The BS of RFPs: Why It Won’t Help Your Search For an LA Development Shop

Drew Harding

COO / Co-Founder of Neon Roots

If you’re looking for a Los Angeles development shop to potentially build your application or redesign your website, you might be tempted to release an RFP.  It is after all, a time-honored means to get multiple agencies in a battle to outbid one another in hopes of taking on your project.  And why wouldn’t you want companies competing?  Well, you do.  But the truth is, the RFP process isn’t going to give your product the best chance at success because when it comes to finding a design agency, RFPs are bullshit.

RFPs do serve a purpose when searching for a commodity, but professional development services are not a commodity.  That’s not a bit of arrogance coming from some high-and-mighty LA development shop, it’s the simple truth.  Because design isn’t black & white; design is an ever-evolving collaboration between client and developer.  RFPs undercut one of the most important factors in the success of your product – communication with your developers.

RFPs are asking for a commitment before the two parties know each other, before they’ve had a chance to form a relationship or decide if they even want to form a relationship.  Product development in Los Angeles or anywhere else is all about suitability.  That’s what a client/agency relationship has to be built on, and suitability works both ways.  The development shop should be vetting you just as you are vetting them.

RFPs rarely have enough information to give a shop what they need to determine if they can truly deliver.  Information is incomplete or often focuses on the wrong things like company background or proposal requirements instead of the actual project itself.  With the information given in a traditional RFP, no legitimate agency should be able to give you an honest bid.

It’s been our experience that while potential clients will say cost isn’t their main determining factor, that they are basing their decision more on innovation, communication, new technologies, or a hundred other factors, it’s just not usually true.  What they’re looking for is as much pre-sell work as they can get before ultimately going with the cheapest bid regardless.  This just doesn’t work.

So, if RFPs don’t work, what does?  It’s all about putting in the personal effort.  Researching the right company for you.  Making phone calls.  Having a real, honest conversation with the people who might be working with you.  You need to get to know the agency, and they should get to know you.  You should be asking questions, and they should be, as well.  You want a company that will commit to the success of your project, not just your money.

This method will ultimately save you time and money, and will always give your project a better chance at success.  Get to know the company before you ask them to give you a bid.  The problem with an RFP is it puts the cart before the horse, and usually that cart is full of bullshit.

 

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