IT Outsourcing

RFP for IT Projects: Process and Best Practices

14 Feb 202323 min read

Eryk Libelt

Eryk Libelt

RFP for IT Projects: Process and Best Practices

Nowadays, most companies invest in creating their own software to expand their business.

The global market size for IT professional services was estimated to be USD 777.28 billion in 2021, according to Grandview Research, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.2% from 2022 to 2030.

Therefore it is beneficial to consider growing your business by incorporating software. However, when thinking about developing your own project you may encounter many difficult choices. No wonder you may feel overwhelmed and stressed about the process. With such high stakes as big risks or high costs, you want to maximize the prevention of errors.

The most common reason for project failure is unclear requirements. To help you with the process of making a clear vision of your software and choosing the right outsourcing company you can create an RFP. Because you may not have the technical knowledge to complete this document, SolveQ created a comprehensive guide you could follow.

What is RFP for software development?

A Request for Proposal (RFP) for software development is a document that outlines the project requirements and objectives for the creation of a software product. The RFP serves as an invitation for software development companies or individuals to submit a proposal outlining their plan to deliver the required software solution.

The RFP outlines the goals and objectives of the software project, the target audience, technical requirements, and any other critical information relevant to the project. Its process enables organizations to evaluate different solutions and providers and select the one that best meets their needs and budget.

Why you should prepare RFP for software projects?

At first, you may think that creating such a document is only profitable for big projects or there is no need for it at all. Well, you could not be more wrong. Such an outline helps every project in many ways and may save you a lot of money, time and energy.

  • Streamlined vendor selection:

An RFP systematically compares potential vendors and ensures that the chosen software development team aligns with the project requirements and technical specifications.

  • Multi-perspective review:

The RFP process allows for assessing different perspectives and viewpoints related to the project, leading to a refined and well-defined project plan.

  • Contract clarity:

A comprehensive RFP eliminates any surprises or unexpected costs by clearly outlining what each contractor is obligated to provide and at what price, ensuring that the project stays within budget.

  • Time savings:

A thorough RFP saves time by reducing the need to clarify project details and filtering out unsuitable development teams. This results in a more efficient and effective procurement process.

RFP vs RFI vs RFQ: what’s the difference?

Once you start searching for RFP, you will stumble upon a similar acronym like RFQ or RFI, which may cause your confusion. All of them are separate documents and serve a purpose for something else.

  • Request for Information (RFI):

The purpose of an RFI is to provide companies with an understanding of a vendor's abilities and resources to aid in their decision-making process. An RFI is sent to several shortlisted vendors and includes general information about the project goals and specific questions to gain insights into the vendor's experience, company culture, and capacity to deliver the necessary services.

  • Request for Quote (RFQ):

After shortlisting potential vendors for a project, the next step is to compare prices. An RFQ is a document that lists the project requirements, designs, user journeys, and budget estimates in detail to help determine the best vendor for the project.

  • Request for Proposal (RFP):

The final stage of the sales cycle is the RFP. This comprehensive document outlines the project requirements and challenges and requests specific solutions, technology recommendations, and deliverables from the vendor. The RFP is a key tool in selecting the right software development provider for a project.

The RFP Process: Introduction

Even RFP is a common practice, there is no one template for each case. From a beginner's viewpoint, there are many opportunities to make mistakes. To avoid this, let's go through the RFP process step by step so you feel confident in creating this important business document as needed.

  1. Discovery phase:

The RFP (Request for Proposal) process starts with a discovery phase involving key stakeholders. The three key things to determine during this phase are:

  • project boundaries
  • schedule
  • budget estimates

The individuals responsible for executing and managing the RFP process should have project knowledge and decision-making skills. The decision's impact on the company should be considered, including a budget, ongoing projects and relationships. The person writing the RFP for a software project should be familiar with Agile methodology and clearly understand the project. The task can be taken on by the product manager, project manager, business analyst or product owner, with support from relevant experts.

  1. Create the document:

The next step is drafting the Request for Proposal (RFP). This is a crucial aspect, as a well-drafted RFP is key to accurately identifying the project's requirements. A comprehensive document will enable potential vendors to understand the project needs better, allowing for the submission of more effective solutions. To ensure the project's success, it is recommended to prioritize the comprehensiveness of the RFP.

  1. Send out your RFP to your vendors:

When it comes to distributing the Request for Proposal (RFP), you have several options available to you. You can make it publicly available on your company website and inform potential vendors about its availability. Additionally, you can post it on specialized RFP websites or online services to reach a wider audience. Another approach would be directly reaching out to specific vendors and providing them with the RFP. This method allows for a more targeted and personalized approach. Regardless of the method chosen, it is important to effectively communicate the availability of the RFP to ensure a competitive and thorough response process.

  1. Make a system:

As responses to the Request for Proposal (RFP) come in, it's important to evaluate the most suitable vendors systematically. This includes using a predefined scoring pattern to assess each response and eliminate those not meeting your requirements. This evaluation aims to identify the vendors' strengths and create a shortlist of those that score the highest. This will help ensure that you select the vendor that best meets the needs of your project.

