“Request for Proposal” or RFP can assist your company or organisation to evaluate a potential service provider consistently and objectively. As finding the perfect vendor plays a critical role in the success of your digital transformation projects, it’s worth analysing which custom software company meets your evaluation criteria. How to select the best and final offer? By sending the RFP to multiple potential contractors, and asking how they would approach your challenge!

What is Request for Proposal (RFP)?

RFP (Request for proposal) is a formal document issued by a company to solicit proposals from service providers for a specific project. Mostly, these are large-scale initiatives that require vast expertise due to their complexity or level of innovation. You can send RFPs to multiple bidders, which allows you to review the full and open competition. By doing so, you make better-informed decisions. Based on merit, not suspicions.

In this article, we will focus mainly on RFP processes in custom software development. However, the same applies to any situation when the organization issues such a request. For example, a construction company may ask architects or contractors to submit proposals outlining the approach and capabilities for building a new skyscraper.

RFI, RFP, RFQ: What’s the Difference?

There are three types of RFx that the organisation may issue to find the right vendor.

RFI (Request for Information)

A great jumping-off point to pre-screen potential vendors and gather general information. If you’re just exploring solutions or trying to get a better hang of your challenge, starting with RFI can help you identify what’s available on the market and narrow down the list of potential providers.

RFP (Request for Proposal)

It is the next step in the process where you outline specified requirements and business expectations for a software project. If you face a complex challenge and need a solicited proposal, issue RFPs to a selection of providers and not just any company out there. Tell-tale signs that a company is your potential vendor are relevant experience and a proven track record of delivering successful projects.

RFP (Request for Quotation)

After gathering enough RFP responses, the next step may be to issue an RFQ for specific price quotes. While the lowest-priced bid is not always the best option, it’s important to choose a cost-effective provider that matches your requirements. Base your final decision on accurate proposals, ensuring that vendors can in fact deliver their services within budget.

The infographic provides information on when to use RFI, RFP and RFQ. RFI can be useful to pre-screen potential vendors, gather general information, explore potential solutions and see what's available on the market. RFP is useful when you need a solicited proposal for a complex challenge to specify requirements for a software project and verify if the potential vendor has relevant experience. RFQ is used to ask for price quotes, which helps choose a cost-effective provider and make sure they deliver the service within budget

Why are RFPs important?

Issuing RFPs is the best practice for businesses to guarantee the success of their software projects, and collaborate with the best service providers. In addition to the obvious benefits of gathering information, aligning expectations, and answering questions, there are other key benefits to consider

1. Objective evaluation.

After all, choosing a leading company with excellent customer references is an easy pick, isn’t it? However, by setting the same evaluation criteria for all providers, you can choose the most prospective vendors and not just the most popular options. The best vendor for your custom software project will most likely submit the most accurate RFP response, allowing you to gather enough information for a well-informed business decision.

2. Negotiate favourable terms and pricing.

The RFP process provides an opportunity for your businesses to negotiate with vendors on various terms, including pricing, delivery timelines, and service levels. This can lead to more favourable pricing and contract terms, resulting in cost savings over the course of the project. Furthermore, businesses can leverage the competitive nature of the RFP process to drive down costs and improve the overall value of the project.

3. Manage risk reduction.

By thoroughly evaluating multiple bidders before choosing the best and final offer, you can eliminate those providers that lack the expertise or resources for successful project delivery. Additionally, when outlining specific requirements and expectations in an RFP, all potential vendors have a clear understanding of the project scope. The risk of misunderstandings is eliminated, securing no project delays or failures.

The infographic summarises the text. Objective evaluation -- allows setting the same evaluation criteria for all providers and choosing the best one. Due to the competitive nature of the RFP process, businesses can negotiate favourable terms and pricing. By analysing if the vendor has the expertise and resources for successful project delivery, they can also manage risk reduction.

Who Uses Requests for Proposal?

The RFP process is common in IT, and any organization issuing such a proposal is right to do so! However, there are certain industries that rely more on vendors that specialise in custom software development, providing secure, scalable and reliable solutions that meet all compliance requirements.

