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How to write rfi in construction?

4 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

Research alone won’t cut it. For businesses, there’s a procedure in place for soliciting information about a vendor’s products or goods. It’s known as an RFI (request for information), and for many companies, it signals the first step on the road to making a purchase.

An RFI is a formal request for information buyers send to suppliers or vendors. The procurement team of a company, responsible for buying inventory, will issue an RFI when stock is low or when there’s an anticipated demand for a particular product.

Typically, the RFI is a term often mentioned in the construction industry for sourcing raw materials for new projects, but an RFI in project management is also very common.

A company will draw up an RFI document after a need for a particular product or service has been identified. It helps those making the purchase decision figure out which supplier to buy from based on information such as the characteristics and dimensions of the product and other key factors.

An RFI’s meaning in construction is a document that helps source the right materials and labor for a new project. By sending out RFIs to prospective contractor companies, suppliers, and vendors, construction companies can accurately assess which options would best fit their budget and other specific project needs.

Once the company has received the information it requested in the document, the key decision-makers can sort through the options and estimate how much the project is likely to cost.

There are standardized formats for RFI documents in the construction industry, making it straightforward for all parties involved.

Acronyms come thick and fast in the world of business, so it’s important to stay abreast of all the important ones that could apply to your company sooner or later. RFIs, RFPs, and RFQs are all formal procedures that can shape a buyer-seller interaction and streamline the process from initial interest to final purchase.

The RFI represents the first step in the process of procuring products or services for your business, followed by the RFP and the RFQ. After issuing these three formal documents, you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which supplier offers the best deal.

An RFP is a formal request issued once a company has all the information it requires about the product or service from the RFI.

After qualifying the products, the company will ask the shortlisted suppliers to submit a proposal for the specific job or project.

For example, if a company requires a branding refresh, it would first send out an RFI to designers or brand consultants to solicit key information about what they could deliver. Then, that company would shortlist three to five candidates or agencies and draw up an RFP document providing specific information on the task and asking these candidates to submit a proposal.

The RFQ is the final stage of the procurement of goods or services process. This is where you find out how much each candidate will charge for the products or services they deliver.

To use the previous example, this is when the branding candidates would let you know how much it would cost to undertake the branding overhaul project, including material expenses and labor costs.

You should use an RFI whenever you need goods or services that you don’t already have access to. If you already have an agreement with a supplier for raw materials and you’re content with the terms of the deal, you wouldn’t need to issue an RFI.

But if you’re seeking something new for your business, an RFI kick-starts the formal procurement process that will give you the best chance of finding the best deal.

Drawing up your first RFI document can be an intimidating process, as you want to be sure you receive the right information to get the best deal. There is a step-by-step formula you can follow, though, which will help guide you through the process.

First, state your needs for the project you’re trying to complete. Without this information, suppliers won’t have much to go off when they try to fulfill your RFI, which could result in confusion and the wrong type of product suggestions.

If you’re drawing up an RFI to find contractors for a job, this is where you should outline what skills and traits the ideal candidate should have, as well as the scope of the project.

To receive information that’s relevant to your company’s needs, you should provide an overview of your business. This will help the suppliers find the right product or service for the job.

As well as company information, you should also detail important aspects of your business, such as your customer demographics and psychographics, the department in charge of the project, and anything else that can be useful for sourcing the right products.

Don’t forget to attach a section at the bottom of the RFI where suppliers can respond with information about their product or service. This template can include details such as how long suppliers can expect to wait for a response after they issue the information and the criteria by which you’ll judge the responses.

Let’s flesh out the previous RFI example about branding, so you can build a clear picture in your mind as to what an RFI looks like.

You’ve been put in charge of a major new project: to oversee a new direction for the company branding. This isn’t uncommon since brands change their identity and appeal often to adapt to the changing market and shifting consumer demands and pain points.

So, you’ve determined that you need to outsource some of the work to designers, as you don’t have an in-house design team.

