Ellina Saturova Head of BA

    Mobile App RFP: How to Create a Working Document for Potential Vendors

    Whether you’re about to launch your mobile product or seek to improve the existing one, you have to choose between two alternatives: if you know how to write an app and have enough resources, you do it on your own, or otherwise source development services. In the latter case, achieving the ultimate goal largely depends on wise vendor selection. After shopping around and gathering recommendations, you eventually need to fill out a mobile app development RFP (request for proposal) to find the most suitable vendor in the market.

    What is a mobile app RFP?

    In a nutshell, a mobile app development RFP is a document compiled by a company (client) that wants to purchase app development services from an outside contractor. An app proposal document enables a client to gather offers from vendors so they can choose a development partner that meets the project’s requirements. An RFP provides an overview of a business challenge, existing project’s constraints and goals. 

    RFP is a point of reference for client and vendor throughout the entire period of cooperation. Typically, the RFP brief contains two parts: the first is filled out by a client and includes a detailed overview of a project, its goals and specific criteria for evaluation, while the second one represents the vendor’s proposal for a specific project. This structure serves to establish a better understanding of the project’s requirements by potential contractors and simplify further communication. 

    Proceeding from the outlined context, potential contractors could offer some solutions to meet the requirements and client’s aspirations.

    Why do you need a mobile app development RFP?

    Finding a suitable mobile development partner can be challenging. However, a comprehensively compiled RFP can keep you from unreasonably high costs for app development and poor vendor performance. This, in turn, will help you to keep the sustainable level of ROI by recouping the investment in development and then gaining profit from the effectively built app. 

    Before turning to the issue of how to write an RFP and what a benchmark app proposal document exactly looks like, let’s look at the rationale behind honing in on a mobile app development RFP. 

    So, a comprehensively compiled RFP provides a possibility to compare all potential vendors in terms of: 

    • Value

    What is the focus of a potential contractor? Can this focus be aligned with the goals of your project? While selecting a vendor, it’s important to think beyond the “good-bad” dichotomy. The main question here is whether this particular developer can bring the needed value to your project. So, a wisely drafted RFP brief can help to make sure you’re both on the same page.

    • Price

    Some companies use a proposal document for mobile application as a tool to enhance the competition between contractors to negotiate the lowest price. Although the most beneficial variant often does not guarantee spectacular results, the opportunity to categorize vendors’ offers by price taking into account your budget constraints is crucial. 

    • Expertise

    An RFP application paves the way for qualitative competency-based analysis. Outlining the preferred technical requirements, you get the opportunity to choose between those contractors that match your request in terms of expertise and portfolio. 

    Yet another thing that matters about mobile app RFP is that it’s a mutually beneficial process. A client creates a situation of competition where prospective candidates make their best to present accurate offers and be selected as a contractor. 

    For vendors, RFP is an opportunity to analyze clients and their project outlines before any contracts are signed. This gives a vendor more independence in choosing who to work with.

    Who should write an RFP brief?

    An RFP development should be entrusted to the project’s primary stakeholders. It could be a company’s employee or a team directly involved in the project implementation and fully aware of all specifications and constraints. 

    A person or team writing an RFP should also be good at decision-making. The most important part of the RFP process is choosing a vendor, and only those who root for the project’s success can pick the best option.

    Note that CEOs and other high-level managers might not have a broad insight into all the details of a project unless it’s a small startup developing a single product. That is why it’s always wiser to assign the RFP development to those who are closer to daily work routine. 

    7 questions to be answered before writing an RFP

    Once the decision to source development services is made and the goals for the project are set, don’t immediately rush into RFP application writing. Before starting to draft the document, answer the following 7 questions to make the result more meaningful:

    7 questions to be answered before writing an RFP

    What should a mobile app development RFP look like?

    The structure of an app proposal document can vary depending on the particular project and the industry. However, several essential points should be covered to make the whole RFP process successful.

    The part compiled by a client 

    1. Executive Summary

    A short brief that includes an overview of your project, its business goals and the problem you’re going to solve with a final product.

    1. Company Info

    An overview of your company providing details about:

    • The company’s mission and goals
    • Industry
    • Existing products
    • Characteristics of the market the company operates in (including your market positions)
    • Key stakeholders and leadership
    1. Project Description

    This part of an RFP brief is entirely devoted to the description of your project.

    • Problem overview

    Include here information about the problem of customers or business your mobile app is aimed to address (product vision details, target users overview, etc). 

    • Aspired business goals

    Let the potential vendors know about the criteria, metrics, and benchmarks that you’re planning to use to evaluate the project’s success. Add essential figures, describe your target goals for short-, medium- and long-term periods, explain how you will measure the goals set. 

