A request for information (RFI) is a document a company sends to vendors to gather information on vendors’ available services, qualifications, and products. RFI documents can include everything from general goals and objectives to evaluation criteria and submission details. An RFI template makes it easy for your team to find the best vendors to help you complete new projects. Learn how to create an effective RFI process and when to use one.
A request for information (RFI) is the perfect place to start when searching for a vendor to tackle your next project. Not only do RFI templates help you organize your thoughts, but they can also get information from vendors to help you find the best consultants for your project.
This guide will cover what an RFI is, when you should use it, and the steps you need to take to create this document. Then, use our free RFI template to give you a head start in the process.
A request for information (RFI) is a document that a project manager sends to potential vendors to gather information on their available services and products. The purpose of sending an RFI is to get proposed contractor solutions for your business projects. As such, you don't need to know the answer to your problem when you’re getting started. An RFI can be part of the process of figuring out exactly what the best way to solve your problem is.
An RFI includes:
Your company can tailor your RFI form to ask vendors specific questions about target audiences, past projects, and company characteristics. This is beneficial because asking your vendor the most relevant questions will help them find a solution faster and in a more effective manner.
An RFI helps your team reduce future errors by requesting detailed information from your suppliers. You can use the combination of responses from RFI, RFP, and RFQ documents to make your final decision on which vendor you are going to select.Free request for information (RFI) template
The major difference between an RFI and an RFP process is when you use them. You should send a request for information first—when you want to know how potential vendors would solve a project problem.
A request for proposal (RFP) document provides background information, details, and project budget. You should send this type of template to potential vendors and ask them to send back a proposal. Use a request for proposal when inquiring about the specific steps a vendor will take to finish a project—this is also the way that vendors bid for their work.
A request for information gathers general information on the potential supplier. A request for quote (RFQ) is a document that companies send to vendors to clarify their pricing.
Typically, you send an RFI before an RFQ, but you use both to decide which vendor is best for completing the job at hand. A request for information focuses on the project details and big picture, while a request for quotation focuses primarily on the cost of a supplier’s services or goods.Read: RFQ template: 6 steps to create a request for quotation
You should use a request for information document as the first step of the project planning stage.
An RFI template is especially beneficial when you have a problem you need to solve but aren’t sure where to start or how to fix the issue. Sending a description of the problem to vendors will help you find the optional solutions. For example, imagine the following scenarios:
If you want an opinion on remodeling your home office space, you might send an RFI to an interior designer.
When you’re looking to prevent flooding in your basement, you can send a request for information document to several contractors.
You can email an RFI template to SEO experts if you need to find the best strategy for boosting your website’s traffic.
Once you review the completed RFI document, you can decide which vendors or suppliers you’re still interested in. Next, you can use this narrowed-down list to know who to send a request for proposal to get even more details about how they will complete the project.Read: 5 project management phases to improve your team’s workflow
After you’ve determined that you have a problem you need solved or a project that requires contractor support, it’s time to send out your RFI document. Remember that you don’t have to have the solution completely figured out yet.
Your vendors will respond with ways they can help you in your endeavors. Below are the four steps to creating an RFI document to help you find the right contractors for your next project.
Before doing anything else, you’ll need to fill out the statement of need in your RFI document. This section should briefly overview the problem you are trying to solve and the vendor’s criteria. Provide just enough information so a supplier can understand the issue—even without prior background knowledge of your company.
A good example would be if you reached out to a marketing specialist to assist with your clothing label’s marketing plan. You would send them an RFI template that includes a statement of need that explained your need to increase brand awareness and revenue for your company. The marketing specialists would respond in the “requested information” section of the document and show how they can solve the problem.
Giving additional details about your business model can help your vendor find a solution to your problem more efficiently. Let them know about your industry, target audience, and company values to help them tailor their answer to meet your needs. Providing this important background information will also help your vendor understand the specific issues you are trying to solve in more detail.Free request for information (RFI) template
Next, ask yourself what the most crucial information is to include in your RFI response. Make sure to include any information that a vendor needs to know to finish your project.
Here are some factors to include when creating your RFI document:
Project goals: Provide the details and objectives for the project to help suppliers have enough information to find a solution to your problem.
Submission details: Add your email or mailing address with your document to ensure vendors know where to send back your RFI.
Response deadline: By stating the response deadline and time frame directly in the RFI document, you can ensure all participants understand when they need to submit their document in time to be considered.
Evaluation criteria: Having clear evaluation requirements will allow potential contractors to know if they meet the minimum qualifications to be selected to take on your project.
Including all of your project details will help you find a contractor that can successfully complete your project and find someone that has a solution to your problems. It will also help contractors tailor their responses to your exact project needs, this can give you a good sense of how good of a fit they'll be for you
Allow respondents to have a chance to explain how they will complete the project. This is critical, because you’ll want to evaluate whether or not it’s a good potential solution. Also, ask them to explain why they’re the best team for the job. This will give you insight into the way their team is set up, how they approach work, and what their work ethic is like. These answers will help you determine the vendors you should move forward with by sending a request for proposal (RFP).
In particular, make sure your RFI document has sections for:
Information requested: It’s essential to include a section for vendors to fill out to answer any questions your company wants to know the answer to regarding the project.
Qualifications: Have a section where vendors can fill out and include their qualifications to help you make an informed decision on who would be best to work with.
Use our RFI template below to help you find the vendor that can help you solve your project problems. When you send out your RFI, make sure to fill out your company information, goals, objectives, business requirements, scope of work, and the requested information section.
As shown in our example request for information document below, leave the vendor response section blank so your contractor has space to answer your questions.
Using a detailed RFI template will help you find the best solutions to your company's obstacles. A request for information document can help you create a shortlist of potential contractors and lay the groundwork for expectations on project deliverables.
But an RFI is only the beginning. For your next project, try using Asana to keep track of your RFI, RFP, and RFQ documents each step of the way.Free request for information (RFI) template