  1. Choose the best one and sign a contract:

With the response window closed, it's time to decide. Start by comparing your shortlisted vendors and evaluating all relevant information, including references and reviews. Ensure consistency between what the vendors share and what their clients say. If necessary, reach out to the vendors for additional meetings or materials to help with your decision-making process. By taking a thorough and methodical approach, you'll be able to make an informed choice and select the best vendor for your project needs.

How to write a flawless request for a proposal?

The Request for Proposal (RFP) must be meticulously crafted to cover the most crucial aspects of the project to provide a clear and concise understanding of your desired outcome. It's important to balance comprehensiveness and simplicity, as an overly complex RFP can be overwhelming and detract from its intended purpose. By following a systematic and organized approach, you can ensure that your RFP is comprehensive and effective in achieving its intended goal: to secure the best possible solution to meet your project needs.

1. Start with an overview of Your Project Goals

The executive summary is like a bird's eye view of your project - it gives a quick rundown of what you're hoping to achieve, what you need, and your limitations.

  • Include a Brief Intro of Your Project

Think of the project overview as a quick introduction. Give a lowdown on where your product stands at the moment - is it just an idea, a prototype, or already in development?

  • Introduce Your Company

When writing about your company, aim for brevity and clarity. After all, you're searching for a software development vendor to help you build a mobile-friendly app. So, give your readers a brief rundown of your business and what you're all about.

As yourself questions like:

  • why did you decide to start the project
  • what are your goals and objectives for the project
  • who would the project be an addition to my company
  • what is the function of my project
  • who is the target audience
  • what are the obstacles or problems we want to overcome
  • (if you already have a solution) why isn't it working

Your goals should be outside of your already existing business scope. For example, website design aims to facilitate multi-channel engagement with your clients, not just for generating product sales.

You ensure the suppliers comprehend your company's requirements by furnishing project details and corporate background information. This empowers them to offer proposals that align with your company's objectives.

2. Scope of the project’s software development

As we delve into the technical aspect of your Request for a Proposal, things become more complicated. This segment will likely be the most extensive component of your RFP for a software development firm. Why is that segment important? The software development group endeavours to estimate the scope of work that is, project duration and cost, by multiplying it with the relevant developers' hourly rates.

2.1 Project Management Requirements

This section outlines your plans for maintaining communication and overseeing the dedicated software development team. It's important to inquire about their project management tools and how you will be informed about each milestone.

  • Communication:

Effective interaction with the software team is critical to identifying, specifying, and managing tasks and conducting process modelling. Popular project management tools used by standard software development companies include Trello, Skype, and Jira.

  • Methodology:

Selecting a suitable methodology is crucial as it dictates how you will collaborate with the developers. There is no one-size-fits-all methodology for working with a dedicated team, as each has its own set of principles, processes, and benefits. Some may lead to success, while others may result in failure. Your methodology choice should be based on the project and your requirements, such as Waterfall, Agile, Kanban, or something else.

Ensure that you or your team are comfortable with the project management tool your vendor will use, as this will facilitate a seamless workflow and ensure success. Don't forget to determine the need for a Project Manager beforehand. This is important because, without a PM, you will have to manage the team, requiring a significant amount of time and management skills.

2.2 Infrastructure Requirements

This section specifies the key software infrastructure requirements to secure the project throughout the development phase.

Computer Protection/Internet Security/Data Security: Software developers should have the following measures in place:

  • Antivirus software managed at the domain level
  • Network Attack Blocker
  • IPS (Intrusion Prevention System)
  • Network Security
  • SaaS Security
  • Spam Protection

They must also comply with high-security standards, such as backup generators and uninterrupted power supplies. For instance, regular infrastructure monitoring, password management, and email authentication should be implemented to preserve data security.

Intellectual Property Rights in Software: To safeguard your IP, you may employ contracts, NDAs, and internal methods to secure your IP address

2.3 Functional Requirements

Outline your desired functions. Clearly define both internal and external development requirements. Ask yourself what functions are the top priorities or what functions the application should have.

When specifying the functions you require, always link them to the benefits they bring so that the designers and software developers fully comprehend the problem you are trying to solve. The following list contains potential functions you can include when defining project requirements in your request for a proposal.

  • Product-focused:

For instance, the order processing system must notify the manager of new orders.

  • User-focused:

For example, the buyer should be able to add items to their "Favorites" folder.

  • Optimization-focused (maximum user benefit):

For instance, the buyer should not have to confirm their order after it is placed.

  • Object-focused (list of characteristics):

For example, an order should have the following attributes: user information, delivery address, list of items, cash or card payment.

  • Process-focused:

For instance, orders should be synced with an ERP system for efficient account adjustments and order processing.

Template for Describing Each Functional Requirement:

  • Feature: the name of the new function.
  • Description: a description of what the new function will do.
  • Goal: the task or action the user wants to perform.
  • User Problem: the pain point.
  • Value for User: how the proposed solution will benefit the user.
  • Assumptions: business, user, or technical assumptions.
  • Forbidden: anything outside the scope of this function.

It's crucial to determine the metrics for evaluating your functions beforehand. This way, you can determine if they meet their intended results.

