Best Practices for Writing a Great Mobile RFP

Every week, hundreds of mobile RFPs hit the market. Since many of them make their way here to WillowTree, we decided to put together a “best practices” summary highlighting questions your company can ask to get the best possible responses and pricing estimates for your mobile project. Of course, these are guidelines first. Keep in mind they need to be customized for each mobile app project you might be considering, but we hope they will provide you with a helpful starting point.

Project Summary & Purpose

In this section, your goal is to give responders sufficient context to propose real and complete solutions.

Note: Prompts are in italics. Remove them before you distribute the RFP to potential responders.

Summary of Business Problem

What core business problem is the mobile solution designed to address? Who are the end users of the app? Is this a mobile-only solution or part of a larger project that includes desktop or non-digital components?

Solutions Considered

What strategy or market research work have you conducted? What solutions have you considered? What are current solutions you consider “acceptable?” Why were others rejected?

Operating Systems (OS) & Devices

What devices and operating systems are you selecting and why? Have you thought about native apps vs. mobile web? Is that decision final or still open? Are you interested in receiving thoughts or suggestions on this topic from the responders?

Stakeholders & Decision Makers

Who is leading the project? Who are other stakeholders and what is their level of involvement? Whose budget will this come out of? Who are the final decision makers?

Goals & Ideal Outcome

What is the financial model? What quantifiable goals are there? What are the soft, qualitative goals (for example, supporting a certain brand image)? What are the potential costs of failure (for example, delivering a poorly-designed, slow, or buggy app)? How and with what frequency will goals be measured?

Integration

What back-end systems and data sources will the mobile apps be interfacing with? Do these systems currently exist? If so, provide access for the agencies to review the APIs and feeds as part of the RFP process. If not, what is the timeline or process for building them? Will the agency be asked to assist in the architecture and/or development of the APIs and feeds?

Target Timeline & Drivers

What is the target launch date and what is driving that date as the target (for example, a certain event)? Are there other dependencies required to hit this date (for example, APIs and feeds that need to be built)?

Budget

Being open about budget ranges will significantly improve the responses you receive. Every project has a range of options and degree of polish/customization that significantly impacts the final price. By leaving the budget open, you will receive a wide range of responses and possible project solutions, but you’ll also be left with less of a basis for making quick apples-to-apples comparisons.

Your goal should be to figure out who is best positioned to do the work within a certain budget range, not to let your mobile agency define your budget. For example, two versions of the same app could cost $500K and $900K. One may use out of the box, OS-supplied design paradigms while the other may be highly customized with amazing transitions and polish. If you set a budget range, you’ll learn how far each agency will push within that range. If you leave budgets open, you will receive some proposals for $100K and some for $200K (but with different approaches). In the end, it’s like trying to compare offers for a Toyota Camry with a BMW 5-series. Set a budget range and push for the best app within that budget, and let responders know that coming in with a solution at the bottom of or below the range would positively impact their chances.

Decision Criteria

How will you choose whom to work with? How will you rank the criteria?

RFP Timeline

Establish a timeline for

  1. Initial RFP distribution
  2. Responder submission of questions (and Q&A session if applicable)
  3. Question replies
  4. Final submissions

Mobile Agency Background & Capabilities

Your main goal here is to ensure you find an agency that will help solve your business problems creatively, propose incredible design options, and deliver a stable, fast, elegant mobile experience, within timelines/budgets. Also, make sure the partner you choose is easy to work with. The questions below are designed to help you compare agencies.

Note: Prompts are in italics. Remove them before you distribute the RFP to potential responders.

Summary & History

How did the agency start? Who is the executive team and what is their background? What is the mission of the agency?

Differentiators

How does the company differentiate itself vs. competitors?

Portfolio

Please summarize your top mobile projects, the problem you were trying to solve, and provide a link to each (if publicly available).

Awards

Please summarize your top awards or other examples of thought leadership in the space.

Hiring Process

Please summarize your hiring process. [Since you are ultimately buying the capabilities of the agency’s team, it’s important to understand how the team has been created.]

Mobile Design & Technology Assessments

[This is an absolutely critical part of the RFP as it will give you insight into how the agency thinks and approaches projects]

  • Please give a short summary of at least two strategy projects and/or assessments you have done in the past and what the outcome was. Emphasize specific return on investment data.
  • [If you have a current app or mobile site that will be updated as part of this project, provide it to the responders and let them give feedback.] Please perform a design and code assessment and make at least three significant suggestions for design and development improvement.
  • [If you do NOT have a current app or mobile site to share, but competitors do.] Please perform a design assessment of the following (up to two) apps/mobile sites and elaborate on what you like and what you would approach differently.
  • [If you have initial wireframes or designs already created, have the agencies review them and give you feedback. You will learn a lot about how they think and hopefully come up with some good improvements.] Please perform a quick design assessment of our current designs, and provide suggestions for improvement.
  • [If mobile solutions will tie into existing back-end systems, which in almost every case they will, you will want every agency’s feedback on whether they can work with the current systems or would suggest changes.] Please review the following [APIs, Feeds, data sources, etc.], and explain whether you can use them as-is to deliver the desired mobile functionality, or whether you would suggest changes. Please elaborate.

