's hands-on experience? Read full case studies in our portfolio!

Project Goals and Business Value

Now, you make the picture of aims and results of the project as clear as possible, focusing on measurable business needs and quantifiable goals. Please, formulate in advance:

  • How the software will serve users
  • How it will boost the customer service, and
  • How it will assist your clients

Ensure your quantitative metrics are trackable. Aims are conveniently listed and described in business terms (leave technical issues for later).

Here are examples of goals that Cleveroad has achieved on its projects:

  • Reducing the company employees’ paperwork by 5-20% by developing a digital platform for management of documents and internal business processes
  • A software system designed according to Care Quality Commission requirements, the UK healthcare regulations, and KYC policies: the solution should allow users to submit for legal assessment
  • Expansion of the customer's affiliate campaign by providing the company with long-term support, improvement, and maintenance services: it needs to be achieved no less than 3 partnership programs in parallel
  • Clients' attraction/retention rate growth by 20-30% by creating a new eBanking system with improved UX and simplified account opening

The Scope and Deliverables

The project scope is an indispensable heart of the RFP, as vendors perform most of the calculations based on it. So don't skimp on details, even though you don't need to delve into tech descriptions (like in a project spec). The core thing is to avoid "blind spots" and give the vendor all the info about the services and the delivered product you expect.

Among the basic points are:

The project scope

The project scope in the RFP

It should be noted: In this request for proposal sample for software development, we've separated the technical scope from the other for the convenience of reading. However, they often join in the Project Scope section (which becomes quite large). So choose the option suiting you.

Project management

It would be great to determine who will be involved in managing the whole pipeline — and to what extent. Then, describe the format suiting you: dedicated team, remote control, provider's coordination, or mixed solution.

It is also worth clarifying ways to communicate with the team, time milestones for receiving and evaluating the intermediate results, and tools (such as Jira or Trello). If you are used to a particular resource, find out if it suits the provider.

Cleveroad example: Among the requirements for project management was: the need to regularly compare planned and achieved results. Cleveroad's solution: meetings once a week, which the project manager held with the customer, discussing the completed work scope and adjusting it if necessary.

Product requirements

It critically impacts the final "forms" of your product. Here it is desirable to demonstrate the desired user story or define key points otherwise:

  • User Experience (UX) and software capabilities
  • Processes to be automated during the project
  • Solution component entities, etc.

Functional design and requirements

It lists all the features you require to see in your product and that your future business partner should create. Next, you need to outline the requirements that the finished product must meet accurately. Finally, specify how UX will change per them.

A tip for you: think about backend and frontend requirements and ask providers to inform you if they have the right experts: solution architects, analysts, designers, specialists in cloud integration, security, etc.

Cleveroad example: A ready streaming platform should allow viewers in the Nordic region to purchase or rent high-quality movies/TV series.

Solving a complex tech problem?

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Tech Requirements

Before starting, you may not know all the specific technical requirements, but you have to figure out as many details as you can in advance. Describe the technologies you’d like to use, the equipment, IoT devices that should be integrated, etc.

Cleveroad examples:

  • The system must support Liveness detection (done with Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services that shows high-level precision in detecting)
  • An application should be integrated with an existing IoT sensor that monitors hydration levels in the human organism

Infrastructure requirements

Here we describe the critical points for the hard- and software infrastructure. The provider's limitations in this matter can turn to a violation of the deadlines. Check with vendors:

  • Regularity of infrastructure monitoring
  • Reliability of the data safety and antivirus tools
  • Ways to ensure intellectual property and non-disclosure of information

Development and QA

You need to figure out who will perform quality control during development in advance: should it be you or your software provider. In any case, describe what you expect from these processes, who and how they will communicate with you when software creation begins, and how adjustments will be made if necessary.

Ask providers to describe the quality control policies, tools, and approaches to QA. Specify how the company will communicate with you and adjust testing, if necessary.

Learn more about the QA process and its peculiarities in our in-depth guide!

Possible Roadblocks and Constraints

First of all, you have to indicate your scope for budget, project completion dates, and resources’ constraints.

Expenses

You can specify both exact numbers and a range acceptable to you. The choice is yours: the final cost, the expenses for the developing stages, the payment for each sprint, considering results. Even if the budget is not known yet, describe your expectations — and see what the providers will respond to them.

Sometimes, customers rely on the other side for budget proposals, but still, experts recommend including this info in the RFP. This approach helps avoid misunderstandings from non-compliance with financial expectations, reduce the time for pre-sale negotiations, and increase your chance of finishing the job within agreed framework.

Time

In RFPs, terms are indicated quite approximately, but it is crucial for vendors to know them to assess capabilities reasonably and not bother you if they do not meet expectations. It is advisable to model your vision of the schedule, key milestones in the roadmap, and the mechanism for revising the deadlines in case of force majeure.