When composing a request for a proposal, while functional requirements are significant, it's essential to convey the business objective clearly. For instance, if you desire a navigation style similar to Netflix, filtration mechanics like Amazon, and a design like Spotify, it is crucial to mention this. However, the selected software development company may provide suggestions regarding the functional requirements.

2.4. Quality assurance & Testing Requirements

Maintaining and improving product quality and reducing or eliminating production errors is the goal of this section. A reliable quality assurance process is essential in developing a software solution.

Select the most suitable test type based on the project's requirements. Further information on options can be found at Guru99.

If necessary, specify the desired software testing tools:

  • Testim: a scalable AI-based testing automation tool
  • Kobiton: best suited for application testing automation on mobile devices
  • mabl: a low-code-level testing automation platform
  • Global App Testing: ideal for integration with third-party tools
  • QAProSoft: a free and open-source testing automation ecosystem
  • Selenium: an open-source set of tools for software automation and testing. Offers results for testing with several solutions including Selenium WebDriver, Selenium IDE, and Selenium Grid.

2.5. Platform Requirements

The choice of platform for a software solution can be impacted by considerations such as time, target audience, and budget. Clearly specify the platform(s) that the solution must be implemented on:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Web
  • Other

It's important to keep in mind that the number of platforms selected will directly impact the cost of the software development project. Additionally, each platform may require different levels of developer expertise and skills, which can result in financial limitations.

Step 3: Schedule

Timing is crucial as it helps establish priorities. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has a launch date been set for your software development endeavor?
  • When should the assigned software development group begin work on the application?

The significance of this step lies in the fact that with this information, vendors can determine:

  • If they have enough specialists to allocate to your project.
  • If they can meet the established deadlines.
  • Whether the interim development phases can be finished within the timeline.

Step 4: Costing and Budgeting

You can either specify the project's projected cost or break down the budget for each stage of software development.

If the cost estimation for the project exceeds your budget, the assigned software development team may assist you in determining what aspects can be deferred.

For example, if you need a real-time chat feature, there are two options with different costs:

  • A more sophisticated chat that allows you to monitor typing status, track messages read receipts, set expiration dates, and edit/delete messages. This option is more expensive.
  • A basic real-time chat that only performs the core function of communication. This alternative is more cost-effective.

The importance of this step lies in the fact that it's essential to have a realistic understanding of the expected outcomes and their associated costs.

Step 5: Vendor Evaluation and Selection Criteria

Before choosing a software vendor for your project, create a set of criteria that meets your specific needs. Determine what information you require from potential contractors. For instance, request the following information from a vendor:

  1. A brief overview of the development company, including its name and background, organizational structure, qualifications, and location.
  2. A description of the development team, including their experience and resumes.
  3. Details about their processes, such as managing software development projects, controlling quality, and using tools.
  4. A project plan, including the stages and timelines.
  5. The technical vision for the project, including the technologies and architecture they plan to use.
  6. A budget estimate, including the expected project expenses, specialist rates, and any additional expenses.
  7. Intellectual property considerations.
  8. Suggestions for enhancing the project or functions not included in the project description.
  9. References from previous customers.

You will receive various proposals, each with its strengths, reputation, and capabilities. Some may offer low costs, while others may prioritize high quality. Remember, the purpose of the RFP document is to determine how well the IT vendor aligns with the requirements of your project.

The importance of this step lies in making it easier to compare the bids you receive by including this section in your Request for Proposal. You can effectively compare and choose the best option by gathering responses to the aforementioned questions.

7 Tips to write effective RFP

When writing a proposal, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of rules you should or should not follow. To save you we prepared 7 tips that will make your RFP great, so you can rest assured.

  1. Be Clear and Specific:

Avoid abstraction as much as possible and be precise in every section of the RFP. The goal is to provide the vendors clarity, context, and transparency.

  1. Avoid Being Price-Oriented:

Don't prioritize low cost as it may result in lower functionality, slower development, and lower quality with higher overall costs.

  1. Prioritize Project Goals:

Don't include too many goals and prioritize selection criteria to receive more realistic supplier offers.

  1. Focus on Pain Points:

Describe your pain points in detail instead of offering a probable solution. Let the vendors provide their own suggestions for a more effective outcome.

  1. Use Simple Language:

Avoid using internal jargon, as suppliers may not be familiar with your company's terms and abbreviations.

  1. Define MVP:

Separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves and wishes. Clearly define the minimal viable product (MVP) to achieve a more accurate price.

  1. Utilize Electronic Sources:

Consider using electronic sources and signature tools to seamlessly distribute RFP materials, audit trail, and response storage while reducing delays in signing and providing version control of documents.


A Request for Proposal (RFP) for software development is a document that outlines the project requirements and objectives for creating a software product. It brings you many benefits and can help you choose the right vendor. It is also a great tool to set your business goals and objectives to avoid further project failure.
You may not the technical knowledge. Therefore, it is important to follow the simple rules stated in the article above and maintain clarity and simplicity. However, if you are still lost its always best to ask for help from others. SolveQ has years of experience and is always happy to guide others. Contact us here and save yourself time and money.

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Eryk Libelt

Eryk Libelt