RFIs are supposed to resolve issues and uncertainty, but the process of managing them is anything but. They are time-consuming for subcontractors to get done right, yet about 22% don’t even get responded to. By tackling the communication disconnects and the time-consuming way RFI forms are traditionally managed, you can significantly improve your RFI process.

A solid digital template and submission flow won’t guarantee success, but it will make the process faster and might even improve response rates. Get the low-down on what to look for in a digital platform, how to improve pulling together RFI info, and digital collaboration workflows.

Creating and Submitting a Digital RFI for Dimension Requests

Where a dimension in a drawing is missing, the simplest flow is to be able to request information while you’re in the field. In some cases, you may go through a review process or notify the GC on submission.

In this case, your team should be able to create and fill in the RFI right from the field and then submit it to the GC while saving the form.

Attaching Photos and Documents

When requesting dimensions, attach the plan and cloud the missing dimension, adding text with the specific information you need. You may need to be able to crop these images to zoom in on the specific area you need to discuss – if you can’t do that in your digital platform, there’s always the tried-and-true method of taking a screenshot of the zoomed-in plan, then marking up the attached screenshot in the form.

Creating a Digital RFI for Constructability Issues

Where there’s an engineering conflict, more details and context are required to successfully communicate the issue. As a general rule, put the burden on yourself to gather the information and make it easy to understand. By doing this prep in 2 stages, you’ll make it easier to pass the information along and get a clear and accurate response.

Allow Yourself to Add to the RFI Over Time

It’s generally true in life that the odds of getting something right and having all of the information included in one pass are lower than when you give yourself time to gather the information, read and edit, and only submit it when you’re really ready. Give yourself this flexibility by creating a draft of your form with initial details of the issue – you can add more information later.

In the first draft, you might just add that you saw an issue, and drop in notes and photos to attach, so you have the necessary information to track down all of the details later. Whether you update it throughout the day or head back to the trailer later to track down all of the information – that’s up to you.

My guys are excited to use the voice search and fillable forms. That’s going to cut down a lot of time.  –  Anthony Sant – Fisk Electric

Make a Collection of Related Docs and Prep Your RFI

Unlike pulling together the information for requesting a measurement, for constructability you’ll need to gather the related specification section, the related plan(s), and all the necessary details. Having a strong search tool with auto-hyperlinking will save hours of tracking down information, especially when it’s necessary to describe an issue such as the placement of a fire extinguisher causing issues with the placement of conduit lines.

Once you find the information, you can organize it into a folder that you can reference later to add to the RFI – most folks save these collections in their cloud or on their computer.

Organizing RFI and relevant docs in DADO Binders, our digital form of the trusted paper version, offer you the added benefit that the latest information will update automatically. When a new drawing version comes out, the drawing in your digital binder will automatically update to the new version and that should be noted in the GC’s response. Everything you need to move forward (RFI, response, and new plan) are all organized together.

Bringing Others Into the Process

It’s not unusual to need multiple people to participate in generating a digital RFI. Some example cases where multiple people will participate in the RFI generation include:

  • Project Managers add and review the information submitted from the field. In this case, they act as a reviewer of the information, and the messaging before submitting it to the GC.
  • Estimators supplying cost impact to an RFI. This can lead to additional forms being submitted, and one form kicks off the next one.
  • Internal Engineers providing possible solutions. In certain cases, it may be easier to propose a solution for approval, which will be faster and easier to go through.

Collaboration, Notifications, and Following your Company’s Process

Let’s jump back to constructability issues, where there can be multiple internal users who need to collaborate.  You need a way to notify users that a draft or version has been created, and to request additional information from the team. Once each collaborator has provided their additions or edits, getting the RFI submitted and notifying the right people should be automated in the platform.

Make sure to include the following elements:

  • Key information in the subject line: We all have large volumes of emails, and inconsistent subject lines make it hard to track and manage action items. Set your subject lines up so they have a consistent prefix + form submission information: the prefix makes it easy to sort and search later, or set up email rules to flag these as important.
  • Key information in the email: This is pretty straightforward – include the RFI number, attached version, and a link to directly update the version. Having all of this in the email makes it easy to search in your email later, or in your digital forms platform.
  • Key information on the action items: One simple way to do this is to call out open items or to-dos in the fillable sections, then clear them from the form before submitting it. Make sure to use a bold color to call out open items, or some way to distinguish what actually needs to be submitted. If your software manages those as tasks and workflows, be sure to check off all your tasks before submitting the form.

Bringing it All Together

Speeding up the RFI process with detailed and accurate information is a surefire win for keeping a project on time and budget. Doing this with a digital platform might be a little different from how you do this today on paper or via email, but the benefits are significant.

We hope you found some useful insights into digital workflows and ways to improve your RFI management.

If you’d like to see DADO’s Smart Forms in action or dig into how they could help your team, please get in touch! Check out our short video demo, or request a live demo of your own.