Of course not. The bids would be all over the map. You’d have no idea what the house would look like once it’s built; and the chances of being happy with the outcome are dubious.
Yet, this is how every outsourced application development effort starts.
How do you fix it? Simple – don’t put out an RFP for the application. Do the requirements gathering and project plan first. At Information Concepts, we do this on a fixed-price basis, the results include a fully-functional prototype (the visualization), a requirements document, and a design plan; with every screen, report and process line-itemed and priced. Once you have the design requirements and a project plan, you can put it out to bid with confidence. You’ll know what it should cost; what it will look like; and that you’ll like the result.
You wouldn’t build a house without a plan – why would you build software without it?