    • Product’s functionality

    This part is devoted to the description of the solution you want to end up with. Ideally, there should be app prototypes, mockups, wireframes – everything that can help to create a comprehensive picture of what you expect to get as a result. 

    • Use Cases

    Give a full use case of the app to make the principles of the user’s interaction with the product clear. 

    • Stakeholders

    Write a few lines about the team working on the project and key people responsible for decision-making. 

    1. Project Scope Requirements 

    Here we are narrowing down to RFP technical requirements. 

    • Services 

    What particular services do you want to source? It could be a turn-key concept or services covering some parts of the project implementation: consulting services, development, design, QA testing, technical delivery. 

    • Operating Systems and Platforms

    Specify whether an app is expected to be built on iOS, Android, or any other platform.

    • Backend Requirements 

    Your mobile app development RFP should also contain the description of the existing systems or CMS, as well as available APIs. If there’s a need to develop them, notify potential vendors about it. 

    • Push Notifications

    If you plan to include push notifications in your app, specify the ways you want them to be customized and notifications’ frequency. 

    • Analytics 

    Tell about what kind of data regarding the app’s operation you’d like to collect and how. 

    1. Budget

    Another essential chapter of the RFP is the description of the existing budget constraints. The budget for mobile app development depends on the expected scope of work and the vendors’ level of experience and expertise. 

    1. Project Timeline 

    Specify not only the project’s due date but also list all possible circumstances that could potentially influence the launch date. 

    1. Proposal Timeline

    Write about the deadline for proposal submission and the time you will need to evaluate all submitted offers. 

    Part compiled by a potential vendor

    Below are the main points you should require from contractors to fill in:

    1. Company Overview

    Ask contractors to write as many details as possible about their companies/development studios: for how long they have been operating in the market? What is their unique selling proposition? What is the size of a company and what is the average size of a team working on one project? 

    1. Service Offering

    Request the description of all services the development company is offering to its clients. 

    1. Development Lifecycle Philosophy 

    This point is set to make clear what development philosophy the company follows and which best development/project management practices it uses in work. 

    1. Case Studies

    The vendor’s part of a mobile app development RFP should contain a list of clients, awards, and overviews of client projects with the outline of solutions offered to each of them.  

    1. Proposal

    This chapter is entirely about the vendor’s offer for the particular project.

    • Solution Overview

    Ask contractors to provide a list of resources planned to be used to meet your requirements, product management, project management, communication, and development tools. 

    • Project Scope

    Ask to comment on the outlined project scope taking into account the said deadline, budget and other constraints. 

    • Project Timeline

    Request a detailed timeline with activity schedules.

    • Pricing

    An estimated price for the scope of work outlined by a client.

    • Maintenance Plan

    Ask vendors to provide a summary of possible types of service level support plans.

    Typical mistakes you should avoid while making mobile app RFP

    While drafting a bid proposal app, don’t forget to check it for typical mistakes that could negatively affect the whole process of contractor selection. There are 5 most common ones:

    1. Starting RFP drafting without prior consultations with the project team.

    Hold a series of meetings with the team involved in the development of a project. Make sure that all essential points are agreed and every member of the team has a whole picture of all the stages of the process. It’s also logical to hold progress evaluation meetings during the project implementation. 

    1. Failing to provide enough details about your company and project.

    Follow the principle “the more the better” when writing a mobile app RFP. The more details you provide about the context — the more accurate responses you will get in return.

    1. Focusing solely on the project’s technical requirements.

    Of course, a mobile app development RFP can’t go without a solid description of the tech basics. However, outlining the fundamentals of your business strategy, the framework of client-vendor communication, evaluation criteria and possible risks will make the case much clearer for vendors. 

    1. Failing to ask vendors the right questions. 

    Don’t limit the vendor’s part of an RFP to just points from templates. Add as many questions you’d like to get answers to as you need, extend the list depending on your project requirements, add annexes if there is such a need.

    1. Underestimating the budget

    Before putting concrete budget limitations to the document, think about the room for additional costs that may occur. 

    RFP brief is completed. What’s next?

    Once the draft is finished and agreed with the team and key stakeholders, it’s time to move to the next steps of the RFP process:

    Next steps to make after a mobile app RFP is done


    So, drafting a mobile app development RFP can itself be considered as a separate project — this process also needs a well-established strategy and profound study of every tiny detail. If all essential aspects are reflected, an RFP will become a key to success in selecting a development partner for building a mobile app. Surf has deep expertise in developing mobile apps for companies from various industries. We are specializing in developing apps from the first prototype to the ultimate product taking into account all expectations and requirements of each client. Fill in the form and we will return shortly with estimations regarding your project.