Who needs an RFI template!

Written by LetsBuild

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If you are using excel for RFIs, isn’t it time to use some real IT – Information Technology!!!

We have been talking to a lot of construction professionals over the last year. One of the things that surprised us the most was the workflow still used to manage RFIs (requests for information).
Let me paint the picture for you of how the RFI procedure on a typical construction project goes (the same applies to Tender Queries):

  • Person/company requiring information, and this can be main contractor or subcontractor, electronically completes an RFI template. Sometimes this can even just be sent as an email.
  • Main contractor or responsible person will review the RFI. Once happy, he will decide which consultant/contractor/client the RFI needs to be answered by and sends it on.
  • It’s then a waiting game for a reply. Sometimes the RFI needs to be answered by more than one member of the design/consultant team, which means more waiting and more hand offs.
  • At the same time, it’s also someone’s job to keep a track of all these RFI’s. Usually this is done in an excel file. This needs to be manually updated every time the state of an RFI changes or a new RFI is added.
  • Design Team/Consultant returns to main contractor with a response. Main contractor reviews and if happy, sends it on to the party that originally asked the question and any other relevant parties.

The bigger the Contractor and the larger the project, the more bureaucracy and administration in this process. Most likely on larger projects there will be a document controller in place to manage this which adds an extra link in each chain mentioned above. And remember the nature of construction is naturally adversarial so we also need to factor that in!

What’s so bad about this?!?

Even though one may argue this is a tried and tested way of working, we don’t manage in Construction to build a building measuring half a mile high by not taking a new look at existing processes!

At best, this way of managing RFI’s is outdated to say the least. By the end of the day, one single RFI has been passed on to more people than the Olympic torch!

Some other issues that come to mind are:

  • Lack of transparency of who’s action it is and having to wait for the weekly meetings to get any sense of clarity.
  • Static and more of a history – back looking, reactive tool.
  • Using excel to manage this process means only one person updating at a time resulting in an outdated register.
  • Lack of notification of due dates for answering an RFI.
  • Unbelievably long and windy process with needlessly added bureaucracy.
  • Contains multiple links and the communication is easily lost.

How to simplify and improve the process you might ask?

Well, from working with users, we have found that having a dynamic view of RFIs with clear transparency, encourages participants to keep up with their own actions. And best of all, to shorten the link an RFI usually goes through. Of course, at the same time, we also realise that sometimes an RFI still needs to go full circle. But for 90% this is not the case and even when they do, that RFI and it’s owners will still benefit from improved transparency and management.

The goal here is to cut out as much of the resource wastage as possible and have more time to get on with your day.

What do you think? We would love to hear how you manage RFIs

image credit: ninopnatividad