The RFI and its Cost to Your Construction Firm
The RFI (request for information) is intended to ask questions and bridge gaps or inconsistencies that may arise when reviewing provided documents. Despite RFIs being a necessary clarification tool that can prevent devastating miscommunication, an overwhelming amount of RFIs can slow down a project and create frustration for all parties.
How RFIs are impacting your construction firm
RFIs are expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating to manage. The first problem with RFIs is the large number of them that are submitted. Based on a study conducted by Navigant Construction Forum, each project had an average of almost 800 RFIs, each with an estimated 8 hours of review time equaling upwards of 6,000 hours spent reviewing RFIs. On top of this, more than 13% of RFIs could have been answered by reviewing the provided documents and were unnecessary to submit. This is a problem considering that each RFI costs about $1000 to examine and provide a response. The second issue with RFIs is that an RFI will take around 6-10 days, sometimes more, before it solicits a response, and almost 22% of all RFIs are never answered.
How your firm can avoid the adverse effects
In a perfect world, communication would always be clear and RFIs would be unnecessary. Since this is not the case, your firm must find a way to reduce the number of RFIs that are necessary and make the process faster and easier. There are two main ways to accomplish this:
All contracts should include very specific guidelines for the RFI process that will protect all parties against RFIs being abused or misused. Guidelines can include clarification about what constitutes an RFI as well as specific requirements for how the RFI must be submitted, formatted, reviewed, and responded. Additionally, the contractor must ensure that he thoroughly reads the contract and all other documents before submitting an RFI to prevent duplicate requested information. This will create less of a need to send RFIs and a standardized process for the RFI submittals.
Mobile and cloud-based software will allow firms to streamline their RFI processes and keep better track of the status of each RFI. Technology will enable your company to keep all RFIs in a single place and will automatically mark each RFI with a time stamp and will maintain a record of its travel path to create a traceable audit trail. This cloud-based technology will also keep all relevant attachments linked to a certain RFI so that those attachments can be easily found when the RFI is accessed in the future. Technology will not only improve communication but will also allow for early problem detection and a better understanding of the impacts on the scope of the project. The mobile capability of construction software will allow workers to submit RFIs in the field; this means immediate problem presentation and faster problem resolution, which in turn will lead to quicker responses that will save time and money.
There are certain construction best practices when it comes to RFIs that if consistently implemented, would make the RFI process faster and easier. These practices include:
• Determine an allotted time that RFIs must be responded to—This ensures that all RFIs will be answered and that the schedule will not suffer as long as the RFI was submitted promptly. When choosing the allotted time period, take into account the complexity of the issue and create a reasonable deadline for a response that will allow the respondent time to research and provide an accurate and detailed response.
• Use project management software to track and manage all RFIs—Project management technology is a must when handling a large number of RFIs. It will keep the record of each RFI organized and centralized, which will come in handy when they need to be accessed later on.
• Submit all RFIs on foreseeable issues before they become time sensitive—It is the contractor’s responsibility to submit all necessary RFIs as soon as possible to avoid the RFI setting them behind schedule.
• Limit one issue per RFI and prioritize them accordingly—When submitting a large number of RFIs, prioritize them according to importance. Something that is time sensitive should be marked as more important than something trivial. Project management technology can aid in this by helping you score each RFI based on the level of importance before sending them out.
• Include all information relevant including pictures, recommendations, and implications for the project—The more information you provide, the less the respondent has to look up, which will lead to a faster response time and more collaboration.
• Read the contract and all other documents thoroughly—Don’t waste your time and money by submitting RFIs for questions that have already been answered in the contract or other documents.
RFIs do not have to be as challenging and costly as they seem to be. With the right technology and business practices, RFIs can be quick and painless.