Rarely an engineering and construction project is ever delivered that did not have Request for Information (RFI) issued by the contractor, subcontractor or suppliers who are responsible for delivering the project.
In most Construction Documents (agreement, drawings and specifications), developed by the Engineer, it is inevitable that those documents will not adequately address every single matter. There may be gaps, conflicts, or subtle ambiguities. The goal of the Request for Information (RFI) is to act as the project communication management process to resolve these gaps, conflicts, or subtle ambiguities during the bidding process or early in the construction process to eliminate the need for costly corrective measures. Should the response to the RFI lead to additional work that represents added cost or delays to the project’s scope of work, then this could lead for a change order request by the contractor.
The Effective Management of the RFI process
Similar to all other project management processes, managing the Request for Information (RFI), or Request for Interpretation or Request for Clarification, process requires have a document template to be used by the project parties to raise the RFI query and receive the answer for this query. In addition, there should be a documented workflow to enforce the process for submitting, reviewing and responding to the RFI in accordance with the contract agreement and project execution plan. The details of those RFIs will be then logged in a register to provide the status of submitted, responded and pending RFIs. The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) have developed document templates for more construction management processes including Request for Information as shown below.
How Can Technology Improve the RFI Process?
Using PMWeb RFI Module, organizations not only can automate the RFI management process but actually capture the data that is part of each RFI to enable the organization the analyze this data to identify trends associated with the reasons for those RFIs, effectiveness in responding to RFIs, time and cost impact resulting from those RFIs among others.
To start with, the PMWeb RFI Form provides the organization with the capability to add the following general details for each RFI:
· Phase (Design, Tender, Construction)
· WBS Level same used in the Schedule, Budget, Contract Agreement and other Project Management Processes
· RFI Reference ID
· RFI Subject or Description
· Status (New, Pending, Closed, etc.)
· Revision and Revision Date
· RFI Date
· From and To
· Trade (Substructure, Superstructure, etc.)
· CSI Specification Section 5 or 6 Digits
· Category (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, etc.)
· Priority (High, Normal, Low)
RFI Query and Response
In addition, each RFI needs to have fields for the query or clarification, proposed solution by the issuer or other, and the response or answer to close the RFI. Should the RFI response has an impact on the project’s scope of work, cost and/or schedule, then this needs to be highlighted. For the schedule, the project schedule activity that could be impacted by this RFI response needs to be provided. In addition, should the RFI has relation with other project management processes, then the relevant documents need to be linked to the RFI to provide those involved in responding to the RFI with the complete details on the RFI.
The RFI Attributes
It is highly recommended to provide additional details on submitted RFIs to improve the management of RFI process and also to provide the context to analyze those RFIs to identify the different trends needed to improve the management of RFIs. For example, it is highly recommended to add the following additional data fields for the RFI template:
o Substitution/Construction Modification
o Clarification or Additional Information
o Construction Deficiency
o Construction Document Deficiency
PMWeb allows the organization to add all these additional fields with a pre-defined list of value to speed data input while ensuring data consistency. Those will be added at the specification tab of the RFI.
The RFI Specification Reference
As almost all RFIs are raised against what was included in Contract Documents, it is a recommended practice to require the issuer of the RFI, to include the relevant technical specification section or sections that are related to the RFI. PMWeb Clauses tab allows the organization to add all technical specification sections and then drag and drop the relevant specification section to the RFI template. The same approach could be also done for the contract agreement clauses that have relation or could impact the issued RFI.
Attach All Supportive Documents
The RFI should have all drawings, specification sections, contract agreements, bill of quantity, pictures, videos and all other supportive documents attached to the RFI submission. Although those can be uploaded directly into the RFI, it is recommended that all those documents be uploaded first to PMWeb document management repository and then attach those the RFI. In addition, PMWeb linking project related emails that were imported to PMWeb to the relevant RFI. In addition, hyperlinks to external websites like those for seismic activities, building codes among others.
Submitting, Reviewing and Responding To RFI
PMWeb Workflow will detail the different roles involved in submitting, reviewing and responding to RFIs. What is important in PMWeb workflow is that all possible workflow scenarios can be mapped using the conditional workflow rules and branches. Those rules could be specific to the RFI category, CSI specification section, location, WBS level, reason, impact on scope, cost, schedule among other RFI attributes or fields. This will ensure that the RFI will be properly distributed and circulated among those who are part of the pre-defined RFI management process.
Should there be a need to involve a project stakeholder that is not part of the pre-defined workflow or a stakeholder that is not part of the PMWeb authorized users, PMWeb notification module can be used to email the RFI and other forms and reports to be reviewed by those recipients.
Integrating RFI with Change Events
Should the response to the RFI result in additional cost or delays to the project milestone dates, then PMWeb allows the authorized user to generate a Change Event that will be used to capture the impact of this RFI on the project budget as well as the awarded contracts. This will then become the basis for issued the project change order. This will enable the organization to track the RFIs that could have resulted in increasing the project cost or delaying the project completion date.
Formal RFI Submission and Single Version Of The Truth Reporting on RFI Status
In most countries in the MENA region, contract agreement and local legal requirements makes a must that all RFIs and similar to other formal project’s communications need to be printed, signed and submitted. PMWeb allows the organization to design the output in any desired formal for which the content will be automatically extracted from the RFI input form.
Of course, real-time RFI log and registers can be design in any form and format. The RFI Log could be grouped by reason, status, location among others. Similarly, the data can be sorted by those fields or RFI data or priority level. In addition, logs can be designed to filter reported RFIs by the same codes or any other possible fields.
The RFI performance data can also become part of the real-time project performance dashboard where the status of change orders, progress invoices, submittals, non-conformance notices, safety incidents, milestone dates among others will be reported on along with the RFI data.
Analyzing RFI Management Process
The knowledge wealth that an organization could have from capturing projects BIG DATA in a trust-worthy format can be prove to be of great value. Since PMWeb is designed to capture data from unlimited number of projects whether they are active or completed, the organization can use this data to analyze and identify trends on RFI growth patter, RFI issued by contractor, RFI issued on projects designed by specific consultant, RFI that resulted in change orders, RFI by reason, RFI by specification section, RFI by location among others. Of course, this data value can be grow exponentially when it is combined with other data captured from the other project management processes automated in PMWeb.