Why is it worth to start a trial project instead of conducting a RFP

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Emil Waszkowski
Why is it worth to start a trial project instead of conducting a RFP

While reading an Adweek article on choosing an advertising agency by performing trial projects instead of a traditional Request For Proposal I've noticed many similarities to how it's done in the IT industry. That is why I've decided to write an article about RFP's in IT and how to take a different approach when choosing a software house. Learn what can you gain and what risks can be avoided by following my advice.

Is there anyone who enjoys RFPs?

Long time required for call for bids preparation and then conducting it distracts companies from business operations and software houses from what they do best — designing and developing digital products. Can you tell if cooperation with a certain company will be fruitful based on its history, achievements, number of employees and long procedure descriptions? Will a company be proactive, challenge your ideas to reach higher quality instead of simply performing given tasks? Is it goal-oriented and has a business sense?

Choosing an offer by using invitation to tender procedures carries a lot of risk. In particular, the estimation can be very faulty due to the fact that bidders have limited knowledge about the future product or systems it will be integrated with. Remember that it happens due to the fact that IT projects are very complicated and unpredictable by nature and not because of software house's malice. Thus, also from the client's perspective, it is almost impossible to compare such offers using mainly the price criterion. Harvard Business Review prepared a study on that matter and it turns out that in one out of six of the projects ITTs may be a direct cause of exceeding budget even by 200%. To learn how to avoid that read our article on budgeting Agile projects.

What if a software house that won the tender realises that it won't be able to build the product within the budget? It may cut the costs by limiting tests to a minimum and complete the software using junior developers. Some software houses may also want to try to minimise their loses by increasing further development and support costs. Read more on that subject here.

Is there another way? Yes, a trial project!

Imagine that instead of all that a software house were to prepare a small project for you, create a webpage or an app review, fix your server issues (devops/sysops) or conduct a workshop in a form of a Design Sprint. This will help you find out if you cooperate well, understand each other better and allow the software house to share their ideas and experience, which will help improve the new product design as well as your existing products. You'll avoid losing time on reviewing offers and contacting bidders. The other benefit is that you gain a software house that is happy to start the cooperation by helping you instead of preparing a toilsome cost estimation. We really like what we do and want to help you :)

Ever bought a car without a test ride? I suppose not. But I can bet that you had hired an employee without testing how they handle everyday tasks. Below, you'll find ideas for small projects that will allow you to go on a test ride with a software house. It will take no longer than two weeks and cost no more than $5000. You'll find out if you two will hit it off and deliver business value at the same time.

1. UX Audit — evaluation designed to check how your product fairs in terms of usability and business goals. It allows us to examine and rate your app, which enables you to find out what requires improvement. Thanks to the UX audit you will improve user experience along with the most important metrics — conversion rate, engagement, retention and churn rate reduction.

2. Code Review — code evaluation in an existing software product. Apart from the evaluation we provide you with improvement recommendations. Code Review helps discover ways to optimise the code, improve application performance and provide a higher security level.

3. Design Sprint — a five-phase framework that helps answer critical business questions through rapid prototyping and user testing. This process helps spark innovation, encourage user-centered thinking, align your team behind a shared vision, and get you to product launch phase faster. Learn more about the Design Sprint.

4. Creating a single function or module — this method allows you to improve the part of the application that needs it and helps test agency's programming and communication skills. Contractor will understand the specific nature of your application, which will result in better planning of further work and faster final product delivery. That's how we started our cooperation with (among others) Morizon, Envelo and SkyCash. In all above cases it turned into long and successful collaboration.

Ok! But how to choose a reliable software house?

Select a few suppliers to talk to (two or three should be enough). You probably think that the more contractors you test and the more offers you get, the better a decision you'll make. That's only partly true. Talking to too many suppliers will consume a lot of your energy and attention. You will discuss general issues with each of them instead of gaining new knowledge out of every meeting. For this reason, when selecting contractors focus on analysing the projects in their portfolio that are similar in scale or complexity to your idea. You'll find the detailed guide on how to choose a software house on our blog: read the whole article on how to find a reliable software house.

Want to build or improve your software? Don’t hesitate to drop us a message at hello@futuremind.com. We’re always happy to help!

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Emil Waszkowski

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