Software Evaluation

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Using a Feature Support Matrix

The format of the questions used in an RFP can make or break any project. For example, if an RFP uses the Yes/No response format it becomes very inefficient since it requires an individual question for each software feature needed to accomplish a specific business function. This forces your RFP to be extremely long, with many questions. This makes comparing and evaluating responses to this type of RFP very difficult and error prone. On the other hand, it is also very difficult to easily and accurately analyze vendor responses to an RFP using open-ended, essay-type questions, primarily because of the inconsistencies found in all the vendor responses.

So just what are the right formats for a software RFP? One of the most useful formats is the Feature Support Matrix for collecting both Risk Assessment and Functional data regarding large, enterprise-wide software projects. The Feature Support Matrix is discussed below.


A vendor can provide (deliver) a specific software feature in many ways. These delivery methods include

  • Being an "out-of-the-box" standard feature
  • Simple configuration scripting chore
  • No Charge software modification
  • Billable software modification

Obviously, less risk is incurred when a feature is provided as part of the standard "out-of-the-box" software product. Much more risk is incurred when that same feature is being provided as a scripting or programming modification. Just because a vendor states they are providing a feature as a no-charge modification does not mean they can deliver it on time or bug-free. The issue of RISK becomes very real. The chances of on-going software problem and increased support charges are much larger.
We recommend the following RFP techniques and question/response format to obtain information in a consistent manner that cam also be used to assess both the SUITABILITY and the RISK inherent in a given software proposal.


Use the following formats to create a truly useful RFP that will efficiently collect information that accurately portrays BOTH a proposed software system's functionality AND it's RISK of implementation. Each example is first briefly explained, followed by an example highlighted in green.

# 1 - Feature Support Matrix

This RFP question format is a very good way of identifying BOTH system feature AVAILABILITY, and the DELIVERY METHOD a vendor must utilize to provide that feature, in a completely quantitative format. This is ideal for collecting data used to determine the suitability (weighted grade point score) of a proposed software system to your needs, AND data needed to assess the RISK of it's implmentation.

This type of RFP format is an excellent choice for RFIs & RFPs used to acquire enterprise-wide systems such as ERP, ERM, CRM, Accounting, HR, DMS, POS, Healthcare software. The risk assessment is very important here because of the complex nature of the target environment and the amount of custom scripting or programming that is involved.

To use this format, you should first put the following instructions (highlighted in green) at the beginning of your RFP's System Requirements section (or similar).


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More information about the best methodologies for software evaluation & selection
may be found at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute and CMMI Institute