client guides · 15 Sep 2020 ·Clock10 min

How to Write an Effective Mobile App RFP [+Free Mobile App RFP Template]

Anastasiya Kharychkova

Anastasiya Kharychkova

Project Manager

how to write rfp for mobile app
Illustration by Amir Kerr

When you are looking for the love of your life, you probably have a mental checklist of questions for your potential partner. Some questions are standard, just for basic screening. However, once you start communicating more deeply with the most compatible people, you ask them more specific questions, like plans for the future, family vision, and so on. This process helps to compare the potential partners according to the same parameters and finally find the right one. 

The same thing happens when you are looking for a mobile app development partner. To find a company for an effective and long term collaboration, you should organize the search process meticulously, as if you were indeed looking for a love partner. 

What are RFP, RFQ and RFI?

To compare the companies on equal terms, it’s better to provide all of them with a document containing the same information and questions. Usually, companies prepare a Request for Information (RFI), a Request for Quotation (RFQ), or a Request for Proposal (RFP) document. Each of them has its own specifics and is used in concrete situations.

RFI, or Request for Information, is like a basic screening. You request the information about the potential vendors history, portfolio and give a brief overview of your business challenge. Based on the responses to this document, you will select companies for the next round of negotiations. 

RFI is ideal when you are looking for some general information or don’t have any concrete ideas about a solution.

RFP, a Request for Proposal, often follows the RFI, but could also be a stand-alone document. It is more specific in its requirements and the requested information about the vendors. RFP should contain enough context so that potential vendors could provide some solutions. In the end, you may get feedback and different takes on the task at hand. 

Hubspot once wrote that RFP “gives you a sneak peek into different strategies you may not have considered since each vendor will include their own unique action plan along with their bid.”

RFQ means a Request for Quotation and is also known as an Invitation For Bid (IFB). The key difference between an RFQ and an RFP is that an RFP is sent out when you expect the vendors’ creativity and solutions. Sending an RFQ, on the contrary, means that you already know what you want, and you just need the exact pricing. 

Why Do You Need an Amazing RFP?

Our company is constantly getting requests from the existing businesses and market newcomers. Based on our experience, we prefer to start the negotiations with an RFP. Why? The answer is quite simple. On the one hand, it’s thorough enough to give us a good understanding of the business and its needs. On the other hand, it gives us some room to be creative and show our expertise. 

Often companies use RFPs as a tool to increase the competition between the vendors in order to get the lowest price. But this is not the real goal and value of this document. The most precious thing you will get is a possibility to compare all potential vendors in terms of value, price, and expertise. 

The RFP process improves the overall quality of your search and your purchase decisions. It guarantees that you and potential vendors are on the same page. 

By investing enough time and effort into creating the RFP, you increase the chances of getting more qualitative responses. As your decision will be based on these responses, the whole project’s success will depend on the RFP. 

How to Write a Mobile App RFP?

An RFP can be written by a business analyst, product owner, or product manager. It doesn’t matter what the title of this person is. It is more important that this person has a deep understanding of the project. It’s a good idea to involve into the process the department that will use the service or will be responsible for it. 

If there is a technical department in your company, create the document along with the developers. If no one in the team is well-versed in technology that is no problem. Just notify the vendors about this in the Technical requirements chapter.

Before starting to work on the RFP, make sure that you have enough information on the following:

  • Business problem understanding.
  • Metrics of project success.
  • Expected functions and features of an app.
  • Specific technical requirements.
  • Estimated budget.
  • Desired launch date.
  • Vendors evaluation criteria

Below you will find the most effective mobile app RFP structure that we created based on our experience and the interests of both vendors and businesses. 

We propose an RFP that consists of four parts. The first one is about the RFP process itself, the second one is meant to provide the information about your company and project. the third one is for the vendor overview, and the last part contains the vendor’s proposal. 

We understand that an RFP is a rather detailed document and is full of confidential information. So we highly recommend that you sign NDAs with all the potential vendors first. This way, you’ll be sure that your product idea will be kept out of the public domain. 