Resources

Indicate the limitations in your resources (existing or potential) to help companies assess their ability to complete the task under current conditions, and you can select the most appropriate of them.

For example, you can specify that:

  • Your factory needs a new QMS software, but has restrictions on its deployment: all lines must be closed for maintenance every year and a half
  • You automate paper flow, but it is necessary to ensure clear UI/UX: employees are used to manual operations, and it may be challenging for them to work with a digital system
  • You need the software as soon as possible: you've received funds in investment round, and the result must be demonstrated no later than 6 months

Schedule and Deadlines

Indicate deadlines and preferred dates for vendors’ responses and actions. Please, give companies time to make a fair and comprehensive assessment of the project and the required budget. Still, keep the timelines clear: it helps select candidates who take them seriously.

You can arrange the data in the form of text or a table with deadline dates. Specify:

  • RFP publication date
  • Deadlines for answers (range or deadline)
  • Terms of consideration of received applications
  • Dates to meet providers (for interviews or clarifications)
  • Vendor final selection date
  • Project start date (optional)

Format and Structure of Vendors’ Proposals

If you fill out this section, you will greatly help candidates and speed up receiving promotions from them. Prepare recommendations or a ready-made response to the software development RFP (sample). The format must be such that the supplier can indicate there:

  • Company name and a brief description of its services/areas of expertise
  • Location of R&D centers, the possibility of remote work
  • Product vision: a rough plan, opportunities for management, suggestions for the feature list and improvements, pitfalls
  • Planned team composition (with qualifications)
  • Estimated breakdown of expenses
  • Approaches and plans preferred by the company
  • Additional points: post-deployment support,employees training, etc.
Essential steps of RFP

Essential elements of RFP

What else to include?

In addition, your RFP may contain:

Metrics and scoring

Specify indicators and KPIs to assess whether your project's needs have been met in the vendor's proposal

Letter of interest

Issues related to confidentiality, non-disclosure of the info outlined, intellectual property, and the reduction of related risks

Collaboration expectations

Anything you see fit to add to increase partnership success: post-project actions, force majeure responses, legal issues, etc.

What to Think of When Making an RFP

We have listed so many things above, and it may seem that it is cumbersome and challenging to complete a document. It isn't necessarily so: just clearly define the aims and some features that are valuable to you. A broad business context and focus on matters is the recipe for a balanced RFP.

Your RFP has to be simple and direct. For this:

Determine your real needs

Start from the problems the new digital product is supposed to solve. Define business aims and metrics to know if you have achieved results by developing software or not. Ask the other side of negotiations what they think is the good solution for the problem.

Structure your requests

The idea of the future software should be transparent; there will be no ambiguities and vague wording. Try using diagrams and mind maps to structure your vision. If you find it hard, contact a software provider offering Discovery Phase services: after going through it with experts, you will learn what the product should be like.

Share project details with your provider

Whether choosing providers to send an RFP or a winner from them, remember that your partner is here to help you get the best out of your software solution. So don't limit yourself to sharing details with the company (keep in mind non-disclosure agreements, of course).

The open collaboration will simplify contracting and speed up initial planning sessions, helping both parties ensure they are "looking in the same direction." That's why Cleveroad emphasized RFP responses, the pre-sales, and the Discovery Phase.

We prioritize integrity in cooperation and focus on long-term and successful partnership, quality development, and delivery for the success of your product.

Turning to Cleveroad, you get:

  • Support of a company with more than 10 years of industry expertise
  • The entire pool of qualified, certified experts: from solution architects and business analysts to QA engineers and DevOps
  • The proper balance of costs and excellent software quality: as an outsourcing provider, we offer optimal prices and flexible cooperation models
  • Complete coverage of the custom web and mobile development and on-demand services: UI/UX design, quality assurance, legacy systems modernization, etc.
  • All guarantees for your business information security and NDA upon request

Start cooperation with RFP

Send us a request, and our Business Delivery managers will give you comprehensive advice

Frequently Asked Questions

A request for proposal refers to primary documents compiled by the customer of the digital product. It describes a tech project for which the compiler (customer) needs a contractor (provider company). It should contain information sufficient for the vendor to get a complete picture of its potential partner and the product the client expects to see.

In most RFP examples, software development requirements are structured in this way:

  • Introduction/Project overview
  • About a company and contacts
  • Project goals and business value
  • The scope and deliverables
  • Technical requirements
  • Possible roadblocks/constraints
  • Schedule and deadlines
  • Format/structure of proposals

There are some tips on how to write a request for proposal for software development:

  • Determine your real needs
  • Structure your requests
  • Share project details with your provider
  • Choose a reliable business partner based on thoughtful metrics and reviews

And you can always ask for a sample RFP for application development or web product building from Cleveroad’s IT consultants.

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