Is your business facing a challenge you can’t solve internally?

Issuing a request for information (RFI) can help you determine whether partnering with a vendor is the right option.

In this blog post, we’ll provide RFI templates and examples to help you quickly create a Request for Information document that elicits valuable information … but first, let’s go over exactly what an RFI is and when you should use one.

What is an RFI?

An RFI is a document that solicits general information about the solutions and/or services vendors provide.

When should you issue an RFI?

An RFI is often the first step in the procurement process.

You use this document when you have a challenge you want to overcome, but you’re not sure what kind of solutions are available or even if you’re going to make a purchase.

In other words, you want to know what options you have before deciding how to move forward.

Once you’ve gathered responses to your RFI, you can use the information you’ve obtained to create a request for proposal (RFP).

RFPs are similar to RFIs, except they contain more specific questions and they imply an intent to purchase.

If you’re confused, don’t worry. This blog post covers the differences between RFIs and RFPs, as well as when to issue each. As a bonus, you’ll also learn about requests for quotations (RFQs).

How to write an RFI

Now that you know what an RFI is and when you should issue one, you’re ready to start crafting your request.

Instead of starting from scratch, we’ve put together a list of RFI templates and examples you can use to get a head-start.

Just remember to tailor the final document to meet your unique needs.

While these templates and examples may cover situations similar to yours, no two procurement situations are exactly the same.

RFI templates

This template covers pretty much any situation.

Whether you need information on technology, consultants, or you have a specific project you need help with, you can use this document to communicate your needs to potential providers.

It consists of the following six sections:

  1. Statement of Need — which includes goals and objectives.
  2. Background — some context about your organization.
  3. Qualifications — the skills and credentials you’re looking for.
  4. Information Requested — what you hope to learn.
  5. Selection of Expert — your evaluation criteria.
  6. Time for Response — your deadline.

Demand Metric designed this RFI template to help organizations evaluate advertising agencies.

What makes it so valuable is that it asks responders to provide a list of current industry-specific clients, relevant success stories, and potential conflicts of interest.

When working with an ad agency, it’s important to know whether they’ve had proven success with organizations like yours. (And if they’re creating advertisements for your competition while soliciting your business, you’ll want to know that, too.)

If you’re looking for an electronic health record (EHR) solution, this is the perfect template for you.

It covers product questions, customer reference questions, functional requirements, technical requirements, operational requirements, transitional requirements, and more.

In the market for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system? Use this template to get started.

It details the criteria procurement teams should look for in an ERP, including requirements related to:

  • Accounting.
  • Human resources.
  • Manufacturing management.
  • Inventory management.
  • Purchasing management.
  • Sales management.
  • Technology.

Just remember, while this template is very thorough, it’s unlikely you can copy and paste the content into a document containing your logo and call it a day.

You’ll need to tailor the language and requirements to meet your needs.

This template was designed for banks looking to outsource IT work.

It allows banks to simply search and replace “The Bank” with their name, but once again, we suggest tailoring the language and requirements to your situation. (Sorry to sound like a broken record, but it really is important.)

RFI examples

In this RFI, NASA seeks to “make decisions regarding development of strategies for placement of Space Shuttle Orbiters and Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) for public display.”

As you might expect, they have pretty stringent requirements.

Use this document to get a feel for how to write a professional RFI with strict criteria.

Michigan Virtual University (MVU) issued this RFI to identify a replacement learning management system (LMS).

To ensure vendors provide responses they can easily evaluate, MVU set clear expectations and standardized responses by asking vendors to demonstrate their proficiency in 10 scenarios, stating:

“To provide the review team with comparable information, the following scenarios are to be used by each vendor to demonstrate how their product produces the required result. The interest of the team will be directed toward the ease and intuitiveness of the LMS and its interface, as well as the comprehensive set of features.”

The City of Phoenix created this RFI to identify a criminal case management system (CCMS).

As early as the executive summary, the RFI contains language, shown below, encouraging vendors that don’t meet their requirements to avoid responding.

“The City seeks information on off-the-shelf solutions and on systems that require minimal customizing. The system must be as fully automated as possible, process at least 100,000 cases annually, and manage criminal cases from initiation to trial, meet all constitutional and statutory requirements, improve customer service, and enhance flexibility, efficiency, and transparency.”

Why is that important?

It prevents vendors from wasting time responding to an RFI that has no chance of leading to future business.

It also prevents the procurement team from wasting time reviewing responses from vendors that should have never replied in the first place.

Other RFx resources

Need more templates? Interested in learning more about the other types of RFx documents? Want to know what the difference is between an RFI, RFQ and RFP?

We’ve got you covered. Check out these helpful blog posts:

Remember that issuing RFx documents doesn’t have to be a manual process. RFx technology allows issuers to create RFx templates, collaborate with vendors, automatically score proposals and more. Technology is transforming the procurement process and empowering better vendor selection. To learn more, check out this ebook: RFP software guide: How to find an RFP solution that identifies right-fit vendors.

How RFP360 can help

RFP360 streamlines the procurement process by making it easy to create and send RFIs, RFPs, RFQs, and more, as well as evaluate vendor responses.

“RFP360 helps us automate and focus on core business. Now, we can categorize, search, and profile providers,” said Mark Rieder, SVP of HR technologies and benefits administration at NFP. “We love the automated scoring. We’re shortlisting faster, and we’re being a true partner to our vendors. It’s a win-win.”

Learn how RFP360 can streamline the procurement process at your organization. Schedule a custom demo.