Usually, a procurement officer will issue a Request for Information (RFI) prior to releasing a formal Request for Proposal (RFP). With an RFI, the procurement officer can gauge interest and/or if there is a vendor who can provide a product and/or service. The officer, after reviewing responses to the RFI, can decide how to best proceed — either by issuing an RFP or RFQ. The information gathered during the RFI process can help the procurement officer best craft the RFP or RFQ to generate the best responses/bids.
As an example: The RFI procedure is used in the construction industry in cases where it is necessary to confirm the interpretation of a detail, specification, or note on the construction drawings or to secure a documented directive or clarification from the architect or client that is needed to continue work. An RFI raised by the general contractor that has been answered by the client or architect and distributed to all stakeholders is generally accepted as a change to the scope of work unless further approval is required for costs associated with the change.
It is common and accepted practice for a subcontractor or supplier to use an RFI to state his/her concern related to the omission or misapplication of a product, and seek further clarification of the building owner’s intended use or the building official acceptance of the specified product. It is also acceptable for the subcontractor to use an RFI to call attention to an inferior product that may not meet the building owner’s needs, and use his/her expertise to recommend the better/correct product.
RFIs, as with other requests put forward by procurement officers, can be found on FBO.gov. As previously discussed, FBO.gov can provide a contractor with information about current or prospective opportunities. A contractor also can get information about the procurement officers looking for products and/or services, and just what those products and/or services are.