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Every day, millions of companies send Requests for Information (RFIs) and Requests for Quotes (RFQs) to vendors around the world, but are these key components of successful project procurement providing the right information? Here’s a cheat sheet to make crafting and responding to RFIs and RFQs much simpler.

What are RFIs & RFQs?

What is a Request for Information (RFI)?

In project procurement, the first step in a project request is the RFI or Request for Information. An RFI is used to get more information about a vendor’s services and how they may fit a company’s needs. In other words, this is the first, exploratory step in the process.

SEE: Quick glossary: Project management (TechRepublic)

Companies typically use RFIs to try and reduce a large list of potential vendors. As such, the RFI is customized to include information about the company’s project requirements. For example, in IT, a company may list technical requirements a vendor’s software must meet to be considered.

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

An RFQ or Request for Quote is sent to vendors when a company wants to learn more about how their product or service may fit within their budget. Vendors can then provide a general quote based on the information shared about the project from the company.

In some cases, RFQs are sent after information is gathered from an initial RFI. However, if a company knows what they’re looking for, it may send an RFQ in lieu of an RFI. Once an RFQ is received, the company can review all quotes and determine which vendor fits their needs and financial requirements best.

What is a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

When discussing RFIs and RFQs, it’s also important to discuss the RFP or Request for Proposal. An RFQ and RFP may seem similar. However, they’re direct in their intent.

In some cases, companies will send RFPs to multiple vendors to better understand how they might solve the specific issue behind the project. In other cases, companies send RFPs in lieu of RFQs when they want to review additional critical factors beyond cost.

Why are RFIs and RFQs important?

RFIs and RFQs are critical pieces of the procurement puzzle. These requests enable companies to solicit information from numerous vendors and easily compare them. As a result, RFIs and RFQs help companies select the right vendor to fit their unique needs. This includes everything from budget requirements to specific solutions.

When selecting the right vendor from the start, companies eliminate the potentially severe risks and costs associated with moving forward with services that don’t meet project requirements.

The RFI and RFQ process in project management

Sending and receiving RFIs and RFQs is a critical part of project management. These requests are made during the project procurement phase, which involves sourcing all of the necessary materials and services to finish a project.

Procurements are defined during the initial planning stage of a project. Once procurement requirements are defined, teams can then begin to send their RFIs and RFQs. Vendors will then respond to these requests in detail.

Companies must then analyze the information sent by each vendor and decide which solutions to pursue. This phase of project procurement is often described as “conducting procurement.”

Once vendors are selected, companies will then sign the necessary contracts and make their initial payments, if applicable.

Best practices when crafting RFIs and RFQs

Crafting RFIs and RFQs is a science. However, there are several best practices you can follow to ensure project procurement success. Some best practices should be considered regardless of whether you’re creating an RFI or an RFQ:

Use a standard format for all RFIs and RFQs

When creating RFIs and RFQs, use a standardized format. This ensures vendors give you the answers you need, which will reduce the time it takes to analyze each request. We recommend using a template (more on this later).

Include response guidelines

Be sure to include detailed response instructions for your vendors that provide insight on how to complete a request. For example, you should include a date that you expect the response to be completed by as well as instructions for asking questions about anything contained in the RFI or RFQ.

Consider RFI and RFQ automation

Sending, analyzing and responding to RFIs and RFQs is a time-consuming process. Luckily, various tools exist that enable companies to automate these processes, from creating RFQs to evaluating them. Consider implementing RFI or RFQ software within your company to eliminate tedious project procurement tasks.

Other best practices are RFI-specific:

Keep RFI requests simple and straightforward

RFIs should be kept simple. At this stage, you’re simply gathering information about a vendor to see if they qualify for the next round of investigation. Pricing information and other in-depth details can be gathered through an RFQ

Don’t be afraid to send RFIs to many vendors

Chances are, there are hundreds of options out there that may seem to fit your project needs. Luckily, sending an RFI is a great way to highlight potential winners fast. Don’t be afraid to send numerous RFIs — you can narrow your search when sending RFQs.

And finally, there are RFQ-specific best practices to consider too:

Dive into the specifics of your project

While RFIs are simple, RFQs require you to dive into the specifics of your project. For example, you’ll want to include a strict list of product or service requirements and a project timeline. Sharing the specifics enables vendors to give you a more accurate quote.

Limit your number of vendors

RFQs shouldn’t be sent like RFIs. Instead, they should be sent to vendors you’re seriously considering. Otherwise, you’ll waste serious time analyzing numerous quotes. Instead, conduct an RFI first to narrow your list.

Include a pricing table

Pricing information can quickly become overwhelming, especially when you’re analyzing multiple vendors. Include an automated pricing table within your RFQ template. When your vendor enters information into the template, project costs are calculated automatically and the same way in each RFQ.

How to create a unique RFI or RFQ template

The best way to efficiently send, analyze and respond to RFIs and RFQs is to create a template you can use across the board for each vendor. While you can create your own template, there are various templates available online you can customize to fit your business. Here are some templates you can utilize now:

If you’re keen on developing your own template, this is easy to do by creating a simple document using your word processing software and saving it as a template. Or you can create a fillable PDF form for both RFIs and RFQs.

Key information to include in RFIs and RFQs

While RFIs and RFQs are highly customizable to fit your specific niche and project needs, there are several non-negotiable components that must be included in each.

For RFIs, you’ll want to include project goals and objectives, some basic business information, an overview of the project, required solutions and response guidelines.

For RFQs, you’ll want to include project goals, solution or product requirements, a pricing table, a project timeline and a detailed deliverables timeline. You’ll also want to include information about how you plan to select your chosen vendor. For example, include the criterion you will use to evaluate the quotes you receive.

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Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays