software RFP

How to Write a Software RFP?

Estimated read time: 13 minutes

Do you have a software product idea and now looking for a development partner? You need a software RFP (request for proposal) to find one.

While there has been a notable rise in the number of RFPs in the past few years, the companies have lost $725000 in annual revenue due to incomplete RFPs.

According to the same report, 72% of businesses using proposal management software have seen positive growth in deal velocity while cutting RFP documentation time by 53%.

If you are planning a software project, such as an RFP management software for a competitive market, you require a deep understanding of several development frameworks, libraries, and tools, besides exceptional business domain knowledge and expertise in application security, cloud computing, cutting-edge technologies, like AI, etc.

If you don’t have a professional team with this relevant expertise to take on the task, then submit a request for a complimentary discovery call, and one of our tech account managers who managed similar projects will contact you shortly.

A well-written RFP helps in vendor selection, clarification of project requirements, resource estimation, legal protection, etc. In this article, you will get to know how to write a complete request for proposal document to gain these benefits.

Writing a Software RFP

Include the following in your request for proposal document:

Project Overview

Start with a brief description of your software project. Describe your project’s objectives and challenges it intends to address. This is your statement of purpose that readily presents the essence of your project to potential vendors. 

For example, you want to build an e-commerce solution, plan to develop a mobile-first solution, your idea is still in the prototype phase, etc. Make it clear and concise. 

Company Description

Add an overview of your company, including vision, past projects, clients, etc. This overview would help potential software development companies understand your project’s mission.

Project Goals

Describe your project goals in detail. The more you explain, the better the service providers understand your project requirements. 

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You should answer questions like:

  • What is your motivation for building this software solution?
  • Who is your target audience? What are different user roles?
  • What is your intent? Are you solving a problem, replacing an existing technology, etc.?
  • If this is a system upgrade, what are the lackings in your current system?

For example, for an e-commerce mobile application, your goal could be targeting tech-savvy individuals, smartphone users, etc. Your intent might include a personalized user experience that offers easy accessibility, secure payment solutions, and helps sellers with efficient order management.

Project Deliverables

This is a detailed part of your RFP as it helps software development companies present a valid proposal and make accurate time and cost estimations. 

Make sure to include all details of your project specifications clearly and comprehensively. Include the following in your project scope and deliverables:

Infrastructure requirements

You should explain the technical environments and resources required for your software application design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. These include the following:

  • Hardware required for development, testing, and deployment stages, such as servers, mobile devices, operating systems, etc.
  • Specify if you plan on adopting cloud-based infrastructure or want to go with on-premise resources.
    • In the case of cloud computing, provide details of the cloud service provider you plan to choose, such as Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, etc.
  • Describe the server infrastructure in detail, like the number of servers, processing power, memory, storage capacity, etc.
  • Include networking requirements like load balancers, routers, firewalls, etc.
  • Include data management requirements and preferred database systems to meet these requirements like SQL-based MySQL to securely handle structured data or NoSQL-based MongoDB to work swiftly with unstructured data.
  • List the development tools like IDEs (integrated development environments), version control systems, development SDKs, testing tools, etc., required for application development.
  • Include application security requirements, like data encryption algorithms, authorization and authentication mechanisms, API endpoints security, role-based access control, etc.
  • Describe tools required for resource and application monitoring and metric logging. Specify metrics like application response time, user retention, application availability, etc.
  • Define disaster recovery mechanisms and backup strategies.
  • Include requirements for third-party integrations or other external systems.
  • Mention if there are any industry compliance requirements, for example, an e-commerce software solution requires adherence to the following compliance standards:
    • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS);
    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR);
    • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA);
    • Anti-Spam Regulations (e.g., CAN-SPAM Act);
    • Accessibility Standards (e.g., WCAG).
  • Include your requirements for application maintenance, such as software patches, technology upgrades, etc.

Functional requirements

Define features, functionalities, and interactions you plan to develop in your application to meet your business needs. The functional requirements provide a picture of the expected software behavior in different scenarios. 

Some categories you can group your application features into are the following:

User-oriented

These features add to the user experience of users. For example, users should be able to bookmark products on your e-commerce application.

System-oriented

Such features streamline processes. For example, the application should send a notification to the orders management department on the placement of a new order from a customer.

Optimization-oriented 

Some features optimize business or user operations, for example, implementing caching mechanisms to increase the product load time, offering real-time search suggestions, designing one-page checkout, etc.