  • Government agencies. Often required to follow a competitive bidding process for procurement, government agencies ensure that they get the best value for taxpayers’ money while also promoting fairness and transparency.
  • Financial institutions. Banks, investment firms, and other financial institutions require custom software development to manage financial transactions, analyse data, and provide customer service. With the RFP, they can verify if their vendor-to-be will comply with industry standards and regulations.
  • Healthcare organizations. Compared to off-the-shelf solutions, custom software provides additional protection to sensitive data, such as patient records. Security and privacy is their top priority, which can be evaluated with an RFP process.
  • Retail companies. Retailers trust custom software when building e-commerce platforms, managing inventory, and analysing customer data. Thanks to RFP, they can evaluate the potential for building a scalable solution with the ability to handle high volumes of transactions.
The infographic summarises why government agencies, financial institutions, healthcare organizations and retail companies use RFP for custom software project

How to Write an RFP for Your Custom Software Development Project?

Challenged by writing your first RFP? While it might be a daunting task, following these steps will help you create your own Request for Proposal template for a clear and concise proposal.

  1. Clearly define the scope of the project and the business objectives you want to accomplish.
  2. List out the specific requirements and functionalities that the software solution must have. Include technical details, such as preferred programming languages, frameworks, and databases. Be as detailed as possible, so vendors can provide accurate proposals.
  3. Describe the existing technical environment, including hardware, software, and network infrastructure. This will help vendors determine if there are any compatibility issues.
  4. Specify the development methodology that suits your needs: agile, waterfall, or any other. You can also outline a suggested project management approach, so that the vendor may provide you with a project manager that fits your requirements.
  5. Include a timeline of the project, including key milestones and deadlines.
  6. Provide a budget range or ceiling, if possible, to help vendors understand the financial scope of the project. You can also require a detailed breakdown of the vendor’s costs, including hourly rates, project fees, and any additional expenses.
  7. If there are any legal or regulatory requirements (i.e. data protection regulations, industry-specific compliance standards), include them in the RFP.
  8. Specify the evaluation criteria you will use for bidder review. This could include factors such as technical expertise, vendor experience, project management approach, cost, and timeline. It would be great if each criterium had a specified weight (in %).
  9. Provide instructions for submitting proposals, including the deadline, contact information, and any required formats.

Best Tips for Perfect Request for Proposal Processes

Make the final decision based on merit.

When choosing a vendor, base your decision on your clear evaluation criteria, rather than personal biases or preconceptions. Through careful bidders review, you can analyse the Request for Proposal responses and find the winning vendor.

Be transparent about the selection process.

Let vendors know how you’ll evaluate proposals and when you’ll make a decision. This will help them understand what to expect and manage their expectations. Answer questions and submit suggestions if there are any doubts about the process.

Use a computer-based system.

As many IT companies work remotely and may ask multiple professionals to collaborate on your RFP, the traditional paper-based system may not be the most suitable option.

Consider an NDA.

You may ask the vendor to sign a non-disclosure agreement for the full protection of privacy. If you include sensitive information or an idea for an innovative product, this can come in handy.

Show appreciation.

The vendors often spend a substantial amount of time and resources to provide you with their best RFP response. Even if you’re not on the same page, be sure to thank the remaining bidders for their participation.

When in doubt, think ahead.

The vendor may not meet one of your criteria but succeed in others. For example, if the service provider doesn’t have a relevant case study, make sure that they offer a perfectly adjusted software development process and are driven enough to comply with industry standards.


The request for proposal (RFP) is a highly beneficial tool you can use whenever you need custom software development services. This process allows you to choose the provider that meets the requirements of your organisation. It may be the lowest-priced bid, a leading industry expert, or the vendor with the most relevant case studies. You hold the cards!

Most importantly, the decision you make will be based on merits. You can embrace the full and open competition model, fostering trust and transparency within the industry. There’s nothing better for your brand image than a flawless reputation!

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