You have procurement which you or your organization needs to complete, but your vendor network is lacking. If you’re in the Construction Industry, you need to correct some issues with the misapplication of resources on your project. Or, in the IT industry, you need to assess the capabilities of another department within your company before assigning it to a project.
Start with a Request for Information (RFI). The RFI shows vendors and stakeholders that you know what you want, so they can start thinking about how to help you. Your department is developing a project, ready to spend resources, but optimization is required. Use an RFI to quickly spur competition among vendors and get momentum behind your project’s ideas.
You’ll need to do all of the proper research and homework first, but this template will give you a head-start and a good framework. You should always consult a lawyer though before finalizing any contracts.
A Request for Information (RFI) is one of the first documents you may use during the start of a project. During the middle of a project as well, it can be used to make course-corrections, and make sure the project has the resources it needs to stay on track. Generally, it is used in procurement to issue a request to many vendors at once, in order to start a healthy competitive environment and establish the best fit for the work that needs to be performed.
An RFI generally comes before the Request for Quote (RFQ), Request for Tender (RFT), and Request for Proposal (RFP). And, for good reason. The RFQ is a little more complex than the RFI and assumes that the recipient has the capability to meet the specific needs of a project. The RFT might be similar to RFQ, but is more open, allowing bids from multiple parties. The RFP is the most complex, as it may include many different types of products and services, outsourcing, subcontractors, and other elements that are non-standardized.
It’s important to understand your project workflows, and have an RFQ, RFT, or RFP in mind when you issue your RFI. The RFI can help to condition your vendors or stakeholders into understanding what kind of information to make available, further streamlining and increasing efficiency of those later processes. Once responses from an RFI are received, you will be able to write the RFQ and other documents more properly, as you will know what to expect from the vendors.
An RFI can be used in many different industries. A common location that RFIs are found is with government or large-scale business procurement. In these situations, the RFI can be offered as a precursor to an RFT. The responses to an RFI are used to build a database of vendors that might fit certain qualifications, and then an RFT is sent to the top vendors, to create a competition on a specific project with standardized work.
In large corporations, an RFI might be used between IT departments. The IT department which is issuing the RFI might have a project they need to complete, and they might not have good lines of communication with other departments that might be able to help. In this case, the RFI is the initiation of a communication document; the first contact to familiarize with the prospective interested parties. The responses from these other departments will allow your team to coordinate the best place to send an RFQ or RFP, to ask for specific work to be done.
For the construction industry, an RFI is used to define the materials and resources that are required for a particular part of the work. Generally, they are very concise and represent a particular subcontractor’s knowledge of what resources are required. These RFIs can be issued either at the very beginning of a project or at some time in the middle. During the middle of the project, the RFI might be issued by a subcontractor as a statement of concern. It raises the flag that something needs to be changed, that resources are not being spent correctly, and to reduce liability for that contractor, by showing a record that the contractor brought up a shortage of resources when they first learned of it, in the Request for Information to their parent contractor.
In the past, RFIs were sent by mail or hand-delivered to vendor companies, requiring a highly time-intensive process to build vendor-CRM databases for supply chain companies, procurers, or for government agencies. This increased the value of these databases artificially, and also increased the time required to obtain this information. With the advent of the internet, however, PDF form filling document readers and website portals for procurement and bidding have created near real-time versions of the old business processes which would take months or years. New projects can be created from scratch and RFIs obtained from a wholly unknown set of vendors, establishing networks of supply overnight. These new capabilities have dramatically increased the accuracy and efficiency of procurement and project management, allowing companies to achieve more ambitious projects in less time, and with skeleton crew resources.
Small businesses and even freelancers can get in on the action as well. With the magnification of efficiency of business processes via the internet and digitization, large companies’ work is now possible with just a couple of people or even a single freelancer. Advertising agencies are using RFIs as well, pre-formatting the responses to tailor to specific types of clients. With the media and advertising industry, an RFI is less structured towards understanding what capabilities the company might have, and more towards understanding the culture, look and feel of the agency. Project managers writing the RFIs can define cultural or other performance indicators, and use the submissions to narrow down to a shortlist of companies or freelancers that actually get requests for proposals.
At KdanMobile, we have an RFP template as well, so you can check it out, and have it ready to go when you find great potential future clients after you’ve sent out an RFI already. If you use online dissemination, such as email, and use form filling, you can build a database in your CRM quickly and efficiently, with little effort, so you can spend more time on your project.
An RFI has a few key sections, which we will describe here. It’s one of the shorter documents, so you want to keep things as short and concise as you can. Think of it as an executive summary for the project documents to follow. You want all of the stakeholders to be able to read it in its entirety, not get lost in too many details. The main sections come down to a concept we describe often- the contractor’s triangle. What balance of speed, quality, and cost do you want in your project? You need to define the timeline, deliverables, and evaluation criteria, at least.
For advertising or media-related projects, you might attach previous media, history, or bios of the principals on your project. The RFI is as much as an introduction to you as it is to your project. For other companies, you want to focus on the vendors. Do they have enough information about your project to respond, but not too much as to weed out responses of companies which might be capable?
The RFI isn’t an RFP, and in some ways, they are actually quite incompatible. This is one of the key takeaways to absorb here. The RFI is generally for very structured work. Refer to the KPIs and standards that fully define the tasks, which are agreed upon by the industry. Don’t invent anything new. That would be more appropriate in an RFP. With an RFI, the work is certain, and standardized, with common protocols. With an RFP, there is uncertainty about how (or even if) the project might be accomplished.
Always follow the protocols and procedures of the industry around you, and you will experience a greater success quotient. Try out our template, and modify it for your needs. And always keep in mind that the document is just one form of a communication tool, and other forms of communication will always be necessary to close the deal.