Questions to ask

Include the following details for each feature:

  1. Name: What is the feature called?
  2. Description: What does a feature do?
  3. Goal: What does a user want to achieve via this feature?
  4. User problem: What is the user’s pain point?
  5. Solution for user: How does this feature help the user?
  6. Assumptions: Are there any business or technical assumptions?

You should include all the features you plan on developing in your RFP from user experience and product capabilities to process streamlining and system optimization. 

An Example

For instance, feature requirements for an e-commerce application could include the following:

  • User roles and accounts;
  • User registration and profile management;
  • User authentication and authorization;
  • Product catalog;
  • Shopping cart;
  • Checkout process;
  • Payment integration;
  • Order management;
  • Inventory management;
  • Product reviews;
  • Product search and filtering;
  • Recommendation engine;
  • Push notifications;
  • Customer support;
  • Exchange and return process;
  • Reporting and analytics;
  • Data security;
  • Integrations with third-party services;
  • Application performance and scalability.

Quality assurance requirements

These include testing requirements to ensure the performance and reliability of your software application. Provide the following QA details in your software RFP document:

  • Specify the type of testing required, for example, unit testing, integration testing, usability testing, regression testing, security testing, etc.
  • Provide details of environments required for testing and production stages with all the necessary configurations.
  • Include sample data required to validate the functionality and performance of the application.
  • Include the process of tracking, managing, and resolving issues and bugs.
  • Provide details of the required testing tools and frameworks for automated testing.
  • Specify requirements for a comprehensive code review process.

Project management requirements

You need to clarify how the software development company would assist you in project management. Ask about the management tools used by them, such as Asana, Jira, etc., or mention if you have any particular suggestions.

Also, inquire about the software development methodologies followed by the software development company.

If you also prefer agile methodologies like many other SaaS businesses, clarify which agile frameworks from Kanban, Scrum, etc., should the development partner implement and how.

For example, DevTeam.Space follows the agile methodology and utilizes AI-powered project management tools for implementing agility in the development process. 

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This includes breaking down the whole project into small tasks, assigning these tasks to dev teams, tracking the daily/weekly progress of individual developers/dev teams, ensuring close communication between developers and clients, etc.

Include the following under the project management:

  • Request a detailed project plan, including tasks, milestones, timelines, etc.
  • Include a communication plan, including preferred channels, frequency of status updates, etc.
  • Outline the plan to implement changes in the project scope, requirements, timelines, etc.
  • Describe the process for issue tracking and resolution.
  • Discuss various project documentation you require, including technical documents, user manuals, etc.
  • Specify requirements for project closure, like documentation handover, knowledge transfer, etc.

Team structure requirements

Outline the roles, expertise, and responsibilities you require from the software development company for your project. These details help software companies assess if they have the necessary skills and resources to take on your project.

You might need to add the following roles under team structure requirements in your request for proposal document:

  • Project manager;
  • Front-end and back-end developers;
  • UI/UX designers;
  • Quality assurance testers;
  • Business analyst;
  • Software architects;
  • DevOps engineers;
  • Database administrators;
  • Domain knowledge experts (if required, e.g., healthcare specialist, educationalist, fintech expert, etc.);
  • Cybersecurity expert;
  • Compliance expert (given you are developing a solution for an industry with stringent regulations);
  • Specialized technology experts (like artificial intelligence, blockchain, etc.).

Budget Explanation

Explain the cost range you plan to allocate to your software development project. The budget information should set expectations of interested software service providers for how much you are willing to spend on various aspects of product development and support. 

Allow companies to present alternate pricing models and explanations of how their costing relates to the project’s complexity, technical requirements, etc.

Ask potential companies to offer a payment schedule containing phases or milestones linked to payments. They should also add potential future costs for incorporating new features, scalability, etc. so that you can plan long-term expenses.

Bidding Structure

You should add questions under the bidding requirements to make your selection process easier. Ask software development companies to provide information on the following:

  • Company, including name, mission, background, location, etc.;
  • Development team, like expertise, work experience, past projects, etc.;
  • Processes, including how projects are developed, managed, concluded, etc.;
  • Project plan and timeline, including deliverables and milestones;
  • Cost estimates for development, licensing, maintenance, etc.;
  • Past projects and case studies;
  • Testimonials from previous clients;
  • Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements;
  • Contractual terms and conditions.

Also, explain the significance of this section and how these questions should help companies structure their bidding and proposals. Include bid submission guidelines that interested companies should follow, like format, submission platform, etc.