Your first responsibility is to draw up an RFI document in which you specify exactly what you’re looking for and what skills the designers must have to complete the job to your expectations.

Here’s what that document might look like:

Company name: (your company name)Company address: (your company address)Project name: Branding designContact information: (your company email address and phone number)Date issued: (when you sent out the RFI)Date due: (when you expect to receive a response)

Overview and objectives: Company X is a SaaS company operating in the project management space. We’re undergoing a brand refresh, and we need designers to come in and oversee the creative process to solidify our new brand identity, factoring in our company values and customer needs.

Information to supply:

Supplier response: (leave a space for the supplier to respond)

Once you’ve created the document, you have two options:

A good RFI can make the difference between an average deal and an excellent deal, with the latter saving your company money and setting up a working relationship with a reliable supplier.

As such, it’s important to perfect your RFI writing process before you start sending them out. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have a template you can turn to again and again for all your big purchase decisions.

So what does it take to put together an RFI that yields the best responses from suppliers?

If you rush to put together an RFI, you set yourself up to be inundated with responses that take you a long time to wade through and tease out the useful nuggets of information. A generic RFI will lead to generic responses, which is the last thing you need when trying to streamline your buying process.

When you take the time to provide clear guidelines to suppliers as to what you want to see in their response, you’ll save countless hours of sifting through lengthy documents full of information that isn’t relevant to your project or needs.

There is a balance to be struck. Provide too much detail, and you risk slowing down the whole process. Overwhelm the suppliers, and you may have to endure longer response times and perhaps even rule out some prospective options due to information overload.

An RFI is primarily about your business and needs, yet there is another party involved in the process: the supplier. Forget to consider the recipient of the RFI, and your document will read like a cold, corporate solicitation for information.

Think long term: This could be a supplier that you work with on an ongoing basis for the next three to six months or longer.

With that in mind, how would you want your first impression to be? You certainly wouldn’t want to start off on the wrong foot with bloated language laden with technical terms and devoid of any real substance. Remember there’s a human on the other end tasked with reading your request, and this should help you produce a better RFI.

With every RFI, you’ll want to establish a reasonable deadline to move the process along in line with your company goals, but also one which is fair to suppliers. Most suppliers likely receive dozens of RFI a week, so expecting them to respond within a few days is asking a lot.

Depending on the scope and details of the project, a deadline in the region of five to ten days is a good benchmark to aim for.

The RFI process can roughly be broken down into three separate stages, which are as follows:

RFIs help companies find the best supplier for the job, yet they can also be time-consuming and eat into company budgets. The RFI is just the beginning of a potentially lengthy procurement procedure that involves several stages. During this process, there’s typically a lot of back-and-forth with suppliers and document creation and exchange.

The RFI process can also drag employees from various departments into the process, which may create bottlenecks and delays. If you’re a project manager tasked with approving each proposal that lands on your desk, the project can be held in purgatory due to all the paperwork.

It isn’t uncommon to strike out when sending an RFI, too, which means you receive no responses from suppliers. This could be because you provided too much detail and suppliers viewed it as an unnecessary use of their time, or simply because the RFI didn’t reach the right people.

To improve the RFI process, aim for clarity and be concise with your words.

Optimize the document for brevity as this will allow suppliers to read and digest the information in less time, making it easier for them to justify issuing a timely response.

Don’t omit key information in the pursuit of brevity, though, as to receive the best proposals, you need to fill suppliers in on all the relevant facts.

If you’re on the receiving end of an RFI, it’s your job to assemble all the relevant information about your product or service that relates to the project or purchase needs put forward by the buyer.

Before responding, it’s important to clarify whether this is a project your company is capable of taking on or whether you have the product the buyer needs.

In the best-case scenario, you’ll simply need to enter information into the corresponding fields to satisfy the buyer’s request. Yet, it won’t always be that straightforward as each company will have its own process.

