A Request for Information (RFI) is a standard business process whose purpose is to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers. It is often used in market research as a solicitation sent to a broad base of potential suppliers for the purpose of conditioning suppliers’ minds, developing strategy, building a database, for an upcoming contract competition. An RFI should be used when there are a lot of potential suppliers and you do not have the information you need about them.
Definition: A Request for Information (RFI) is a solicitation document used for market research to obtain general information from suppliers about their products, services, and capabilities.
The Benefits of a Request for Information (RFI) include:
- Information is gathered in a formal, structured, and comparable way.
- Suppliers understand that there is a competition going on.
- You show that you try to act without a prejudice or with a preferred supplier.
- You get a formal reply from the suppliers
The Request for Information (RFI) in the Solicitation Process
A Request for Information is primarily used in solicitation Phase 1: Planning for Procurement to conduct Market Research. Market research is conducted to determine the availability of commercial products and services and to identify and evaluate market practices. It’s a continuous process of finding viable sources of goods and services to meet government requirements and is mandated for all acquisition programs.
An RFIs are therefore seldom the final stage and are instead often used in combination with the following for a contract solicitation:
- Request for Proposal (RFP),
- Request for Technical Proposal (RTP)
- Request for Tender (RFT)
- Request for Quotation (RFQ).
How to Write a Request for Information (RFI)
Template: Request for Information (RFI)
The key to writing a good Request for Information is to start with the information you want to obtain from suppliers. To do this make sure the goals and objectives have been agreed to by all key stakeholders and the requirements have been defined. The process of writing an RFI follows the same steps as writing any key document to include a Request for Proposal (RFP).
- Step 1: Form the Team: The most important step is gathering the most knowledgeable and effective team members to write the RFI. The key players include the Program Manager (PM), Program Contracting Officer (PCO), and the RFI Manager who is responsible for executing the development process.
- Step 2: Develop Plan: A plan should address how the RFI Content (See Below of Government RFI Content) should be developed and the main goals to achieve. An effective plan that gives a timeline on when items are due and roles and responsibilities to all proposal team members.
- Step 3: Develop the Outline: It is best to use a template because this will ensure all content will be included in the RFI.
- Step 4: Prepare the Draft: The first rough draft is prepared by team members and reviewed by the Program Manager and Stakeholders to ensure it will obtain all the information that is needed for suppliers and help satisfy market research requirements.
- Step 5: Finalize RFI: The Final RFI is prepared for team members and submitted to the Program Manager.
- Step 6: Submit to Industry: The RFI is then submitted to the industry. In the government, the RFI would be submitted to the System of Awards Management (SAM)
What is Contained in a Government Request for Information (RFI)
- Introduction and purpose of the RFI
- Abbreviation and terminology
- RFI procedure
- How to deliver the answer
- Timeframe Background description of what is requested
- Of [your company]
- Of the context in which the product or service will be used
- Statement of need
- Conditions which will be terms for future RFPs or RFQs
- Form to fill in as an answer to the RFI
The Goals of a Well Written Request for Information (RFI)
The goal of any RFI developer is to make sure they obtain the information they seek to help in decision-making. Below is a list of key elements that will help see if the RFI you have developed will achieve this:
- Does it request the information that is needed from suppliers
- Will it be easy to compare the information obtained
- Is there a clear format for response
- Is there a timeframe presented
- Did you inform the supplier what the information will be used for (This will encourage them to respond)
The Difference Between a Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP)
A Request for Information (RFI) is used to gather information from suppliers whereas a Request for Proposal (RFP) is used to solicit proposals from suppliers for a possible contract.
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