How to Improve Your Request for Information (RFI) Process

Get info on this preliminary stage in construction

••• Carl Court/Getty Images

Are you making the request for information? Or is it somebody else requesting information from you? The term ‘request for information’ (RFI) can be applied either way, but there are a few basic differences in the process in each case. Find out below how to improve your RFI process, whether you are asking or being asked for information.

Part A. You Are Asked for Information

Requests for information are a frequent preliminary stage in defining and carrying out construction work. Often it’s a matter of size: larger projects have more variables and more unknowns that need to be resolved or at least narrowed down before asking for formal proposals, so an RFI can help.

  1. Your process must be fast enough to understand and reply without undue delay. An RFI from a potential customer is a chance for you to get in early. That, in turn, means being well enough organized to respond rapidly and correctly.
  2. If the RFI indicates work you prefer not to carry out, or that would lead to resource conflicts with other customers’ projects, you can politely decline. A negative, yet timely reply can still leave a good impression and a chance of being contacted for other projects later.
  1. Make sure the RFI has enough detail for you to make a good answer. As a minimum, check you have enough information to answer the following:
      1. Can you compete? Do you have the skills and resources to provide a good solution?
    1. Can you win such a project? Are you better than competitors for this construction work?
    2. Do you want to win such a project? Check the customer’s track record for on-time payment, before answering this question.
  2. If the RFI remains too unclear, your process can define the following choices.
      1. You can decline and pursue other projects.
    1. You can help the customer to better define construction needs.
    2. You can offer paid consulting services to put together a new RFI.

    Each option has its pros and cons. Your decision on which option to pick will be according to the project and the customer concerned. 

    Part B. You Are the One Asking for Information

    Once a construction project has started, it is not unusual for a contractor or subcontractor to require additional information to make sure work is done correctly.

    1. Start your RFI process if there is a need for:
        1. Modification of the project specification, for example, to substitute one building material for another (perhaps unobtainable.)
    2. Clarification of a task or way in which a certain material is to be used, shaped, applied, and so on.
    3. Resolution of a ‘Construction Deficiency’ in which part of the project has not been done according to the project specifications.
    4. Correction of specifications if there are good reasons to question an omission, a misapplication or lack of quality concerning materials or tasks specified.
    1. Check if the customer or general contractor has a standard RFI form that is to be used. Good forms and templates help you to include the right information in order to get sensible, useful answers to your RFI. Record your newly opened RFI for instance in a centralized software application for managing RFIs.
    2. Scrutinize the answer you get back to make sure it is both clear and realistic. Confirm or clarify any effect on the budget and the schedule for the project. Update your own project planning appropriately.
    1. Mark your RFI as closed or solved, if the answer you get back warrants this. Check your list of any unresolved RFIs. Chase the parties concerned for the answers!