Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Vice President of Operations and CTO at SafeSourcing. Mark asks "When is the best time to use a Request For Information (RFI)?"
According to www.businessdictionary.com, a Request For Information is a “request made typically during the project planning phase where a buyer cannot clearly identify product requirements, specifications, and purchase options. RFIs clearly indicate that award of a contract will not automatically follow.”
RFIs are generally externally facing and have a sole purpose of gathering enough information about a company, their experience and details about their products or services to create a list of suppliers you want to pursue, each of whom has a legitimate chance to be awarded the business. As mentioned above, this is rarely a final step before the “award of business.”
During an RFI you want to understand who a company is, how long they have been in business, who their customers are, what industries they service and specialize in, how many employees they have dedicated to the business you are looking to award them, as well as details about what they are offering for a good or service.
This stage of the information gathering process would be equivalent to that first trip shopping for a new car; where you let the salesperson know up front “We are just starting to look and gather information. This is not a decision making day as we have other dealerships to visit before we narrow it down.” The reason for this is twofold. First you are doing the suppliers the courtesy of not investing too much time in a process where 30-40% won’t make a short list for round two. Secondly, it saves time in the initial evaluation of the responses as RFIs generally involve 15-20 (or more) companies.
Looking back at the basic questions from yesterday’s blog, let’s see how they fit within the definition of an RFI. If the answer to “Is this something you have purchased before?” is “No” and you are looking for a service or the specification for the product is not well defined, an RFI should absolutely be standard practice.
Also, if the answer to “Are there additional features or services you are not currently purchasing that you would like to gather information on from suppliers? “ is “Yes” then investing in the RFI process will save you an incredible amount of time later when you get closer to deciding who you want to gather quotes from. Going back to “you don’t know what you don’t know”, new services generally fall into the “don’t know” bucket and RFIs can help with that to a large extent.
The object of an RFI is to gather enough information about the project so that you can provide the vendor community enough data to give accurate details and pricing for their involvement in a more focused next step which is usually a Request For Proposal (RFP).
Tomorrow we will cover RFPs, how are they are different than RFIs and when you should use them.
For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can assist your company with this process, please contact a Customer Service Representative for more information.
We look forward to and appreciate your comments.