RFI Templates & Tips

A request for information, or RFI for short, is often the first step in your procurement process, so it’s crucial to get the format right, as the clarity of your request determines the quality of your vendor responses. We explain the process and elements required, and share 9 helpful RFI response examples you can draw from to create a winning information template of your own.

1. What is an RFI?

2. RFP vs RFI vs RFQ (and When to Use Each)

3. The Ideal RFI Process & How to Write Them Like a Boss

4. 9 Diverse RFI Response Examples to Inspire Your Way to Procurement Greatness

5. How DeepStream Will Improve your RFI Process (Whether Requesting or Responding)

Over 80% of procurement professionals frequently use RFIs. They are common in technology-focused sectors, financial services, construction, engineering, and aerospace. They can also support specific use cases across sectors, such as enterprise resource planning, software development, marketing and in the procurement process for law firms.

What is an RFI?

An RFI (Request for Information) is an information gathering tool commonly used by procurement teams for research, planning and decision making, but is increasingly used across businesses as procurement is becoming more of the engine room for any organization doing any type of purchasing or sourcing. 

It is often an initial step in the eSourcing process that helps you understand the products, service offerings, and capabilities of potential vendors to provide a suitable solution for your organization’s needs. 

Compiling and sending out an RFI is an opportunity to educate people on what solutions are available, as supplier responses show how they can solve your problem.

Gathering this information also makes it easier to compare and vet vendors as potential providers for the next stage in your RFx process (be it seeking a proposal or quote). 

There are both common elements and differing requirements for this documentation format, which you will see in the RFI response examples shared below.

RFP vs RFI vs RFQ (and When to Use Each)

Person typing on a laptop beside their paperwork and pen.

So why does an RFI typically come first in the procurement process? And how does this type of request differ from an RFP or RFQ? 

Let’s start with a summary of the differences, before we get more detailed about the RFI process and share response examples.

Type Purpose Use Cases Info to Include
RFI (Request for Information) Education: market landscape and solutions available Info gathering, research and planning, exploring the market, overview of solutions Your business, your goal, outline of challenge, desired learning outcome
RFP (Request for Proposal) Comparison: big picture overview of best solutions Shopping around, strategic supplier search, vendor comparison based on set criteria Desired outcome, service/product requirements, specific questions and expectations
RFQ (Request for Quotation) Evaluation: best solution based on price and set criteria Buying specific items, lowest price search, sourcing a particular service Product list, features required, quantity required, timelines and due dates

The Ideal RFI Process & How to Write Them Like a Boss

Two female colleagues talking while seated at a table in front of a whiteboard.
Best practice for a well written Request for Information includes following a brief, simple format with precise instructions about what is required.

A well-structured RFI should make it easy:

  • for vendors to respond to questions quickly.
  • for them to propose relevant solutions efficiently.
  • for you to compare background information effortlessly.

Top Tips

  1. Design your RFI for ease of completion and comparison.
  2. Provide a clear overview of your needs / challenges.
  3. Supply background information and supporting materials.
  4. Don’t get too specific (the RFP and RFQ serve that purpose)
  5. Keep it brief to respect your vendors’ time.

Let’s look at the phases of the process before we dive into the essential elements your information template should include.

An Effective RFI Process Creates Efficiencies Down the Line

There are three stages in this process.

STEP 1: Compile & Create 

Select the team who will oversee the compiling of the request documentation. Develop your plan and design your information outline and template, before crafting the draft version for approval. 

STEP 2: Oversee & Gather

Once finalized, submit your RFI to potential suppliers. You may select specific vendors or decide to publish more widely. Answer any follow-up questions from suppliers and gather their responses to your callout.

STEP 3: Compare & Evaluate

Once received, review the responses and compare the viability of these vendor offerings as potential solutions. You may need to consult other stakeholders to make an informed decision before you proceed to the next phase.

Tip: If the RFI responses provide sufficient background information for how to achieve your goal, then you can make a more informed decision about the direction to take when issuing an RFP or RFQ. If not, then revise your questions and/or submit your information request further afield.

Key Components of a Well-Structured RFI 

There are four common elements to an information request template.

  1. Statement of Need
  • The context and reason for the request, defining the basic problem you wish to solve.

  1. Company Information 
  • Background information about your business, industry, target audience, company values, etc.

  1.  Important Project Details 
  • Goals & objectives (the intended outcome)
  • Scope of work (submission instructions, business requirements, etc.)
  • Information required (questions to gather info)
  • Vendor requirements (qualifications, skills & credentials) 
  • Terminology (glossary, if required)
  • NDA (confidentiality info, if required)
  • Evaluation & scoring criteria
  • Terms & Conditions (may also apply for future RFPs & RFQs)
  • Response timeframe (submission deadline)

  1. A Response Section
  • Space for vendors to answer specific questions and add relevant information, which includes instructions about expected responses.

