Take Control of Your RFIs

rfi-control-constructionIn large construction projects, requests for information (RFIs) are a necessary evil. Inevitably, omissions and errors creep into the project. RFI’s can bring these issues to the surface, and allow you to resolve them quickly, avoiding conflicts, eliminating construction delays and reducing the need for corrective measures.

But the more time you spend dealing with RFIs, the less time you spend doing the work necessary to complete the project. RFIs often lead to variations and change orders, delaying projects and blowing the budget. Project managers need to ensure their contractors and design team resolve the issues as quickly as possible, and they must manage RFIs efficiently to avoid them becoming a huge time and money sink.

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Ten Tips on Managing RFIs for Your Construction Projects

RFI ManagementIn a previous blog post – The Whys and Wherefores of RFIs – we reviewed Navigant Consulting’s report on the potentially serious impact of Requests for Information (RFIs) on construction projects.

Today we’d like to offer the Aconex perspective – specifically, actionable tips for owners, contractors and project managers on managing the RFI process for their construction projects. This is especially critical for reducing risk on projects involving professionals from a number of different organizations.

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The Whys and Wherefores of RFIs


Navigant report image

Image: Navigant Consulting, Inc.

What’s the impact of Requests for Information (RFIs) on the construction process? How can owners and contractors, independently and together, work to mitigate this impact and the associated risk to project delivery?

The Navigant Construction Forum, a business unit of Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI), addresses these questions thoroughly and incisively in a recent report, Impact & Control of RFIs on Construction Projects. Among Navigant’s findings:

  • Projects are impacted by the time required for owners to review and respond to RFIs from contractors, the cost of RFI reviews, and the use of the RFI process by contractors to make claims against owners.
  • In a sampling of 1,362 projects, the average total cost per RFI review and response was US$1,080, and the total cost per project was US$859,680.
  • 13.2% of RFIs were deemed “unjustifiable” because they asked questions answered in the contract documents, requested design changes not considered by the design team, or questioned means or methods – resulting in a total review and response cost averaging US$113,400 per project.

Navigant recommends a framework of three initiatives to protect owners against potential claims by increasing control of the RFI process and mitigating the risk of negative impact:

  1. Owners should incorporate critical definitions around RFIs and the RFI process in the general conditions of their contract documents.
  2. Owners and contractors should use an electronic RFI tracking and monitoring system to manage the RFI process.
  3. Owners and contractors should implement best practices for managing the RFI process, which are culled from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), university research projects, and other industry sources.

Complementing its analytical rigor, the Navigant report includes innovative touches, such as the Forward Thinking Index (FTI). The FTI measures the performance of a contractor in thinking ahead on a project. Similar to a baseball player’s batting average, this metric is calculated by taking the total number of RFIs (x), subtracting the number of RFIs that created schedule delays (y), and dividing the difference (z) by the total number of RFIs (x): x – y = z and z / x = FTI.

For example, if there are 1,000 total RFIs on a project and 300 of those RFIs cause delays, then the contractor’s FTI would be .700. Clearly, the most desirable contractors would be those with higher FTIs – because their RFI processes would be more effective in keeping projects on schedule and within budget. It’s not difficult to see how the FTI could be applied to all kinds of situations in work and life!

Whether you agree or disagree with its methodology or findings, Impact & Control of RFIs on Construction Projects is worth a measured scan, if not a careful read. Check it out, and let us – and Navigant – know what you think.

And, if you think your own RFI process could be improved, check out the Aconex Online Collaboration Platform.