Did you ever use RFIs in your processes? Or maybe you’ve always wondered how it works and what RFI actually means? Check out the article and learn all about RFI in Construction Project Management!
Communication is key. In a rapidly changing reality of today's construction market, the smooth flow of information in our industry becomes a must-have for successful project completion.
But how to provide a fast flow of information in external and internal communication?
Today we will unveil the mystery of successful project management and tell you all you need to know about the RFI process!
RFI stands for Request for Information and refers to a project communication management process used to ask for some crucial project related information from an initial design to detailed specifications. The main aim is to assure the clarity of decisions in the project and eliminate uncertainty at each stage of execution. Usually, the information provided by RFI is not precisely defined in the contract agreement.
What does RFI mean in construction? The process of requesting information is an inevitable part of every construction project. Such a request may concern drawings, specifications, use of materials or unclear decisions in the first project's scope sent by the general contractor or subcontractor.
It is hard to unequivocally define the place of RFIs in the construction delivery process. Actually, you can use RFIs anytime between the project construct's sign up date and the final delivery date.
Imagine you are a subcontractor, and while doing your work, you find out that the general contractor in the contract did not specify which materials should be used. In such a case, you can create an RFI and send it directly to the general contractor. If the process is being done by the construction management software, such a document is immediately visible to the project manager, who controls the whole process. Also, the employees with respective access rights can see the RFI, and in case of a similar situation, they already know the answer and do not have to stop their work.
We have mentioned here a construction management platform. The whole process can be handled with the use of modern digital solutions that speed up (and control) your processes.
How to create a proper Request for Information? The whole process is not that complicated, but there are some crucial parts that your document should have:
Project title - remember to always add the project that the RFI concerns.
The subject of the document - a concise title that will allow you to understand what the paper will be about.
Importance - it is crucial to give your recipient an idea of the seriousness of the document, which can additionally motivate them to answer quicker.
Requested by - always register who sent the RFI as it will establish clear responsibility for the papers.
Request date - same as the point above, register the sent date to have control over documentation.
Due date - attach a deadline to each answer. Remember to give enough time as the requests with a due date today/tomorrow might look like you do not have control over the project.
Short description - sometimes, the title is not enough. It is also good to provide a few sentences that will explain the situation. Try to keep it consistent, focusing on who? what? where? why? and how?
Assigned to - it is not a must, but it is always good to add information about who is responsible for providing the answer from the customer's side to ensure process clarity.
Discipline - when the project is extensive and requires work from different disciplines, it is good to specify that in the RFI as well.
Time impact - crucial information! If requested information might extend the delivery date (for example, due to additional work), you need to add this in the RFI. Otherwise, the decision-making person does not have a complete picture of the situation of the project.
Cost impact - similar to the time impact. Add any additional cost that may be caused by a specific decision. Sometimes, it is hard to calculate, but the more precise sum you give, the better.
Often in the construction industry, you see Submittal instead of RFIs. Submittal is a piece of information (written or spoken) from the contractor to the general contractor. It is usually regarding the approval of equipment, materials, design before being implemented in the project. The aim is to check with the general contractor if the items are in line with those initially planned in the project. For example, architects and engineers often use submittals to make sure that the goods used align with the initial plans.
RFI and submittal processes are pretty similar, but what differs them is the primary goal of these documents. Submittals go into more details than contracts and assure that subcontractors understand the design intent of the general contractor. RFIs, on the other hand, are used to clarify, ask and precise the design intent of the project. But, what is crucial, neither of them can change the design intent!
In a construction project, you can request not only information! For successful construction project management, you can also use RFP and RFQ. Before you feel discouraged by the number of abbreviations, let us explain them to you briefly.
Request for Information (RFI)
Our primary interest in this article. It is used for gathering information or making sure about specific decisions. Usually, used to communicate between the parties already connected by contract.
Request for Quotation (RFQ)
Used in procurement processes when you want to buy a specific material but need to learn all the financial details. Usually, more structured and prescriptive than RFI, focused mainly on the relation between cost and features.
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Similar to RFQ but the primary interest is not cost but the features of material/service. Such a document is more direct and formal, and aims to compare different vendors and their offers.
Let's bring the question, which you probably had in mind: Why do I need a template with so many details if I can just contact my clients directly? Well, if you manage a tiny business (2 or 3 employees), sure. But if your company has more than three employees or manages more than one project at a time, it would be impossible. Here are a few benefits of using an RFI:
RFIs can set up and streamline the whole communication process
RFIs can help organise documentation as all information is in standardised templates (stored inside document management software or Google Drive)
RFIs also speed up internal communication as all needed information about the document is visible for the employees
Did you know that even up to 56% of projects fail due to poor communication? And due to lack of contact between the company and customers, even 27% of companies (with high project management maturity) fail to meet the project's original goals. The solution for that can be a proper request for information process!
Set realistic expectations
Do not expect to get an answer the same day or a day after, significantly when a decision can impact the time and cost of the project! People do not like feeling pressured, and they are less likely to respond when they see the notice: urgent on every single document. Of course, if the information is crucial, you can set it up as ASAP. However, if you feel like all cases are critical, you should reconsider the importance of your project's processes.
Propose the solutions
People appreciate proactiveness. If you want to set up a good relationship with your contractors or customers, each time you send them an RFI, try to (if possible) suggest some solutions. It may not only minimise the time for an answer, but also increase the chance of getting the answer you wish for as they can understand your way of thinking. Have you ever considered it before? We definitely recommend trying it out!
Keep it simple
You need to balance long messages with a detailed list of recommended solutions and brief sentences that do not tell much about the request. As we mentioned before, when you create a description in the RFI, it is good to answer the questions: who? what? where? why? and how? For each of them, use a maximum of one sentence to keep it simple and informative. Voila!
Better to ask the way than to go astray. Have you ever experienced a situation where you were sure about a client’s response, and it turned out you were completely wrong in the end? We hope not as mistakes are always costly (in terms of wasted time, resources and money). Using RFIs for your communication can decrease the possibility of such mistakes to a minimum, making your projects always in line with expectations. But to obtain that, you need to stop assuming and start asking!
We live in a world of technology. So why not give it a chance to support your processes? Modern project management software with customised tools can help you automate repetitive tasks, store all needed documentation and organise the construction processes.
How can construction software support the process of requesting information?
Customised RFIs templates in the software help you always receive information you need
The software stores all RFIs, and you can access them with only a few clicks
On the dashboard, you can see the RFI's status, response, attachments and all the aspects we mentioned before
RFIs are visible in the software for all employees with respective access rights, which speeds up the internal communication inside the project
The system automates the parts of the processes, making the whole operation run faster
If you want to learn more about how modern technology can support, more specifically, your needs, set up a free meeting with one of our consultants. Our goal is to support your project management the best we can, so do not hesitate to contact us!
July 20, 2021 • 4 min read