An RFI - short for “Request for Information” is a term commonly used in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. An RFI is used to request quotes, clarify uncertainties, and fill any gaps in project information, including material specifications, plans, contracts, and more. Generally, downstream contractors or subcontractors initiate these requests by submitting a formal RFI to the client or engineering firm who initially provided the specifications.

Once received, the client is responsible for providing an answer to their question or submission (often referred to as a submittal). As project specifications and instructions aren’t perfect, typically further changes to drawers and clarifications to specifications, task execution, and material selections are required. In an industry where information is frequently passed between hands many times for project tasks, RFIs can be essential to project completion.

Use Standardized Forms

Many RFIs are informal requests and submissions using emails.  RFIs should require the use of standardized electronic forms to create structured requests. The use of standardized forms allows the responding organization to keep records of requests, making it easier to view changes made to a project over time and ensure all participant inputs are documented.

Specify a Timeframe to Manage

While RFIs are necessary for project completion, they won’t do you much good if they haven’t been reviewed or responded to in a timely manner. Construction projects are comprised of complex components and can become costly if not completed within the allocated timeframe. For this reason, organizations need to create deadlines, so responses to contractors can be accomplished not only quickly and accurately but to a schedule, ensuring projects are not drawn out longer than they need to be.

Audit Trail Automation

In conjunction with traditional methods of RFI management, audit trail automation can be a powerful tool for managing standardized requests, since it allows RFI managers and contractors to reference all comments associated with an RFI at any given time and provides an accurate accounting of steps taken and comments made during the RFI completion. Workflow experts recommend using a centralized database or document repository for managing audit trail automation, both for analysis of performance and for maintaining a historical record for downline questions and disputes.

Assign User Permissions for RFIs

RFIs can be pertinent to large projects and may need to be accessed by multiple members of your organization, however, access should be limited to those who submitted the request, those who are receiving it, and those who the project manager deems as necessary reviewers. User permissions ensure that no unauthorized users can make changes to or delete RFIs, with the option of allowing or restricting other members of your organization to review all comments and documents associated with an RFI.  For many organizations, this is important to prevent an overflow of involvement from marginal participants that often slow down the process, if not derail it.

RFI Notifications and Automation

Configuring RFI notifications is important since RFIs typically require many interactions and inputs. In a document control system like ImageSite, users can send and receive email notifications depending on the needs of the organization as well as receive internal notifications. This helps project managers make other users immediately aware a comment or change has been made to the RFI, ensuring quicker completion time and more comprehensive reviews. The use of RFI notifications is recommended for all RFI managers, especially for those who utilize a formal document management system like ImageSite.

Review the Contract Carefully

Contracts can be one of the most commonly overlooked documents. Properly written contracts often include requirements regarding the RFI process and the handling of overdue requests.  This information can include when and how to submit RFIs and how long organizations have to respond to them. If requests are not handled in accordance with the contract’s communication policies, the mistake can be costly for project owners.

Takeaway

RFIs are a great way for downstream contractors and vendors to communicate with designers, engineers, and architects. When a subcontractor has a question or submission regarding a project, they can submit an RFI via a formal document system to ensure their questions are addressed quickly and accurately.  Standardized forms make it easy for both RFI senders and receivers to create audit trails of all requests. In today’s World, RFIs are no longer managed through paper documents but alternatively managed digitally through formal document control systems. Document control systems eliminate the need for manual processes, reducing the time it takes to submit requests while also reducing administrative costs and errors associated with manual document handling.

As opposed to other document management systems, ImageSite includes all the functionality of an RFI control system with all the features of a fully functional workflow and document management solution. ImageSite is a robust solution and also includes features such as version control, workflow automation, drawing markup tools, transmittals, and more. The system also supports a wide range of document file types such as CAD files, PDFs, Word Docs, and many more. For a full list of supported file types click here. ImageSite includes everything you need to manage document-centric projects and workflows, making it the perfect tool for any organization looking to improve organizational efficiency and improve security and audit trails.

We hope this blog was helpful! If you would like to learn more about ImageSite or Engine-Box (eQuorum’s Cloud document management solution), please click here.

For a limited time, eQuorum is offering a free 60-day trial of Engine-Box, eQuorum’s Cloud engineering document and workflow management system. Go to eQuorum's contact page and fill out the contact form to schedule a trial or demo.