RFI Meaning in Procurement Explained

Value for money is key for successful businesses. This goes for product quality, as well as speed, efficiency and communication of vendors. Businesses want to know they can trust those they work with to make their projects profitable.

This makes procurement a complicated process – as professionals seek information from potential suppliers to find their perfect match. It isn’t a case of simply working with the closest or most affordable suppliers, there are many factors to consider.

Often, procurement teams will begin their search for suppliers by sending out a Request for Information (RFI) – a document used to gather initial information from potential vendors and draw a shortlist before entering the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage.

In this guide, DeepStream outlines what an RFI is, its purpose in the procurement process, and how to effectively utilise RFIs to gather valuable information from potential vendors or suppliers.

What is an RFI?

An RFI is a procurement document used to gather information about products, services or capabilities from potential vendors or suppliers.

The purpose is to collect general information, explore market options and assess vendor capabilities before initiating the procurement process. This document is often followed by an RFI response from each vendor.

It is typically issued as a precursor to subsequent procurement documents – such as Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or Requests for Quotes (RFQs) – once pre-qualified have been selected.

While RFPs and RFQs are designed to retrieve more detailed project data from qualified candidates, an RFI is focused more on gathering preliminary information and evaluating potential vendors before proceeding to the next stage of procurement.


Key Components of an RFI

An RFI will typically include the following information, designed to source the key data needed to shortlist potential vendors:

·       Background and purpose of the RFI.

·       Scope of the project or requirements.

·       Questions and prompts seeking information.

·       Instructions for responding and submission details.

·       Timeline and deadline for submission.

·       Contact information for clarifications or enquiries.


RFIs are structured to gather preliminary data by including sections or questions that prompt potential vendors to provide relevant information about their capabilities, experience, products or services and pricing.


The Role of RFIs in Procurement 

RFIs help companies understand market capabilities by providing valuable insights into the offerings, expertise and capabilities of potential vendors or suppliers.

By gathering information through RFIs, companies can assess the market landscape, compare options and make informed decisions about the most suitable vendors for their projects.

RFIs play a crucial role in preparing for a more detailed RFP process by helping companies gather preliminary information about potential vendors, assess their viability and narrow down the list of qualified candidates.

The insights gained from RFIs inform the development of more targeted and specific RFPs.


Advantages of Issuing an RFI

There are several benefits to issuing RFIs to potential suppliers, including:

·       RFIs help a company gain initial market research. This helps streamline the procurement process.

·       RFIs provide additional information that can be used to facilitate better decision-making and more targeted RFPs.

·       RFIs encourage supplier engagement and help a company better understand market trends. This has the potential to future-proof the procurement process.


The RFI Process

Several key processes contribute to an effective RFI process – helping businesses to access the information they need and easily evaluate vendors and wider market conditions, to ensure successful procurement.

Below are some important considerations before initiating the RFI process:


Crafting the RFI

When formulating RFI questions, consider clarity, relevance, specificity and alignment with project objectives. Craft questions that collect the desired information and evaluate potential vendors effectively.


Managing Responses

Managing RFI responses can be complex, especially with an overwhelming amount of supplier information.

Best practices for handling and organising collected information include:

·      Maintaining a centralised database.

·      Using consistent naming conventions.

·      Categorising information.

·      Implementing regular updates and reviews.


Analysing and Utilising RFI Data

The information gathered from RFIs can be used to identify qualified vendors, understand market offerings, evaluate competitive advantages and identify innovative solutions.

The findings from these documents inform the development of more effective RFPs or procurement strategies that maximise value, mitigate risks and achieve company objectives.

Using a dedicated RFI software, procurement teams can automate workflows with RFI templates, analyse multiple suppliers effortlessly and save time by integrating RFI data with existing tech stacks.


RFI vs. RFP: A Comparative Analysis 

Both RFIs and RFPs are essential tools in the procurement process. But while they may seem similar, they’re used for different purposes – and at different stages in the procurement cycle.

The main difference between RFIs and RFPs is their purpose and level of detail.

RFIs are used to gather general information about vendors' capabilities and availability, often in the early stages of the procurement process.

RFPs, on the other hand, are more formal and specific – soliciting detailed proposals from vendors that address specific requirements, scopes of work and pricing.

RFIs are exploratory, helping organisations gather preliminary information and assess the market. They are then followed by RFPs, which are used to gauge more accurate information about each vendor and their ability to fulfil a specific project.

Find out more about the differences between – and unique advantages of – RFIs, RFPs and RFQs,in our helpful guide!

Where are RFIs Commonly Used?

RFIs are used across multiple industries, but some of the more popular uses forRFIs include:

Technology Procurement

Gathering information on software features, pricing and support.

Construction Projects

Assessing subcontractor qualifications, experience, safety records and pricing.

Supplier Evaluation

Evaluating manufacturing capabilities, quality control, sustainability practices and pricing.


Gathering information on service offerings, expertise, scalability, security measures and pricing. 


Information from RFIs contributes to successful procurement outcomes by enabling informed vendor selection – mitigating risks and ensuring alignment with project requirements and company goals.


Deepstream’s RFx Software

DeepStream RFX software simplifies your procurement processes. Automate proposals – to save time and reduce error with RFI documents and make the process more efficient – tailor workflows and make collaboration easier, to give you time back to spend on strategic, value-add tasks.

Enjoy a centralised, digital space to keep track of RFx documents, including RFIs, RFPs and RFQs, and conduct eAuctions and straightforward supplier analysis in a single, intuitive platform.



Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is an RFI in Project Management? 

A: RFI stands for "Request for Information". It is a formal process used to gather information and clarification from potential vendors or suppliers regarding their products, services or capabilities before making informed procurement decisions.


Q: What Does an RFI Do? 

A: An RFI (Request for Information) is used to gather information from potential vendors or suppliers. It helps project stakeholders gain insights into the market, explore available options, assess vendor capabilities and make informed decisions before proceeding with the procurement process.


Q: What are the Two Types of RFI? 

A: There are two types of RFIs: open RFIs and closed RFIs. An open RFI allows any interested vendor or supplier to respond and provide information about their products or services. In contrast, a closed RFI is selective, with specific vendors or suppliers invited to provide information based on pre-screening or qualification criteria.


Q: Who is Responsible for the RFI? 

A: In project management, responsibility for initiating and managing the RFI process typically lies with the project team or procurement team. They are responsible for creating and distributing the RFI, collecting responses and evaluating the information received from potential vendors or suppliers.

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