Estate Agency Website Specifications – help

Before building an "enterprise grade" agency website, you'll want to plan carefully...

RFP / Specification writing process

If you’re from a larger agency group, or a smaller independent wanting to build an “enterprise quality” estate agency website, and you’re at the start of your journey in working out how you think about this, then you face exciting times!

It’s great that your new website project is now real, and we would welcome the chance to help you explore and flesh out the plans for your new website in more detail if you wish to involve us in that process.  You have a fabulous opportunity ahead.

In this article we describe (and propose) a process we sometimes engage in to help agents who are looking at a full-on websites, so that you can:

  • Understand the art of the possible
  • Build consensus and pull together the various ideas from different parts of their team or business
  • Ensure you consider some good solid foundations, and business continuity
  • Get help putting together a full specification and definition of what the whole team wants
  • Prepare a full tender process if required –using what we refer to as the Request for Proposal (RFP) document

This article gives a formal explanation for the RFP process.  It aims to explain the benefits of a proper RFP process, the steps we go through to produce that RFP, the resulting deliverables and the associated fee structures.

Executive Summary:

Writing a full RFP is typically a 2 – 3 day project, comprising a half day (or sometimes 2, even 3, half days for more complex businesses) in various detailed stakeholder meetings at your office, a day of writing up and iteration with you via email, and a half day presenting the full proposal back to you for further discussion.

This process will produce a detailed Request for Proposal (RFP) document, or indeed simply a detailed Specification (see below for the different routes), and, if required, guidelines for a tender process.  You will be heavily involved in directing the content, as this is about teasing out and defining in a high level of detail the solution you need; we bring the discipline, some fresh ideas, and a formal process from having done this numerous times before, for large agency groups.  We also carry the actual load of producing quality RFP documentation.

The end result allows you to define and de-risk the process, getting much better value quotes, at lower risk, from a wider range of competent agencies.  It saves you money and gets a much better result.  In short, it’s just good practice and it sets you up for a strong tender process.

Advantages of an RFP Process:

The RFP process is analogous to engaging the services of an architect to help draw up clear plans and building control drawings to tender amongst builders.  Few people would dream of approaching a house rebuild without this.  Indeed the advantages have many parallels:

  • Firstly, if well written with a good internal process, the RFP strengthens and clarifies agreement amongst your team as to what you need, as well as flushes out ideas which may otherwise be missed.  The net result is a much better product, with everyone feeling they’re getting what they want from the project.
  • Once you have a clear RFP, laying out exactly what you want and expect from your site, it is far easier to get competitive quotes from a range of suppliers, and have confidence that they understand what they are doing.
  • The RFP also protects you against scope and spec creep biting you with increased costs, or from getting into a project with a firm that doesn’t understand what they are letting themselves into – this obviously creates a risk that the project may hit serious trouble.
  • It also saves you costs far in excess of the fees associated with producing the RFP, as you can get much more competitive quotes as a result of the process.  As the army says:  Proper Planning and Process Prevents Poor Performance.
  • You’ll also find that website designers/builders respond very well to a detailed RFP, as it leaves them feeling confident they have eliminated uncertainties in a project which makes quoting proposals a minefield.  Typically it surprises on the upside how much more engagement you get from agencies when they see a clearly thought through set of needs, as they are attractive to work with.

Process Mechanics:

The process we would go through to produce you an RFP is proposed as follows:

  • 2-3 days is typically adequate, depending on the size and relative complexity of your business (departments of residential sales, lettings, commercial, auctions, agricultural, distinctive homes, FS practices, call centres, or multiple software systems typically require the longer processes to engage ideas from all quarters).
  • First we will come and spend a half day with your core team, or in a variety of focused one hour interviews with significant stakeholders who you identify from each specialist department, whether IT, marketing, significant branch managers, etc.
  • Then we will write up these findings into a first draft document for your review.
  • Then we will iterate this with your core project team (which may comprise some combination of senior management, marketing team, IT managers, operational directors, and sometimes draws together project teams from the front line staff) to review that, once you have had a chance to digest the first draft.  We’ll also discuss the type of tender process you want to run, how many parties, with what form of response, etc.
  • We will go away to redraft and amend the RFP based on that feedback.
  • Finally we’ll deliver the final draft (from which you can make any second round amendments yourself) and we’ll spend an afternoon presenting the final project scope back to you and your wider team, to ensure everyone is in full agreement.
  • From there, you can run your own tender process, or we can produce a section of the RFP covering the structure for that tender process and responses.
  • As Homeflow, if we feel the project is still something we can deliver (and we hope it should be), we will then respond to your tender process with an accurate quotation to compare alongside other suppliers,unless of course you decide through the RFP discovery process that you are comfortable enough to work directly with us, in which case you can avoid the effort of the full tendering process and move directly to engaging us on the work: it’s your your choice.

What output can you expect?:

  • The RFP we produce with you and for you winds up being approximately a 20-30 page document (contact us for more information and an example contents page or document structure).
  • It isn’t a technical specification document (that would be 80 pages plus, and the rigidity of those documents isn’t helpful in a world where web development has become far more “agile”).  However, it leaves absolutely no doubt on the detailed sections, functionality requirements and expectations for the site build.
  • It also covers you on a range of other sensible issues, like SLAs, escrow arrangements, coding standards, browser compatibility, site speed performance, technical due diligence points, etc., that might otherwise not get covered – which would risk a poorer quality end result.
  • And it can optionally have guidelines, timetables, expectations and process for agency responses to the RFP tender process.

Fees:

Our charge for the full RFP process is based on a day rate, and depends on the number of days, the size of your team, any special circumstances around your build requirements, and, to a degree, your location.

Given our interest in winning your business, we are however, highly competitively priced for the value (and vital importance) of this stage of your project. If we subsequently win the tender process to build the website for you, the cost of the RFP process will be deducted from the launch fees of the website we build for you.

But we want to work with you, so we’re biased, no?

Clearly we are likely to be pitching for your business, so the process is not without bias.  It’s important to understand that.

Indeed on a number of occasions we’ve discovered that you will be comfortable to collapse the process and decide to start working with us after the RFP process, and before an external tender takes place. This is of course entirely your choice, we are more than happy to participate in a full tender process, and then work within that framework to compete for your project.

So long as you are aware of the bias, it’s a great process, as we understand the pitfalls, the questions to ask, and we’re well motivated to point out the important questions which we feel make us better: questions which you’d rather be asking other suppliers, rather than not being aware of them.  We help you identify really good technical standards for hosting, back up, business continuity, approaches to speed, SEO, browser compatibility, HTML, SLAs, escrow agreements and many other things you’ll want to be considering.  In a sense, think of it like an insurance policy, and a sounding board to ensure you capture best practice before committing to the build phase.

Next steps:

If you are interested by what you have read, please do get in touch for an informal chat.  We can send you example documentation structures, and give you estimates for timescales and project shape, taking into account the specifics of your situation.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.