There is no doubt that poor requirement gathering leads to bad quality of products. If this holds true for a normal software project, imagine the importance of a critical space like the Internet of Things (IoT) that is a combination of multiple disciplines.
Besides just the clarity of conveying the business requirement, requests for proposals (RFPs) are the source of all go-to-queries until a scoping document or a blueprint is locked during sales. Therefore, the document has to provide low-level details, says Yash Mehta, an IoT and Big Data Science specialist.
The challenge is to discover, filter and seek quotes from highly specialised vendors in record timelines. The RFP is just the starting of the product launch journey that approximately spans over a year.
Also, writing superior RFP results in avoiding problems further down the development road. These problems could include delayed release dates, exceeding budgets, or other complicated issues.
If you are locking horns with writing your RFP for an IoT product, below is the guide to follow.
Include a breakdown of the PESTEL analysis
Every IoT product is addressing some issue at the individual or the business level. Since the earliest adopters of IoT products are essential sectors (healthcare, insurance, defense etc.), the RFP should explain the objectives of the project through PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Environment & Legal) analysis.
PESTEL analysis is the best representation of your vision on paper. They provide thorough insights into the impact of the product on different areas. Subsequently, this is a great lead for the vendor to imbibe your vision and respond with the most appropriate possible proposal. PESTEL analysis is done thoroughly, in the beginning, cuts down on the iterative process of asking questions during presales.
Does that mean PESTEL isn’t meant for a less complex or lightweight product? Certainly not!
Based on the type of product, the analysis can also vary in volume. PESTEL can be a part of the product goal section in the RFP. Whenever quantitative goals should be set, they should be either final company goals or express the desired direction.
Make use of automated tools
No matter that IoT is a relatively new sector, certain tools help fast track the process of writing an RFP. For example, there are platforms that provide templates to previous IoT projects. While others help with on-demand personalised resources to do the task for you. Even better, there are tools that generate an RFP document based on the questionnaire you have answered.
However, all of these work only for basic projects. Lengthier projects depend upon domain expertise and Ioterra seems to have a solution for the same. After you answer a few high-level questions about your project, the RFP tool scans through hundreds of vendors in their database and acknowledges those who fit your requirement. It rapidly generates a Request For Proposal (RFP) through Ioterra and submits it to the vendors you are interested in.
Over the years, the platform has onboarded enterprises and hundreds of top-tier vendors in the ecosystem. The process is fairly simple. After answering a few high-level questions about the project type and requirements via their RFP tool, the business receives notifications from relevant product development companies and consultants.
The business shares a request for quotation (RFQ) against all the applicants, handpicks the most appropriate partner and starts the project. In the best-case scenario, it takes up to one week for the entire process and that’s the beauty of the platform which enables businesses to save both time and cost.
Make MVP your priority
For IoT outsourcing, the RFP has to detail the Minimum-Viable Product (MVP). Since there are multiple dependencies on the electronics, mechanical, software and middleware core, the MVP provides a starting point to build the solution. It is also the source to scope the solution and enable/disable features as feasible.
For example, two of the most important factors of an IoT solution are the ability to transmit and analyse big data and the mechanical build (the device and the underlying components.) Therefore, prioritising the list of components as per the degree of criticality should be a part of the MVP.
RFP for a prototype is a great move
As discussed earlier, prototyping is an integral part of an IoT product development landscape. In fact, after the initial prototype is validated, the production prototypes are the closest mock-up of the final configuration just before mass production. Many enterprises chose a technology partner based on their expertise at the prototyping level. Therefore, if RFPs could ask for an approach to build a prototype of the solution.
Now, this could either be a part of the overall RFP exercise or a separate RFP exercise just for building the initial prototypes. If you are working on a complex product, consider an RFP for prototyping here.
An effective RFP for IoT can resolve multiple complexities and connect with the vendor that you deserve. Since the internet-of-things is a lot of things, it is imperative to embrace contemporary practices before going on the floor. Just like a qualitative product idea is a founding stone, so is the qualitative requirement you prepare and the partners you work with.
The author is Yash Mehta, an IoT and Big Data Science specialist.