If you’ve responded to a similar RFI before, you can pull information from a previous response to save time and cater it to the buyer in question. Otherwise, consult relevant parties within your company. Talk to the people who know the most about the products or services you offer to mitigate the risk of inadvertently omitting important information.

With Wrike’s professional services software, you can easily draw up your RFI form and send it to external contributors. The form template allows you to present suppliers with specific fields, so all they have to do is fill them out with the corresponding information.

Wrike’s document management system provides you with a means of organizing your RFIs and filing them away. This gives you the flexibility to reuse RFIs in future and keep a record of this important document for your books.

When you create and send RFIs through Wrike, you distill the procurement process down to one streamlined series of actions. For each stage, you can create, send, and manage the necessary files, so there’s no risk of misplacing them or losing access to them. Plus, your whole team can view or edit them if need be, which minimizes the risk of letting inadvertent mistakes slow down the process.

Jaclyn Wanvari
Answer # 2 #

The other method of communicating your requests for information is to write a formal letter (less commonly used and less recommended) - which some companies also attach to the above form.

The RFI letter format will be very similar to the RFI form format, and it should be succinct and objective.

Take a look at the example letter below, which can be easily used and customised for your company and projects.

Fletcher Johari
Answer # 3 #
  • Project name and address.
  • RFI number (in sequential order for the project)
  • RFI title (and a brief description)
  • Date you submitted the RFI and a deadline for the response.
  • Name, title, company, and contact information for the requesting party.
Sope Martindale
Correctional Nursing
Answer # 4 #

One of the most basic concepts of construction project management is the concept of an RFI (Request for Information). Information flow is a critical part of any construction project. The primary means of asking a question and getting information from other parties on a construction project is by issuing an RFI (request for information).

Whether you are a subcontractor, contractor, supplier or other member of a project, writing a clear question can mean the difference of getting information in a timely manner or not. Let’s start by defining what RFI means?

Now that we understand what the term RFI means, let’s continue with defining what an RFI actually is. So what is an RFI?

An RFI (request for information) is a formal way of documenting a request for additional information required in order to complete a project or specific task on a construction project. A request for information is a question or statement that typically asks the another party for information that cannot be found elsewhere on the project contract documents.

It can be issued via a document control system, email, fax, letter or on site by anyone involved with the project.

To state it simply – an RFI is the formal and industry standard way to ask a question on any construction project.

With the definition of an RFI behind us you may be asking yourself what exactly you can use an RFI for?

The way an RFI is used on your project will depend entirely on the situation you find yourself in. An RFI can be used for the following:

Let’s walk through each of the above with a few examples:

As you can see from the above examples there are many ways that an RFI can be useful to you as a contractor or subtrade on a project. So what is the correct way to issue an RFI on your project?

There are a number of steps when it comes to issuing an RFI. The steps to issuing an RFI include:

The first step in issuing an RFI needs to be understanding your problem. RFI’s are often used by sh**y contractors as a way of avoiding effort. Asking a question that is already answered in the documents is one of the fastest ways to make a consultant hate you.

Start by reviewing the contract documents thoroughly, including the plans, details, schedules and specifications. Once you’re confident that the answer doesn’t exist elsewhere begin the process of preparing an RFI and move on to step TWO.

Too often do I see generic titles which provide no context of what the actual RFI is about. Below are some examples on how I would change specific details in order to make them more descriptive. Not only does this provide more information assigned to respond to the question but also provides you with more description if you need to go back to it in the future.

Original – Plumbing Riser

Revised – Plumbing Riser Size Confirmation at Grids A/5

Original – Beam Repair

Revised – Confirmation on extent of beam repair on floor 3

Original – Paint Colour

Revised – Paint type PT-7 – Confirmation of paint colour

As you can see in each of the above cases the RFI title was changed slightly in order to make it more clear and help the reader to understand the intent of the question. Practicing this will help to improve on the turnaround time of your RFIs.

