Making the Solicitation
The means by which an organization secures a bid for a software development project is typically
a solicitation called a Request for Quotation, Request for Proposal, or Request for Tender (or
Bid). Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the actual form and content for these
solicitations varies widely across the contracting community. We can distinguish among them
Request for Quotation (RFQ). Use this to request a price or prices for standard products
that can be purchased in varying quantities using a purchase order -- software licenses, for
example. The purchase order issued to the supplier represents the offer, and it becomes the
contract when the supplier accepts it.
Request for Proposal (RFP). Use this to solicit proposals for both price and technical
approach, based on a performance specification included in the RFP. Then, base your selection
of a supplier on pre-set evaluation criteria, and negotiate the work content, price, and terms.
When you review the various suppliers' proposed technical solutions, it's important to ensure
they have not introduced unwanted modifications to your intended technical approach. It is equally
important to ensure that the technical approach they offer is acceptable for your particular
working environment. Consequently, it may be necessary to negotiate the technical content and
language in the final contract.
Request for Tender (RFT), Request for Bid (RFB). If you must insist on a firm price,
rather than adopting the progressive acquisition approach we recommend, then make sure you have
a healthy management reserve to cover legitimate changes! Request a firm-price tender from competitive
bidders based on a technical specification. This form of solicitation demands the most thorough
legal and technical specifications from both the acquirer and suppliers. Include the exact form
of contract with the RFT or RFB; the offer (tender or bid) you accept will then become part
of the contract. In evaluating responses, make sure that the respondents meet all the criteria
you described in the request. Those that do not meet the published criteria should be rejected;
otherwise, you will undermine the validity of your process and tarnish your reputation.
In the case of both RFPs and RFTs, you should plan on holding a "bidders' conference" to
answer potential suppliers' questions and thus ensure everyone has a clear understanding of
the requirements. If this raises issues that you overlooked in the original request, you can
issue an "addendum" to the original requirements. In any case, you should formally document
and distribute your answers so that they become part of the solicitation documents.