How to Handle a Hairy RFP

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How to Handle a Hairy RFP

Complex projects require special attention to RFPs.

In the software development business, we live and die by our ability to sell big ideas. So generally, receiving an RFP is cause for celebration.  New clients.  New projects. New revenues. 

I'm sitting at the NY Red Bull Arena chatting with my friend when I received an RFP via email. This project, with all its bells and whistles, would be like none other we've done previously. But instead of hero, I felt like a big zero because I'm not certain how to develop a quote for this cool custom-made app for the iPad. 

Cool project turns into hairy RFP

Cool yes. But. This project included a variety of special features (including an XML integration with a third party service) and as such, required special pricing.  Different team members, all billing at different rates, needed to be roped in.  Our traditional RFP templates wouldn't suffice.

We couldn't simply bill at our usual fixed rate because there were just too many moving parts.  Our traditional method of billing failed and we risked losing money by taking on this new client.

Sure, we could have spent hours creating a new RFP template to incorporate all the ins-and-outs of this project, but as developers, we really just wanted to focus on the project itself.

Our solution

We needed a way to provide a custom quote for our client, taking into account all the nuances this project entailed. 

Knowing we would be competing against other bids. it was therefore super important for us to systematically organize our quote into stages.

So, to develop a complex quote, we started with the basics.

Deliverables breakdown: these are what are actually provided to a client. Our first deliverable was the wireframes.

Task creation: once deliverables are defined, you can begin to parcel out tasks.  This aids a project manager in estimating how long each task should take.  We separated the wireframe deliverable into three separate tasks: one that required an expensive senior designer, while the other two tasks could get done with just a junior designer and a copywriter.

the "other costs": Of course, all projects run into ancillary costs (many of which can be passed through to the client).  In this case, our client requested 12 iPads, which we included.  We typically also include six months of hosting as a standard service.

As today's technology projects gain in complexity, service providers need the tools to effectively price their services.  A seemingly simple task gets more complex when different people who bill at different rates touch the project. 

Like I did with my iPad RFP, it's best to start with the basics when developing a quote and build from there.

The complexity of the quoting process can derail projects and turn them unprofitable.  Service providers can help themselves by taking the guessing out of customized quotes.

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