9 Diverse RFI Response Examples to Inspire Your Way to Procurement Greatness

There are certain common elements in every information request, but your final format will be unique to your organization’s requirements.

Templates help you build a simple form with reusable components, speeding up the process.

Here are some RFI response examples to get you started.

1. Zero Carbon Build Technology (US GSA)

Excerpt from US GSA request for information document.

This General Services Administration example demonstrates several best practices for creating and managing an RFI. Prospective vendors had to submit responses across several categories of measurable criteria tied to three GSA goals relating to net-zero carbon emissions. 

The GSA also hosted a webinar and provided FAQ and presentation slide assets, to help suppliers complete their submissions. Progress updates were also regularly added to the RFI site page

Tip: Ensure your vendors have the supporting information they need to give you the answers you need.

2. Financial Planning Software (Government of Canada)

Excerpt from government of Canada request for information document.

This comprehensive example shows how the government of Canada defined relevant terminology and shared detailed background information as part of their statement of need. The government was also very specific about what they didn’t need (e.g. a CRM provider).

Tip: It’s mandatory for government and public sector organizations to publicize procurement requests and processes, so their websites are great places to find RFI response examples.

3. IT Sourcing Template (For Banking)

Excerpt from IT sourcing template for banks.

This is a ‘done for you’ template designed for banks, where the bank representative can insert their business details and other relevant info, whilst keeping most of the form as is. 

Tip: Your template should fit your organizational culture, services and needs, so tailor the language and information to suit your specific situation.

4. Space Shuttle Display (NASA)

Excerpt from NASA request for information document.

NASA issued this information request so that they could make strategic decisions about how to publicly display retired Space Shuttle Orbiters and Main Engines. They clearly outlined the goals and objectives of the request and included a set of rigorous assessment criteria. 

Tip: Keep things straightforward and be clear about what you hope to learn from the process.

5. Ad Agency Template (Demand Metric)

Excerpt from DemandMetric request for information document.

Like many industries, advertising is a competitive business. Companies need to know that the agency they choose to contract with has their interests at heart. In this agency evaluation template, vendor response requirements included a list of current clients, potential conflicts of interest, and client success stories.

Tip: Requesting success stories and testimonials give you a clearer picture of a supplier’s professionalism and what it might be like to work with them.

6. ERP Software Integration (University of Ottawa)

Excerpt from the University of Ottowa request for information document.

Rather than collecting submitted documentation, the University of Ottawa gathered information for this ERP Software RFI via a series of in person strategy discussions with potential vendors.

Tip: This is a helpful way to gain initial knowledge, when you don’t have sufficient information to compile a comprehensive scope of information for a more detailed RFI or RFP.

7. Electronic Health Records (Stratis Health)

Excerpt from Stratis Health request for information document.

This Stratis Health RFI document is for a specialized need, but it covers a wide range of scope and evaluation criteria. It includes customer reference questions, product questions, and technical and operational requirements.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to get technical if the knowledge outcomes warrant it.

8. Construction Industry Example (City of Torrance)

Excerpt from City of Torrance request for information document.

This detailed construction RFI is for a Transit Park & Ride Regional Terminal. It includes site specific requirements and background information regarding access, approved manufacturers and engineering details.

Tip: Construction RFIs have their own specific requirements and uses, including the submission of technical queries. It’s worth looking at these construction template examples for further ideas.

9. Learning Management System (Michigan Virtual University)

Excerpt from Michigan Virtual University request for information document.

For this Learning Management System (LMS) request, the MVU provided detailed background information about the potential users of the LMS, and asked specific cost-related questions to give them an idea of the best pricing approach for implementing this undertaking. They also asked vendors to show their proficiency in different training scenarios.

Tip: Ask suppliers to demonstrate their approach to your type of problem in a variety of simulated situations.

How DeepStream Will Improve your RFI Process (Whether Requesting or Responding)

DeepStream platform stages tab with NDA, RFI and Shortlist stages listed.

Like all RFx communication, requests for information can be time-consuming to create and review, for both you and the vendors who respond to them. 

As an RFI is often the first step in a much larger sourcing and procurement process, it’s important to start on the best foot. But it’s easy to get stuck with overwhelming paperwork, emails and attachments, muddying the important steps that this resource requires.

DeepStream’s cloud-based RFI software helps you to quickly and seamlessly create clean visual templates for users to build, save and reuse — allowing teams to focus on the work that really matters, to save you and your responders time and effort.

Using our RFI software, you can compare, evaluate and transact securely and compliantly. It also makes future onboarding easier, as response information can be converted into vendor profiles for recurring or future procurement projects.

Our user-friendly, agile service makes it easy to not only automate your tasks and gather the information you need simply and speedily, but to also make those important decisions regarding your strategic sourcing requirements.

Procurement software teams want to use.

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