RFP process

1. Timelines

In this chapter, you should provide the vendors with the dates of the RFP process stages. Usually, the stages are as follows:

  • RFP issue
  • Conference call/meeting
  • Vendor questions 
  • RFP Submission 
  • Vendor shortlist selection
  • The final vendor selection 

Make sure you give the developers sufficient time to respond to your request for proposal. This will help to ensure that you receive the most accurate estimates.

2. Proposal’s Requirements

This is where you inform the vendors of what you expect from them. By defining the data and documents you need, you increase the number of relevant responses and minimize the time for explanations and requests for additional information. 

For example, you may ask to send a company presentation, a portfolio with relevant projects, reviews with contacts, a proposal, and an estimation. 

3. Approval Criteria

Give the vendors a clear understanding of what is most important for you (experience, timeline, cost, etc.). This information will help them to be as competitive as possible and provide you with the best possible proposal.

4. Stakeholders and Contacts

Let the vendors know who makes the decisions about the project and who is responsible for the RFP process. The vendors should be able to get in touch with someone from your company in case they have any questions.

Company and Project Background

1. Summary

It’s like an elevator pitch. There is no need to write much, just a quick overview of your business, the required solution, and its main goal. 

2. Company Information

Present your company. Tell a bit about its history, mission and goals, provided products and services, targeted markets. 

You may add any additional information if you think it will help the vendors to get a better understanding of who you are. 

3. Project Overview

Here you should highlight the following aspects:

  • Is it a project from scratch or a modification of one already in existence?
  • Why did you decide to start this project? What problem are you looking to solve?
  • What’s your vision of the solution?
  • What is the target audience? 
  • What are existing and / or potential roadblocks?
  • Who are the competitors of the product?
  • Do you have any references for functionality and design?
  • Do you have a list of preferred devices the app should support? 
  • What services do you need: Consulting, Business Analysis, UI/UX Development, Quality Testing, Development?

4. Project Functionality 

Provide as many details as you can:

  • Do you already have use cases, wireframes, clickable prototypes? Add links if you have any.
  • What are the functions of the app?
  • What features correspond to these functions?
  • Prioritize the features with status: must-have, nice to have, would like to have.
  • What is the minimum set of features for the first release?

Add any additional information that will help to get a deeper understanding of the product.

5. Technical requirements

This chapter should show your vision and preferences about the technical side of the project:

  • Do you prefer iOS/Android/Web-based applications?
  • Do you prefer native or cross-platform applications?
  • Would you consider the possibility of starting with one platform?
  • Do you have an existing server? If so, provide access to the API documentation. If not, would you like the vendor to develop the back end as well?
  • Do you have a current internal database? If so, what type (Oracle, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, etc.)?
  • Do you have any preferences on how to update content in the app (via the server, through CMS or the admin panel, etc.)? 
  • Do you need local or remote notifications? If so, provide the supposed events for them. 
  • Would you like to integrate an analytics tool? If so, what kind of metrics would you want to track? Do you have any preferences for the tool?
  • Are you thinking of any integration with the third-party tools/applications (like taxi app, delivery app, Google maps, payment systems)? If so, specify them. 

6. Budget

If you have any budget limitations, it is better to include the lowest and the highest possible price in the RFP. On the one hand, it will help the vendors to tell you what scope of work they can do within your budget. On the other hand, it will save you from considering irrelevant proposals.  

If the budget is a crucial aspect of the screening process, you need to receive more or less similar estimation documents from all the potential vendors. As the app development cost depends on the scope, the number of platforms, back end, and admin parts, we usually advise our clients to conduct business analysis first. Business analysts will systemize and refine product requirements. After that, you can prepare a cost estimate template and share it with the vendors. 

7. Project Timeline

Tell the vendors about your plans:

  • What is the earliest and the latest start date?
  • What date is the best for you to launch the product?
  • Is the launch date associated with an event?
  • Are there any commitments that influence the launch date?

