If you want to invest in a new tool for your business, you need to do your research.
In many cases, this research begins with a request for information (RFI).
Not sure what an RFI is? We’ve covered you in this quick guide.
What does RFI mean?
An RFI, or request for information, is a teaching tool that procurement teams use to understand the options available to solve a problem or get a task done.
For example, when a company needs a new server solution, it sends an RFI and companies that offer servers respond to share more information about their products and services and train the procurement team.
RFIs are important because they reduce blind spots and enable your team to make better decisions. With more information, you can understand the market and get a better picture of the questions you need to ask as you move on in the procurement process.
RFI vs RFP
Both RFIs and RFPs are tools that are used in acquiring new tools, services, or providers. However, a request for quotation (RFP) differs from a request for information (RFI) in a number of ways, including the timing and type of information required.
An RFI is the first step a company takes to gather information from potential vendors, as described above. Your main goal is to get information and not make a final decision. Once the RFIs are submitted, the company reviews them and selects the best options that come with more insight. Then they usually send out a call for tenders.
A request for quotation is a formal request to the selected vendor or supplier to respond to a specific contract option. The document specifies the scope and price so that potential vendors can put together an offer for the work.
These bids are then compared to understand each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses and the best match is selected. RFPs are a decision-making document, so the questions are more targeted and specific.
After a call for tenders, the company can be contacted with a call for tenders or a request for quotation, which further breaks down the project into specific cost structures and results.
Best Practices for RFI Documentation
The more thoughtful you are about your RFI document, the better quality responses you will get back. Rather than casually emailing a sales rep asking for information, creating RFI documentation ensures that you get exactly the information you need. In this document, make sure that:
- Make sure you understand the information requested so that you can more easily review any responses you have received.
- Specify exactly how and when you would like to receive responses from vendors.
- Be open so that vendors can provide information they think is relevant, but you may not know whether to ask for it. RFIs are ideal for this.
- Be brief and respect the vendors’ time.
RFIs are typically presented as PDF or posted on a website for vendors to read and respond to more easily.
Request for information template
Creating your first RFI can be overwhelming. What should you ask What information does the provider need to know? Use this simple template to answer these questions and get the most out of the RFI process.
1. Overview or declaration of need
Describe your goals and objectives as well as some general information about your company. This section should be short and provide an overview of your project to someone with no background.
2. Context to the organization
Adding additional information about your organization can help the provider tailor their response to your needs. You might want to mention, among other things, which department is running the project, who your customers are, and what corporate values you have.
3. Details of what is needed
What problem do you want to solve? What information do you need? Here you can describe exactly what you are looking for. Include any additional information a vendor may need to develop a thorough RFI response. This can include:
- All the skills and credentials the respondent may need to be successful
- Schedules or general scope
- What you are Not Looking for
4. Information about the process
Explain how interested parties should respond to the RFI. Include a response template, if available, include deadlines, and note if and when you respond to respondents after the RFIs are collected. You may want to include all of the evaluation criteria that you use when creating the selection list for tenders.
3 RFI samples (Request for Information)
Do you need more inspiration? Read through the following examples of RFIs for more ideas on what to include in yours. These three RFIs all come from different industries and have different requirements. They therefore provide a good overview of the options available.
When NASA retires parts of their space shuttles, they are happy to display them in museums or other educational institutions. To measure interest and understand the possible options for an upcoming part in retirement, they opened an RFI. Here is an example of the document:
“This RFI will be used to gather market research for NASA to make decisions regarding the development of strategies for the placement of space shuttle orbiters and space shuttle main engines (SSMEs) for public display after the SSP is completed. NASA is soliciting information from educational institutions, science museums, and other appropriate organizations about the community’s ability to purchase and display a space shuttle orbiter after the vehicles are exited from flight status. “
We like this RFI example because it provides a simple overview of the purpose of the RFI and outlines what NASA would like to learn from the process.
2. Government of Canada
Government websites are a great place to find RFI samples as they are required to make all procurement processes publicly available. The following example is from an RFI for financial planning software.
The requirements section of this RFI is a great example of how the answers can help explain what you do and what you don’t. While the Canadian government searches for financial planning software, it will keep its CRM and data lake provider.
3. University of Ottawa
With the exception of the following RFI, the University of Ottawa is looking for an ERP integration solution. The special thing about this RFI is how they would like to receive responses. Instead of collecting written answers or documents, the U of O plans strategy discussions with suppliers. This is a unique way of gathering information, but it is useful if you do not already have sufficient knowledge of the field to put together a scope of work.
“The University of Ottawa (University) is releasing this RFI to schedule strategy discussions (via a conference call) from interested suppliers with experience in ERP integrations.
The aim of these discussions is to get feedback from suppliers to help the university develop a more accurate scope and overall approach to an upcoming RFP (RFP) for ERP integration solutions. ”
Request for success
Each RFI is unique to your company and the information you need. Use the template above as a guide on creating an RFI that will save you time evaluating potential solutions.
With the right information sent to you, all that’s left to do is read! You are well on your way to finding the best solution for your team’s needs.