Assigning the RFI correctly can be just as important as asking the correct question. It doesn’t make any sense to be issuing a mechanical RFI to the structural engineer.

Make certain that it is clear who the RFI is assigned to but, don’t just forward to a single individual. Coordination is part of construction project management. To help coordinate, send your RFI to groups of people that all need to be informed by it’s impact. If the RFI is structural in nature but could impact the routing of conduit or light fixture placement make sure the electrical engineer is on it as are the applicable trades.

The foundation of a request for information in construction is the question itself. Your question should be to the point and specific but here’s just a few more tips:

Following each of the above will help you to ask the right question and will help to make RFI turnaround time faster and easier for consultants.

Include anything that will help to make answering the question easier, there are a variety of different things you could attach but here are just a few examples:

Attachments help to illustrate or make someone’s understanding of the problem more clear. The more information you can provide someone with the easier time they will have in understanding what the problem actually is.

As with anything on a large project each issue has its own individual timing requirements. If the item isn’t urgent and you have time to wait on an answer give the consultants time. If it’s urgent make sure the due date is reflective of that.

Ultimately the timing of your RFI’s on the project is going to be dictated by your master schedule. Don’t have one yet? Maybe consider reading up on our Construction Scheduling article.

After you’ve compiled your RFI it’s time to issue it to the consultants or owner. In days before computers this used to be done using hardcopies (yes really). Faxes and letters were physically issued to the consulting team. This – obviously, was a slow and time consuming process. Fortunately new technology has made the process of issuing an RFI easier.

RFIs can be issued using the following methods:

Hardcopy – you can issue hardcopies of RFI’s to consultants. In areas where internet isn’t widely available this may be your only option. Printing RFI’s having them reviewed while consultants on site, sending faxes or mailing them. This is the slowest option.

Email –one of the most common ways of processing RFI’s. You can issue them in the body of the email or issue them as an attached word document or pdf. When issuing RFI’s via email try to standardize the format and the subject line. For example:

By standardizing the subject you can make tracking them easier. To make your life easier we have an RFI template available for your use.

On Site (In Person) – One of my favourite ways to ask questions is through site visits with the consultants. By walking with an architect or engineer you can more easily explain the issue you’re facing . This allows you to build rapport with the individuals and avoids back and forth emails.

After you get your answer using this method make sure to document the answer via email.

Project Management Platform – there are many different project management platforms available such as Procore, Geniebelt, Plangrid, BIM360 etc. These platforms are intended to make your life easier and manage communications. These platforms allow you to pin RFI’s on drawings and use pre-built forms to standardize information being provided to the project team.

Whichever method you choose to issue your RFI it’s important to standardize the way you do so and stick to one or two methods the entire project.

Now that you’ve issued an RFI – of equal importance is managing them. RFI’s can quickly add up on a project and create a back log for consultants. To avoid track RFI’s and regularly reinforcing their importance of getting answers.

Before you begin to manage your RFI’s it’s important to understand what your consultants are responsible for. What is the standard turnaround time on an RFI?

The time for consultants to answer an RFI is typically 10 working days, though this may be different. Check your contract for project specific turn around times.

Keep in mind 10 working days is the turn around time for all consultants to get the answer to you.

To help manage the process of an RFI consider developing an RFI workflow at the start of the job. An RFI workflow documents the standard steps in issuing an RFI and the next steps to take after each decision is made. We have an RFI workflow template for you to make this process easier.

Creating a log is also a useful exercise to help track RFIs. An RFI tracking log lists all of your RFIs, the date they are issued, and when they are due. The RFI tracking log also provides a way to track whos court each RFI is in, this allows you to more easily follow up with the appropriate individual.

A recommendation would be to set up a weekly meeting with all people responsible for RFI’s. Use this meeting to get answers and follow up with each party on RFI’s in their court.

Taai Lalla
Scientific Linguist