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 conditioning suppliers’ minds, developing strategy, and 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.
Purpose of a Request for Information (RFI)
The purpose of an RFI is to get written information about the capabilities of different suppliers and prepare suppliers for an upcoming contract competition by establishing a strategy and building a database.
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) Template
The key to writing a good Request for Information is to start with the information you want to obtain from suppliers. To do this, ensure all key stakeholders have agreed to the goals and objectives and the requirements have been defined. Writing an RFI follows the same steps as writing any key document, including 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 responsible for executing the development process.
- Step 2: Develop Plan: A plan should address how the RFI Content (See Below for 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 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)
Request for Information (RFI) Structure
The structure of the RFI should be based on what the sender needs. One of the main goals of the RFI is to be able to evaluate several vendors quickly. This should be considered when making templates for information requests and responses. Ensure clear instructions for answering and giving in a certain way or order. The RFI should also be written to make it clear and easy for a vendor to answer. So, once the RFI is written, a company should ensure it is clear and to the point. How an RFI is made will depend on what kind of business it is for. A simple RFI, on the other hand, will be four or five pages long and have the following parts:
- Overview: you should describe the organization’s goals and objectives, including short-term and long-term ones. This is where you should put basic information, like a brief description of the group making the request. By the end of this section, the vendor should know who the company is and that this document is an RFI.
- Information Requested: should include the information that was asked for. This part should explain what information is needed from the vendor, such as when it needs to be delivered and how it needs to work. This part shouldn’t go into too much detail, but it should be clear what basic information is needed from the vendor. At the end of this part, a vendor should have enough information to answer.
- How to Answer: In the section on what is expected of the answer, you should explain what is expected of the response. This should explain how and when to react and the evaluation criteria. Both the RFI and the answer to the RFI can be sent electronically, like by email. This part should have a format, like a pre-made template, that the vendor can use to respond to any requests for information. This step will make it easy to compare the answers of different vendors in the future.
- Clarifications and Updates: should come at the end and point out any last-minute details that haven’t been discussed yet. You can explain what information is not being asked for in this part.
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 that will be terms for future RFPs or RFQs
- Form to fill in as an answer to the RFI
- Clarification and Updates
Best Practices of a Well-Written Request for Information (RFI)
Any RFI developer’s goal is to ensure 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 the response
- Is there a timeframe presented
- Did you inform the supplier what the information will be used for (This will encourage them to respond)
- Is there an adequate response time
- Only request the information that is needed
Responding to a Request for Information (RFI)
When a company sends an RFI to a vendor, the vendor will send back an RFI response. The vendor must ensure that all of the questions in the RFI are answered clearly and accurately. If you don’t know what to say, it’s best to say so. The answers you give will help the sender more if they are correct.
A vendor will most likely use a response management platform to answer RFIs. Also, the people who use the management platform will likely have a library of answers they can use to give faster and more accurate answers. The whole process of responding can happen online. For example, you could upload scanned documents through email. A hard copy of the answer could also be sent.
The Difference Between a Request for Information (RFI), Request for Proposal (RFP), and Request for Quotation (RFQ)
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. A Request For Quotation (RFQ) is a method where an acquiring organization solicits bids and price quotes from suppliers and contractors for a project or task.
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