This will help you compare various interested software vendors and choose the one best suited to your project requirements and budget. 

Timeline for Software RFP Response

Preparing a proposal that explains all your required components is a lengthy process. You need to give enough time to potential software development companies to answer all your questions, understand your motivation, and offer viable solutions to your technical and business problems.

Usually, an estimated timeline for proposal submission is 30-60 days, and in the case of complex projects, 120 days. You could provide deadlines for various stages, for example:

  • Questions submission;
  • Bid submission;
  • Proposal evaluation and shortlisting;
  • Proposal demonstration;
  • Notification for final interviews;
  • Finalization of the development team;
  • Contract signing and kickoff;

Contact Information for software RFP queries

You should provide contact details so interested software companies can reach out for questions and clarifications regarding proposals, etc. 

Add the name, title, department, and contact information of the primary contact person responsible for managing the request for proposal process.

You can also provide information about secondary contacts, if any, for technical questions, contract inquiries, etc. Include their expertise. Also, mention the expected response time for queries.

software rfp

Tips to Write an Effective RFP

We offer the following tips to come up with an effective request for a proposal:

Conduct a Discovery Phase

A discovery phase before drafting a proposal would help you set project boundaries and include realistic time and cost estimates. Evaluate how the project will affect your organization, such as existing projects. 

You should include the stakeholders, subject matter experts, and other concerned parties in the RFP process. Decide who will be responsible for creating the proposal.

No Detailed Solutions in Software RFP

We suggest you do not focus much on solutions in your RFP document. Discuss your pain points and requirements in detail. Give interested software service providers a chance to present their solutions and analyze the most effective ones. 

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Moreover, avoid using jargon and your business-specific terms. Software companies might not be familiar with them.

Consider Past Software RFP Proposal Content

Consider using your past proposals as your templates. As RFP documents for various software projects target similar topics and questions, you could save time by reusing the content from past RFP documents. 

A practical solution for this is to create your content repository. You can also use proposal management software to automate proposal shortlisting, answering queries, etc.

Looking for a Software Development Partner?

A good software RFP document can help you find the right software development company. No matter how unique your software idea is, you need an exceptional team to realize it.

With the growing market for software outsourcing companies, you would see a large number of software vendor companies, even with mediocre technology and management expertise, eager to take on your development project.

A comprehensive RFP helps you refine your selection criteria and select a software company with the right skills to develop your software product.

We suggest you visit sites like Clutch and GoodFirms with authentic reviews of software companies, including their industry, past clients, etc.

These websites spend time verifying the feedback and reviews and provide accurate information on companies’ credibility, ratings, etc.

If you are still in search of an expert software development company to outsource your software application development project or augment your existing team, DevTeam.Space can help you via its field-expert software developers community.

Unlike freelancers, all our developers are vetted and motivated and work full-time on clients’ projects. We match developers with the skills and expertise required for your software project.

Senior software engineers manage these dev teams. These managers have experience developing similar software solutions, and they help you choose the best approach and methods. 

Moreover, we follow an AI-powered agile process for product development and management. The scrum-based approach helps with task breakdown, assignment, updates on progress, communication with each developer working on a project, etc.

We also sign an NDA with the onboarding clients to ensure the confidentiality of their intellectual property, including all product designs, code files, documentation, etc.

If you wish to know more about how we can help you build a great software product, you can send us your initial project specifications via this quick form. One of our account managers will contact you shortly for more information.

FAQs on Software RFP

1. What is RFP in software?

RFP stands for request for proposal. It is a formal document that businesses utilize to solicit proposals from vendors or service providers. In a software development request for proposal, the company outlines the information and requirements of the software it intends to build. Software service providers then submit proposals that detail how they plan to meet these requirements and develop the expected software.

2. How to create a software RFP?

To create a software development RFP for an IT vendor or a software service provider, define the project objectives and goals, collaborate with the stakeholders, define the requirements, including infrastructure, functional, quality assurance, etc., add timelines, budget information, evaluation criteria, contact information, etc.

3. What is RFI and RFP in software?

Both documents help gather information from the potential service providers. RFI, or request for information, is written in the initial stages of the procurement process. It focuses on gathering details on vendor’s professional IT services, expertise, expectations, etc., and helps shortlist good-fit companies for the software development project. RFP, or request for proposal, is a more detailed document sent to the shortlisted service providers and asks them to submit detailed proposals for final evaluation.


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Alexey Semeney

Founder of DevTeam.Space

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