Keeping this information in mind, the vendors can study their resources and get a clear understanding of whether they can allocate the necessary specialists for your project and whether they are able to meet the deadline. 

Vendor Information

1. Agency Overview

Now it’s time for the potential vendors to present themselves. Ask them the following questions: 

  • How long have you been in the business?
  • What kind of services does your company offer? 
  • Which industries are you specialized in?
  • How many employees work at your company?
  • Will any work be done overseas or by contractors/freelancers?
  • What is the total number of projects you have completed?
  • Where are the employees located? 
  • What helps you to stand out from the competitors?

2. Case Studies

This chapter is one of the most important. Projects speak louder than any other words about a company's experience and expertise.

Ask potential vendors to provide their best and most relevant projects. 

To understand the cases better, ask about: 

  • Business challenge.
  • Delivered solution.
  • Result of the project.
  • Links to the Google Play and/or App Store
  • Client’s feedback.

The company with the relevant experience will give you the most accurate time and budget estimation. And, what is more important, it already knows the best practices and challenges related to the industry or the potential technology. Also, it will usually have some developments and shortcuts prior to the project launch.

3. Process Overview

Now it is time to get more in-depth information about the main processes of the project and ask some specific questions.

Development process:

  • How many full-time employees make up the development team? 
  • Will [your company name] be able to contact the developers directly? 
  • What backend/DevOps capabilities do you have? 
  • What languages/frameworks do you use? 
  • What approaches does your company use to ensure high-quality applications? 
  • How does your company manage the use of open-source or other libraries that could compromise the final product? 
  • How does your company ensure code security? 
  • How are client materials and confidential information handled and safeguarded by your company? 
  • Who is the owner of the source code?

Design process:

  • How many full-time employees make up the design team? 
  • What design tools are they familiar with and use regularly?
  • Are the designers and developers in the same office? 
  • Will [your company name] be able to communicate with the design team? 
  • Could you provide the design portfolio of your company? 
  • What does your design process look like?
  • How many concepts will you provide?
  • What will [your company name] get as the result of the design process?
  • Who will be the owner of the source materials? 

QA Process:

  • How many full-time employees make up the QA team? 
  • Will [your company name] be able to communicate with the QA team? 
  • What is a typical QA process from start to finish? 
  • What kind of documentation will be created for QA?
  • What kind of devices do you have?

Management process:

  • What is a typical project management process from start to finish?
  • What project documents will be prepared (resource and calendar plan, weekly reports, etc.)?
  • Will you provide a Project Manager?
  • How can [your company name] control the project process?
  • What software do you use to manage the project and communicate with the team and stakeholders?
  • Who will be responsible for the release and preparation of all the necessary materials?

Proposal

Finally, we get to the part for which this document was created. It’s time to see what the vendor can propose to you. 

This chapter should contain information about the solution, timeline and resources, pricing model, budget, support plan.

Solution 

Ask the vendors about their vision of the project and their ideas about the best solutions to your problems.

Timeline and Resources

Ask to provide a detailed project timeline, including estimated start dates, schedule of activities, deliverables, and resources to be used.

Pricing Model and Budget

Ask about the pricing model: is it a fixed price or time & material based price? It could be a  provisional estimation with a list of services included, and a payment calendar.

Support Plan

Ask about the guarantee period and types of support plans that are offered.

Mobile App RFP Template

Based on the above tips, we prepared a ready-to-use mobile app RFP template. Don’t forget to customize it to your needs.

 

Conclusion

The whole RFP process may seem rather complicated, but it’s worth going through. It helps you to see whether you have a clear and detailed understanding of the product inside the company, to organize comprehensive comparison, and, in the end, to find the best partner for a long-term collaboration.

For mobile app development companies, it takes up a lot of time and effort to review and respond to an RFP, especially if it is not well-written. If you want quality responses, you need to come up with a quality document.

At Orangesoft, we take time to provide detailed feedback on every RFP we receive. If you find yourself struggling to find the right company for your project, we encourage you to get in touch and let us know how we might help.

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