If you’ve worked in the construction, it’s likely you’ve encountered RFP vs RFI moments. An RFI, or request for information, is a preliminary document to get general information from potential vendors, while an RFP, or request for proposal, is a document a company requests from vendors to get an overview of offerings and costs for a specific service. While they do have many similarities, RFPs and RFIs have distinctly different situations which they should be used in. But how do you know to use a RFP vs RFI?
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Request For Information (RFI)
An RFI is a formal request for general information from potential vendors. RFIs are useful to gather information or ask general questions and are typically more casual than RFPs. RFIs are fact-finding documents which ask open-ended questions to allow the vendor to fully explain their offerings. The vendor will often explain their position in the marketplace, how they license their product or services, and what costs should be expected from their services. A typical RFI will state the business’ general challenges and give vendors the opportunity to explain their offerings with a broad scope. An RFI is used to “test the waters” with potential suppliers and is not a promise of future business.
RFIs are typically used to gather information to help decide whether to pursue further steps with a vendor. They are usually followed by either an RFP (request for proposal), RFT (request for tender), or RFQ (request for quotation). With the rise of the internet, many companies have ready-listed RFIs available for potential customers through methods such as informational emails.
An RFI is often used in the construction industry to change the scope of the work when there is either a lack of or conflicting information. It is very normal for a subcontractor to submit an RFI when there is any ambiguity on what exactly the scope of their task is in order to clarify any confusion before proceeding with the construction. Although the exact formatting of an RFI changes based on each individual case, most RFIs in construction contain an objective or summary, a timeline, deliverables, criteria for evaluation, and payment terms. Using an RFI in construction can help clarify any mistakes before they occur and therefore helps streamline the overall process.
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Request for Proposal (RFP)
An RFP, or request for proposal, is a more structured format of gathering information from vendors. RFPs often occur using a bidding process between vendors to win business from a company. The company specifies its issues and invites vendors to suggest solutions based on their offerings. An RFP usually follows an RFI since it is more specific and tailored to the individual customer. When submitting an RFP, you should have clear needs and be willing to share internal information with the vendor. it is good practice when submitting an RFP to do the following:
- Ask for pricing terms upfront to avoid shock later on
- Ask the vendor for examples of their past work to get a gauge of their services
- Be specific about requirements and expectations since this stage requires a commitment to a vendor
Additionally, asking the vendor specific questions to learn more about their offerings and method is essential to understanding if they are a good fit for a company’s needs. Some basic RFP questions to ask vendors are:
- What steps will you take to control costs during this process?
- What risks can you foresee in this project?
- What will your approach to implementation be?
An RFP requires high amounts of specification in what a company wishes to purchase from a vendor. The more specific a vendor is able to be, the more accurate a proposal will turn out. Submitting an RFP requires more time and resources for both the company and the vendor, and is therefore considered more serious than submitting an RFI.
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Request for Quote (RFQ)
An RFQ, or request for quotation, is similar to an RFP but focuses on the cost of the exact specifications which the company requires for a project. RFQs differ from RFPs in that they are not posing open-ended questions and looking for suggestions but rather have predetermined specs for the project they want the vendors to fulfill. An RFQ can be useful in a situation where a company is looking to supplement an existing system, but since there is not much room for autonomy many vendors consider them unfavorable in comparison to an RFP.
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There is no certain “request for” form which is better than the others, it depends on what you are looking for from vendors. If you already know what you want and just need a vendor to fulfill your request, an RFQ is your best bet. If you are open to ideas but are close to making a purchase, an RFP is a good next move. If you are still in the starting stages of doing research and looking for a general overview from vendors, using an RFI is probably going to be best. The most important part is understanding the differences between a RFI vs RFP, so you can request the one that is right for you.