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Top Ten Tips on RFI Construction Management

Big construction management projects from its inception to its completion exchange hundreds, if not thousands of RFI’s ( Request for Information) to and fro, making it an indispensable part of the construction process.  A well written RFI can increase productivity while mitigating risk while a badly written one can result in costly delays in the project or worse a lawsuit.

In a study done by Navigant, they found out that 13.2% of the RFI’s were considered “unjustifiable” because they asked questions already answered in the contract documents, asked design changes not even considered by the design team, or questioned the methodology – all which cost the total review and response cost $113,400 per project.

With this is in mind, it’s essential that project stakeholders integrate best practices to make sure that contractors write efficient RFI’s that hold up to RFI process standards. Below, we will look at ten tips that construction project managers can implement in the field to improve the RFI process to make it more efficient to mitigate the risk of negative impact.

Make Sure Everyone is Aware of Your Company’s RFI Process

Every construction company has their own way of doing things, and while there is a recommended RFI Process made by the experts, you can fine tune this to fit the needs of your company. Make sure that everyone knows this process to avoid any misunderstandings.

Use An RFI Tracker Software

Using a web-based RFI tracking software can help you streamline your company’s RFI process. For one thing, project management software like Procore provides an avenue where all your team members including your clients can communicate, and this alone can eliminate a few RFI’s because you actually get to talk each other in real time whenever, wherever.

And, if you do need to make an RFI, an RFI management software can simplify the process by allowing you to centralize and organize your RFI’s so you can keep track of all the RFI’s that are going back and forth leading to a streamlined RFI process. This way, an RFI can do what it’s supposed to do in the first place – lessen risk while increasing efficiency.

Encourage Discussions During  Meetings

Whenever there’s a meeting with architects, contractors and subcontractors,  open the floor to discussions and collaboration. This way, questions can be answered that can lead to less RFI’s needed during the project’s lifespan.

When Constructing an RFI, Ask Only ONE Question Per RFI

To avoid any confusion, ask only one question per RFI. Too many questions can render an RFI too complicated to answer, and the answers might not be as detailed as they are needed to be. Resist the urge to combine several questions or issues in one RFI as this will just lead to insufficient clarity and complicate the RFI process to everyone involved. If you need to make 50 questions, make 50 RFI’s. A cumbersome process, but this will make sure that all RFI’s can be understood, and will be easy to track.

Include Visuals in Your RFI’s

There is an old adage that goes “ A picture is worth a thousand words”, and this can’t ring more true in RFI’s. Include visuals like drawings, pictures or even videos to your RFI’s to make sure that your issue is understood completely and no things are left to the imagination.

Address Your RFI’s to the Relevant People

Knowing who to send your RFI to is just as important as knowing what to include in your RFI. However, instead of just sending it to just one responsible person ( for example the engineer), send it as well to the people who will be impacted with the situation.  Remember the success of a construction project is a team effort.

Include a Due Date On Your RFI

Construction projects run on a schedule, and this includes RFI’s. When you send out RFIs, make sure that you include a  specific date that you need the response by. If the RFI is not urgent, then make sure that the due date reflects that, however, if it’s an urgent one, make sure that your RFI’s due date reflects as well.

This will also help the responsible person manage his schedule. Not putting a due date on your RFI will likely get them to put it off later until it gets lost an unanswered.  

Organize Your RFI’s

A good RFI process includes a way to keep track of RFI’s.  If you still use paper RFI’s make sure that you have a secure place to store and organize it. If your construction company uses a spreadsheet as a log, this log should include the following: RFI name, send dates, ad RFI answer date. Make sure that this log is updated as often as possible.

To make the process easier, it might be a good idea to invest in a  construction rfi tracking software to do the organizing for you.

Provide a Suggested Solution, Not Options

If you are on the receiving end of an RFI that wants clarification on which items to use or which design to utilize, make sure you provide a suggested solution because nothing is more aggravating than receiving an answer that goes ” either design will be acceptable”.  Provide a suggested solution to keep the process moving along.

Keep Everyone on The Same Page

Construction is a team effort, and communication plays an important part in this. Make sure that your team whether they are in the office or out in the field is updated when it comes to RFI’s.  If you are using a project management software, make sure that everyone involved in added in so that they can view the RFI’s. If you are not yet using a project management software, keep everybody in the loop by using email. You want RFI’s to be transparent to everyone involved so you can increase accountability among team members to minimize blame and finger pointing later on.