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Agile request-for-proposal development: match made in heaven?

Author: Robyn Keet

What do dating apps and agile request-for-proposals (RFPs) have in common? At first glance, not much. But taking a deeper look, they both take a cumbersome activity (formulating an RFP, finding your perfect match in the sea of fish out there 😊 ), and add a touch of magic to minimize the work required while delivering a high-quality solution. Which touch of magic, you may ask? Well, for dating it is the match-making algorithms behind dating applications like Tinder and Bumble. For agile RFP development, it is the agile approach at the core of the process. Unlikely match? Say what you will. We believe it’s a match made in heaven. Here is why.

BrightWolves recently undertook a digital transformation project for an international industrial group. A request-for-proposal was formulated and sent out to vendors. An RFP is a formal document outlining an intended project scope, used to gather proposals from various vendors. Our client had attempted this mammoth digital transformation project twice before. Both tentatives had failed. While we could debate the contributing factors to the past failures, one thing is clear: adding the magic touch of the agile methodology cannot be disputed.

The benefit of agile RFP development is delivering high-quality output while minimizing non-value-adding work, and maximizing the amount of collaboration between different stakeholders. There are three main factors that contribute towards realizing the benefits of agile RFP development:

1. Hybrid working

Live workshops favour cross-collaboration between the different stakeholders and subject-matter experts. Yet, focusing only on this method can result in inefficiencies. Allowing people the time to digest the discussions, and then facilitate the elicitation of further requirements asynchronously online, ensures high-quality output without the pain of unnecessary meetings. Making a hybrid approach work, requires structure and up-front planning.

2. Involve the right people and facilitate cross-collaboration

The people who will be using the system need to be heard. Functional silos need to be broken down. Facilitate productive collaboration between the relevant parties, at the right moments, to ensure a well-considered RFP.

3. Quick and clearly defined sprints

The sprints should be short enough (ideally 1-2 weeks) to promote rapid feedback loops. The RFP writing will move forward at a higher speed than the traditional approach. Successful sprints require collaborative planning, clear sprint goals with expectations, and a well-communicated timeline.

To summarize, finding your perfect match via a dating app and integrating agility into RFP writing both require strong communication, courage, quick feedback loops (after all, you would not want to spend months chatting online only to find out you are entirely incompatible in person…) and, eventually, collective ownership. The result? Delivering maximum value while minimizing non-value-adding activities.


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