Yesterday, I received an RFP through a business associate of mine. The RFP was looking for something right up our (CaseySoftware and the associate's) alley, so I let her know that we were interested and started skimming the requirements. What I founded was simply amazing.
First, this organization wanted a set of applications that fit into what we're doing perfectly. In fact, we've quietly been working on a project that could – scaled up – meet 75% of their initial requirements right off the bat. I was a bit excited and decided to continue the review.
Next, they wanted the system to be a COTS (Consumer Off The Shelf) system which requires minimal customization. As I've talked about before, when you take a component and customize it to your requirements, you fork it and run the risk of having to re-integrate your changes with every single update released. Good and thoughtful design can minimize these difficulties, but I don't know of anything that can eliminate them. Luckily, this is what we do, so I read on.
Next, they specified that they wanted an application which minimized the proprietary components. This was a huge plus in my book as it means they're open to the idea of Open Source software. This is our strength and played well to the points above.
Next, the applications' infrastructure had to fit with their existing infrastructure. This makes sense, most companies want their support costs to grow minimally for each new application they bring online. This is why CaseySoftware works almost exclusively in mysql. We have the skills and training. The problem is that their infrastructure is .Net, Oracle, and MS SQL server. I'm not sure how this “minimizes the proprietary components”, but it greatly minimizes the range of Open Source options.
Finally, the source code to the system itself had to be made available to them upon delivery OR placed in escrow within 90 days of delivery. For a mission critical sytem, this makes sense to protect against the provider disappearing, but I assume that they don't require the same of Microsoft Office.
So let's take stock of the requirements:
They need a mission critical system to be deployed (not built) minimizing the proprietary components yet fits within their existing Oracle/MS SQL/.Net architecture while requiring the source code to be made available.
This seems like a contradictory set of requirements, so I started poking around to see if I could find someone to meet the bill. After a bit of digging, I found them. There seems to be exactly one organization which fits the requirements. Is this one of those RFP's where it was crafted for a buddy or a specific organization and will serve to demonstrate that “we couldn't find anyone offering this!” I'm not willing to say that yet, but my suspicions are raised.