An RFI, or more formally known as a request for information, is a common business practice used to gather valuable information from suppliers, vendors or other individuals that are required in order for you to complete a project. Commonly found in the construction industry, RFI’s deal with the capabilities of different suppliers and are an important part of managing and reducing risk on a construction project. Writing requests for information (RFI) effectively is essential in gathering information and providing clear communication with current or potential suppliers about the requirements, scope, and purpose of the RFI in terms of a project.
Why are (well-written) RFIs so Important?
By sending out an RFI, you are essentially laying the ground for the communication between you and either current or potential suppliers. When looking for new potential suppliers, it’s imperative that the RFI is concise and focuses solely on the details pertaining to the prospective project. RFIs in their nature can be time consuming–for either party, especially if they are poorly written and contain redundant and irrelevant information. That is why it’s so important to nail down how to write a request for information in construction.
Here are a few tips to help you learn how to write a request for information.
What’s included in an RFI?
Depending on the intent of RFI you are working on, that will be what informs the information you add to it. Most commonly, you should provide details on the data you’re seeking from the supplier, such as products, delivery methods, or pricing. Your Request for information should also include a request for acknowledgment that the RFI was indeed received by the supplier. Creating an RFI template is also a good way to quickly streamline your RFIs and help you save time and money. So once you’re happy with an RFI layout and its shown to work well, stick to it.
Follow an established format
Make sure you gather and write information in an established format. The pro forma RFI template is commonly used in the construction industry for subcontractors and consultants to raise issues. Mobile and Cloud-based software can help you manage the process and templates your company desires.
It sounds obvious but be as specific as possible when writing an RFI. If you ask vague questions you will likely not receive the information that you need or worse uninformed information which will only draw out the RFI process and possibly delay the RFI process. Being specific and concise about the intentions of the RFI can help to streamline the conversation between parties.
In order to foster positive and long-lasting partnerships within the construction industry, it is important to be considerate of the time of the other parties involved. No one wants to be stuck waiting for weeks on end. Being inconsiderate of people’s time and the work involved in completing an RFI will only hurt you in the long run. People don’t tend to want to work with people who are playing a game of questions tag.
Propose Possible Solutions
If you’re writing an RFI and know how you’d like it to be handled, suggest it! Forcing the supplier to jump through hoops to guess at what you might want will only cause problems. Giving people the materials and information they need in order to succeed will ultimately help you save time and money. Lastly, when proposing any possible solutions, stay focused and be clear on one solution for the problem. Providing too many suggestions can muddle up the overall goal and might cause for the perfect solution to be overshadowed.
Provide Drawings and Pictures When Possible
This is a crucial tip in learning how to write a request for information. Including photos or drawings when sending RFIs can be extremely helpful for the clarity of the RFI. Pictures help give context to whatever question or issue has arisen and also help the individual receiving the RFI to better understand the question. Remember, people are visual creatures, usually, we can look at a picture, asses the situation and make a recommendation fairly quickly. Visuals can add a lot of value to RFI and help speed up the overall process when used in appropriate situations.
When writing an RFI include whether it will result in any added time or costs. This helps to manage and mitigate risk within the project.
Give an Appropriate Amount of Time to Respond
Make sure that you set a time frame for when you need the RFI back. It is important to be considerate and give current or potential suppliers an adequate amount of time to respond. The standard time frame is usually one to two weeks depending on the RFI. This can vary though, so be conscious of the amount of information you request and the amount of time you allow for a response.
Standardize Your RFIs Naming
If you name all of your RFI files in the same format, it will make your life and your co-worker’s lives much easier in the long run. Standardizing your RFI naming convention allows them to be much more easily located and quickly searchable.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be writing effective RFI’s in no time!