How to Write an RFI for Software Development

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8 min

Delegating tasks is one of the most valuable insights for growing companies these days. Specifically, if you are going to entrust software development to an outsourcing company, you have to be well prepared for this. Specifically, we are talking about a request for information (RFI), which will allow you and your contractor to eliminate any misunderstandings during the interaction. Below, we will explain to you how to compose this document, what the main RFI questions to ask vendors are, and how to avoid common mistakes when writing it.

What Is an RFI Template?

A request for information (RFI) is a 3-5 page document that contains information about your business activities and the digital solution you want to outsource to build. It is important to understand that in such a document, it is not necessary to indicate the specific solution that you are going to implement – instead, you can identify the problem and provide the necessary information that can be useful in finding its optimal solution.

Thus, drafting an RFI helps businesses:

  • find the most suitable contractor;
  • determine project requirements;
  • provide the contractor with the prospect of long-term cooperation. 

What Are the Differences Between RFP, RFQ, and RFI?

Quite often, people mean something else under the concept of a request for information (RFI), such as a request for quote (RFQ) or a request for proposal (RFP). 

However, in reality, both the request for information and the request for quote are part of the request for proposal since the first contains an introductory data collected from several potential contractors, and the request for quote contains the rates of these contractors for the requested types of software development services. The RFP for software development also contains a description of the expected results of cooperation with developers and, therefore, is the most voluminous document of all three.

Why Should You Prepare an RFI for Outsourcing IT Projects?

RFI actually becomes a kind of presentation of your business activities to your future contractors. Also, it is a starting point for finding the optimal technological solution to your problem. Finally, it allows you to interview your potential contractors so that you can get valuable insights that will help you choose the best one.

Essential Elements of an Effective Request for Information Software Document

Typically, an RFP structure is divided into two parts: an Introduction section and an Interviewing section with questions to ask a software vendor. Let's look at each of these parts in more detail.

Introduction Section

This section should be devoted primarily to a description of your company: what business niche it belongs to, what requirements and regulations are inherent in it, what processes need optimization, and what is the ultimate goal of their optimization (this could be reducing costs, increasing productivity, minimizing risks associated with the human factor, etc.).

Therefore, you can divide this section into five small parts:

  • general information;
  • confidentiality, security requirements, etc.;
  • a problem that needs a solution (or goal);
  • required skills on the part of the contractor;
  • specific notes and requirements related to the implementation of the project.

RFI Questions to Ask Vendors

This section should contain questions that you will present to your potential contractors and that they will have to answer. These answers can be divided into ten separate topics.

General information

  • Contractor's formal information, such as full legal name, senior management, full headquarters address, website address, and contact information (including the name of the person responsible for completing your RFI document).
  • The structure and activities of the contractor's company, number of employees, company goals, values, competitive advantages, etc.
  • The location of the contractor's specialists, means of communication with them, accessibility within the time zone where they are located, the level of proficiency in your language (or a language that you know well), as well as the possibility of relocating individual employees (if necessary).

Company expertise

Experience working on projects identical to yours, experience in marketing research (specific cases), types of services, specialization in needed technologies and development tools, the ability to integrate remote specialists into local projects (if necessary), opportunities to create additional value of cooperation, as well as customer reviews with their contact information.

Project management

An established system for assessing project complexity, adopted project management approaches (such as Scrum or Kanban) and software development life cycle methodologies (such as Waterfall, Iterative, Agile, etc.), as well as the project management and employee performance tracking systems used.

Hard skills

The level of technical qualifications of employees and their number, adopted methods for selecting and testing employees for a specific project, opportunities for developing the skills of employees within the contractor’s company, the availability of standards for assessing their skills, as well as experience in automating work tasks, maintaining technical documentation, and assessing reliability, security, and availability of solutions.

Quality of projects

Used tools, approaches, and standards for quality control of created software, as well as approved methods of stress, load, and volume testing.

Interaction with a talent pool

The timing of the initial staffing of the team, the timing of joining new specialists to the project, the methods used to combat staff turnover, as well as the approach to distributing the workload between team members.

Software tools for in-company communication

Software solutions used for communication between clients and specialists of the contractor’s company, local technologies and cloud solutions used, as well as methods for storing and protecting client data.

Security and confidentiality

Approved physical and digital security measures in the contractor's company, such as physical and hardware security of offices, secure software, general rules for the security of client data for the contractor's specialists, as well as standards used to protect client intellectual property.

Pricing models

Available pricing models, the possibility of using a mixed model (in which some employees receive salaries according to one model, and others – according to another), prepayment and its size, the currency in which payments are accepted, the necessary bureaucracy when making payments, as well as possible overhead expenses.

Additional info

Additional services and opportunities that the contractor’s company can offer in a particular case, as well as the need for additional information on your part for initial review.

Common Mistakes in IT Outsourcing RFIs and How to Sidestep Them

Now, you now have a detailed understanding of how to write an RFI. In this regard, we also suggest that you learn the common mistakes that you may face while composing an RFI and ways to avoid them.

  • Too abstract introduction section. Sometimes, company owners describe the goals of their projects and the problems that they must solve in an abstract manner. This often entails a lack of full understanding of what exactly (and why) your future contractor will have to deal with.
  • Emphasis on the low cost of contractor services. Keeping your contractor's costs low is undoubtedly important, but your ultimate goal should be to find the best balance between its budget and quality (meaning the extent to which your most ambitious project goals are achieved).
  • Redundancy of project goals and priority criteria for assessing its quality. You shouldn’t set too many tasks and make them all of the same priority. This way, you will receive more realistic proposals from outsourcing companies and will be able to more accurately estimate the time and budget of your project.
  • Positioning your solution to the problem as the only correct one. You must trust your contractors enough to allow them to offer you alternative solutions that may in the long run be better than yours.
  • Using terminology specific to your business niche only. Your software development service provider may not be familiar with the terminology of your business niche and, therefore, may not have a good understanding of the goals and objectives of your project.
  • Combining necessary and desired goals. You must decide which goals will ensure the viability of your project and which of them are the most ambitious and long-term focused. This will give you a more accurate budget estimate right from the start of your cooperation.
  • Lack of options for interacting with the contractor within the digital plane only. While some processes often require your physical presence (or, conversely, the physical presence of someone on your vendor's team), you should also consider alternative means of interaction.

How to Choose the Right Software Development Vendor Based on the RFI Answers

In general, the answer to this question is quite simple: the more satisfactory answers you find in the questionnaire of a particular vendor, the better. Moreover, you can assign a certain number of points to each group of RFI questions, and then, adding them up, you will get a total score, which will become your guideline in favor or, conversely, against this or that contractor.

That is why, after you have learned how to write request for information, you can begin to compile this document with a full understanding of which things you must describe to the future contractor and what questions need to be included there.

By the way, we cover all of the above topics in detail in our responses to such requests, ensuring that our future clients receive as much useful information as possible. Thus, we never have misunderstandings with those who have already become our clients.

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