Team of experts creating an RFP document for a software development project

According to ActiveState's research, software developers spend a majority of their time not building software but engaging with administrative tasks and experiencing plenty of downtime due to poor planning. This could mean a delay in project launch and a loss of revenue.

Avoiding this potential pitfall is quite possible if you come well-prepared when looking to outsource software development services.

Simply put, you need a solid blueprint for the entire project, from gathering project requirements to contacting potential vendors. You need a well-crafted RFP for software development.

Having already explored the RFP meaning, process and response, we will now look into the specific request for proposal documents – starting with software request for proposal.

In this article, we will analyze the importance of making an RFP document for software development, its essential components and why defining a timeline is particularly vital.

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What Is an RFP for Software Development?

A request for proposal for software development is a document that a procuring company needs to create in order to find the software vendor that can supply the product that fits their business needs.

Software request for proposal contains details such as specific project requirements, product delivery timeline, contact info and others (we will list all the components of RFP software development in this article).

In return, software development vendors will submit their bids and offerings based on the company’s RFP which acts as a foundation for evaluation of each vendor’s capabilities. It is also the first step towards negotiations being held between the client and the software provider.

Why Do You Need a Request for Proposal for Software Development?

Making understandable and transparent project specifications in software development is of paramount importance. It also helps with optimizing the project timeline and budget.

Of course, the product that the chosen software development vendor will deliver must satisfy your project requirements. Therefore, the request for proposal should articulate the said requirements, mission and objectives to the vendor.

A software development request for proposal also clarifies the communication between you and a potential supplier and bridges your expectations and their capacities.

In a nutshell, RFPs benefit both the client and the vendor by:

  • Streamlining the software development company research and selection process
  • Revealing the strengths and weaknesses of each potential supplier
  • Accelerating the negotiation process and setting expectations
  • Optimizing the development time and budget
  • Providing vendors with an opportunity to acquire a client
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10 Essential Components of RFP for Software Development

Every request for proposal is different as it outlines information on a specific company’s unique needs for a product or a service.

However, these specific requirements can be contained in the following cornerstone components every RFP should have.

1. Introduction & Project Overview

The beginning of each software development request for proposal includes a project and document outline. Be concise, direct and as informative as possible by mentioning:

  • Your company’s name and mission
  • The nature of the company
  • The kind of software your company needs
  • The ultimate business goal that the software product should deliver

2. Company Background

This is where you will elaborate more on the first items in the introduction. Tell your prospective vendors about your company, what you do, your market and your target audience. Also, describe how the software project should fit into this general picture.

Mention things like:

  • Your company’s story and origins
  • The brand image you’re projecting
  • Products and services that you provide
  • Your location
  • Your competitive landscape (who your competitors are, how they are performing, etc.)

3. Target Audience & Project Objectives

Following the general information about your company’s background and your market positioning, describe your software project’s KPIs as well as the short-term and long-term goals that you’re hoping to achieve with it.

You should also include all the available information you have on your target audience and customers, such as:

  • General demographic info (age, gender, location, income, etc.)
  • Psychographic info (user behavior, the digital channels they use, their habits and pain points, etc.)
  • Ideal customer/user persona

Knowing these details will help the chosen software development vendor create a product that will resonate well with your target audience, help solve their pain points and generally assist your efforts in engaging with the customers.

4. Project Scope and Deliverables

This part of the RFP process is where you should define each stage of the software development project. To do so, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will the project involve?
  • What exactly does your company need help with?
  • What features and capabilities should the software contain?
  • Also, try to define the additional aspects of the software project such as:
  • Project management
  • Graphic design
  • Testing and QA
  • Software training

5. Technical Requirements

At this stage of the software development request for proposal, you should mention all the technical details that are essential for the project’s success.

This includes:

  • Your current IT infrastructure
  • Your current software (if any)
  • Apps and platforms that the new software should integrate with
  • User/customer accounts
  • Accessibility requirements
  • Projected growth regarding scalability considerations

6. Deliverables & Schedule

The deadline for the software development project, as well as separate deadlines for each separate stage of the project, should be included in this part of the RFP.

Provide the software development vendor with a general idea of the project’s size and scope and help them visualize how the project fits into their schedule in order to prepare resources to meet the deadline.

7. Potential Hurdles

Include anything you know that may cause issues down the line while developing or implementing the software product.

Your potential software product vendor should be aware if you anticipate any future roadblocks that may cause delays or general problems. These potential issues could be:

  • The current infrastructure that needs updating in order to accommodate the new project
  • Potential budget issues
  • Planned staff shortages and changes in your team
  • Stakeholders' disagreements on the project’s aspects

If you include all of this in your RFP, it can help you find a software development company whose skills and resources may successfully manage these potential situations.

8. Budget

Your planned budget for the project should be included in this section, as well as any constraints you may have in that regard.

It is advisable to be as transparent as possible and express your readiness to negotiate if necessary. Also, you should outline if you prefer a fixed price or a working budget that responds as the requirements change in the process.

9. Specific Selection Criteria

Before you conclude your software development RFP document, relay your specific selection criteria to the vendors. In other words, what are you looking for in a software development company?

This could mean many things, from the company’s location and expertise to the way they handle project management. Whatever your desires are in this respect, make sure you outline them in this section.

10. Contact Info

Finally, conclude your RFP document by letting potential vendors know who the main point of contact is and the person they will address the RFP response to. This is also a fine opportunity to once again mention the deadline for the project.

The Timeline for a Software Request for Proposal

When creating the request for proposal for software development companies, setting your timeline for the project is particularly important.

There are so many aspects to software development and your potential software vendors should have enough time to ensure all stages are done well for the whole project to work. Therefore, by providing them with a reasonable timeframe, not only do you have better chances of getting an accurate quotation but also an end-product that is capable of meeting your business objectives.

Also, don’t forget to evaluate the overall complexity of your project. If you feel that it is too complex, consider highlighting the main points and shortening the process, so as not to alienate potential vendors in the initial stages of procurement.

Final Thoughts on Crafting an RFP for Software Development

While there is no strict template for writing an RFP document for software development, the guidelines in this article will provide you with an essential blueprint for writing an RFP that suits your requirements.

Essentially, a similar template can be used for writing requests for proposals for any other service a company may need, including:

While writing your RFP for software development, don’t forget to involve relevant departments and relevant stakeholders to help you define your business goals and project requirements more accurately.

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