Request for information
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A request for information (RFI) is a standard business process whose purpose is to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers. Normally it follows a format that can be used for comparative purposes.
An RFI is primarily used to gather information to help make a decision on what steps to take next. RFIs are therefore seldom the final stage and are instead often used in combination with the following: request for proposal (RFP), request for tender (RFT), and request for quotation (RFQ). In addition to gathering basic information, an RFI is often used as a solicitation sent to a broad base of potential suppliers for the purpose of conditioning suppliers' minds, developing strategy, building a database, and preparing for an RFP, RFT, or RFQ.
The ubiquitous availability of the Internet has made many government agencies turn either to state-run or vendor operated websites which provide listings of RFIs as well as RFPs and RFQs. Many allow vendors to sign up at no charge to receive e-mails of requests either generally or for specific categories of product or service for which there is an interest. In some cases, the entire process is conducted online and collects responses as scanned documents or PDF files uploaded to the server; in other cases, or for legal reasons, a response must be sent in hard copy form and/or on CD/DVD disc or flash drive by mail or delivery service.
The RFI procedure is used in the construction industry in cases where it is necessary to confirm the interpretation of a detail, specification, or note on the construction drawings, or to secure a documented directive or clarification from the architect or client that is needed to continue work.
An RFI raised by the general contractor that has been answered by the client or architect and distributed to all stakeholders is generally accepted as a change to the scope of work unless further approval is required for costs associated with the change.
It is common and accepted practice for a subcontractor or supplier to use an RFI to state his/her concern related to the omission or misapplication of a product, and seek further clarification of the building owner's intended use or the building official acceptance of the specified product. It is also acceptable for the subcontractor to use an RFI to call attention to an inferior product that may not meet the building owner's needs, and use his/her expertise to recommend the better/correct product.
If used as described above it is a very effective tool in helping a construction project move along efficiently. There are circumstances where the use of RFIs is abused, and simply creating paper to justify unwarranted claims. Such a circumstance occurs when RFI's are continually being issued when the information is clearly shown on the documents. In this case, either the person reading the drawings is working outside of the scope of their capability, or the intent is to generate paper to help support what might otherwise be an unjustifiable claim.
RFI management in construction
RFIs were for some years tracked using spreadsheets, but during the early 21st century many companies started to use various construction management applications, including document management platforms, to manage RFI processes. These help construction professionals save time, reduce costs, deliver error-free projects and improve quality; examples include: Aconex, Bluebeam, Conject (now part of Aconex), Procore, and SKYSITE.
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