The request for information (RFI) process is an important aspect to planning out projects in the construction industry. However, the procurement process can be unnecessarily long and confusing, costing you valuable time and money. Below we’ll go over what a formal request for information is, how they’re helpful, and the best practices on how to write them. We’ll also talk about some key tips on how to improve the RFI process, so you can keep your business efficiency to a maximum.
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A request for information is basically a form of business communication intended to gain general information about potential vendors and the products and services they offer. The ultimate goal in sending an RFI is to see how a potential supplier’s products and services can best be used to solve solutions and fit your business’s needs. Contractors have a wide range of vendors and interested parties to choose from, so requests for information help to see what each company has to offer, and how each company stacks up according to the contractor’s needs.
RFI’s are mainly submitted in the early stages of construction contracts, but can be used throughout the construction phase as different demands arise for a specific project. Generally, RFI’s will be sent before requests for quotation (RFQ) and requests for proposal (RFP), as RFQ’s and RFP’s are sent by contractors once they have narrowed down the best fits.
RFI’s can also take different forms as they depend on what the general contractor is looking for. For example, a general contractor looking for electrical work would send an RFI to a subcontractor whereas a GC looking for materials would send an RFI to a supplier.
Benefits to RFI’s
Requests for information not only help contractors compare potential suppliers, but they also help to narrow down the pool of vendors to choose from. RFI’s also have a general format for gathering basic information, which makes it easier for GC’s to filter out suppliers that aren’t good fits for the project at hand. RFI’s can also help to encourage competition among suppliers, especially when the document is shared on a public platform.
Writing an RFI
Start out by giving a general overview of your company and what you’re seeking from the vendor. Upon receiving, the vendor should understand that the document is an RFI and have a good idea of who your company is. You should also be as specific as you can with your needs, like general pricing, personnel requirements, and delivery schedules. This will allow you to better compare your suppliers without further clarification.
Also be sure to give a guideline as to how the recipient should respond to the information request, what format to follow, and provide a deadline for getting back to you. Lastly, you can include other details like requesting the suppliers’ previous experience or your evaluation process for picking the potential vendor.
Improving the RFI Process
As a general contractor, one way to improve the procurement process is to use an RFI template. Using a template not only makes it easier for you to include all necessary information, but will also make it easier for the supplier to respond with what you’re looking for. You can also include pictures and construction drawings or pictures as visuals can help the supplier to get a better sense of the solution you’re looking for. Utilizing a software system will also help make your RFI process more organized and give faster and better access to documents for employees in the field and office.
If you are the recipient of the RFI, there are also steps you can take to improve the process. Responding quickly and diligently will give you an edge over other competitors, increasing your likelihood of getting the job. However before responding, you have to make sure the RFI is detailed enough to ensure your company would be a good fit for the construction project. You can’t provide a good response if the RFI is unclear or doesn’t ask the right questions. Lastly, don’t be afraid to decline a job. If your company isn’t a good fit for the job, you can still leave a good impression with a GC by formally declining, increasing your chances the GC contacts you again for a different future endeavor.
From reading this article, you should have a much better idea of what a request for information is, and how they help companies to choose the best possible solution for their demands. Be sure to follow the above tips on how to write an RFI, and the best practices for improving the RFI process – your business will thank you.