Design Capabilities

  • How many full-time employees constitute your design team? Part time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
  • Where are all the above employees and freelancers/subcontractors located? Will any work be done overseas? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many? Are the designers and developers in the same office? [Generally speaking, you will get better results from more tightly integrated teams – Forrester, for example, has found that collocated teams outperform geographically distributed teams.]
  • Will we be able to interface directly with your Design team members?
  • Please include a short résumé for your head of design.
  • Please provide résumés for at least two design team members, at least one of whom would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may not be available when the contract is executed). [The goal here is to get an idea of the types of designers the agency has on staff.]
  • Please summarize a typical design engagement, by week, from start to finish, including deliverables.
  • How will we interface with your team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will we use?
  • Please describe at least three design engagements that include substantially similar mobile experiences or functionality to this project. Please describe the problem, the approach taken, and the outcome.
  • Please include at least one example of where the design team differentiated between a phone and tablet version of an app?
  • Please include at least one example of where the design team substantially differentiated mobile experiences among iOS, Android, Windows, and mobile web?

Development Capabilities

  • How many full-time employees constitute your development team? Please also divide these by operating system (iOS, Android, Windows, Mobile Web, DevOps), or note where employees work on multiple OSes? How many are part-time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
  • Where are all the above employees and freelancers/subcontractors located? Will any work be done overseas? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many? [Generally speaking, you will get better results from more tightly integrated teams – Forrester, for example, has found that collocated teams outperform geographically distributed teams.]
  • Will we be able to interface directly with the development team?
  • How will we interface with your team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will we use?
  • [If the agency will be asked to assist in integrating, modifying or building back-end systems] What backend/DevOps capabilities do you have? What languages/frameworks do you use? Please describe one or more similar engagements, including the problem and the solution you were able to deliver.
  • Please include a short résumé for your head of development, as well as the head of each OS/platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mobile Web, DevOps) that will be used in this project.
  • Please provide short résumés for at least two members of each OS/platform team, at least one of whom would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may not be available when the contract is executed).
  • Please summarize a typical development engagement, by week, from start to finish, including deliverables.
  • What approaches do you use to ensure high-quality software, free of malicious code (such as inside jobs of stealing users’ personal information)? How do you ensure proper documentation of the software’s quality?
  • How do you manage the use of open source or other libraries that could compromise the IP of the final product?
  • How do you ensure security of code and client materials?
  • Please describe at least three development engagements that include substantially similar mobile experiences or functionality to this project. Please describe the problem, the approach taken, and the outcome.

QA Process

  • How many full-time employees constitute the QA team? Part-time? Freelancers? Subcontractors?
  • Which offices will the team members be in? Will any work be done overseas? Do any of your employees work remotely? If so, how many?
  • Will we be able to interface directly with the QA team?
  • Please include a short résumé for the head of QA.
  • Please provide short résumés for at least two members of the QA team, at least one of which would be assigned to our project if it were to start today (we understand that individuals may not be available when the contract is executed).
  • Please summarize a typical QA process, by week, from start to finish.
  • How will we interface with your team on a day-to-day basis? What tools will we use?

References

Please provide three references of similar projects. Interviews with the references will be limited to 10 minutes.

 

Project Proposal

Your goal here is to ensure the mobile agency understands your business needs, has enough of an interest to put real thought into a proposal, can meet your timeline/budgets, and help you understand how they think.

Note: Prompts are in italics. Remove them before you distribute the RFP to potential responders.

Project Concept & Recommendations

What do you most like about our mobile loyalty concept? What are you most concerned about? What would change if you could?

Other App Projects

Can you tell us about other apps that you have worked on and describe some great mobile experiences in mobile loyalty (or a related space)? What made them great?

Work Examples

Please provide an example of previous work for each major functionality of the project. If there are proposed functionalities that you have no previous examples for, please explain your approach and why you believe you will be able to perform.

Project Approach

Please explain your approach to the project, and what you believe will be major variables/risks that will drive success or failure based on our goals. What will drive consumer adoption and use? How can those risks best be managed on our side and your side?

Language & Internationalization

How will you address our language and internationalization requirements?

Timeline & Budget

  • Please propose a timeline for initial launch.
  • Please propose both a time and materials budget and a fixed budget.
  • Please include an approach to ongoing updates and optimization. What frequency of updates would you suggest? How will updates be staffed? How will emergency fixes be addressed (such as a crash caused by a change to a feed source or API)? What should budget be?

Measurement, Analytics & Ongoing App Improvement

[Mobile projects are no longer about launching an app or mobile website, and going back and doing an update every 6 months. Mobile is about constant and never-ending analysis and improvement. Don’t think about a mobile project as an upfront project followed by “maintenance”—instead, think of it as a 12–24 month engagement with a partner agency during, which time the goal is to work together to constantly revise and improve.]

  • How will analytics be set up?
  • What metrics should we be measuring? How will we together use analytics reviews to drive continuous improvement?
  • What should our budget be for ongoing review of data and implementation of resulting improvements?
  • How often should we contemplate major and minor updates? What should budget be for these?
  • If we would like the agency to perform those tasks, what tools would you use and who would perform what roles?
  • Please give two examples of similar projects with ongoing engagement work centered on analytics and performance improvement.

To receive a copy of this Sample RFP in Word format, please send a request using our contact form, and we’ll be happy to send it to you.

3 Comments

  1. thank you.

  2. Thanks

  3. I’m a BI consultant. Right now with startup that is preparing and RFP for an Events app.
    Thanks

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