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Comparing an RFI vs RFP - What's the difference?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023


RFI vs RFP

Do you know the difference between an RFI and an RFP? When would you use an RFI vs RFP? For the uninitiated, it can be quite confusing but it really need not be.


RFI vs RFP Explained


An RFI is short for a 'Request for Information'. This is used when a business is looking at the options in the market. An RFP is an abbreviation of 'Request for Proposal' and, as the name suggests, is where a business is looking for a proposal from the marketplace.


The two are linked more often than not. The RFI is usually a shorter document and is issued to a much wider pool of potential suppliers - often known as a 'longlist'. The RFP is then issued to the shorter list (known as the 'shortlist') of most favored suppliers, and is more specific about the intended solution (as we gathered more detail from the RFI responses) and the aim is to narrow down the list to a 'preferred' bidder.


RFI and RFP Suggested Uses


RFI Use Case


A 'Request for Information' or RFI should be used to find out what's available in the market to satisfy our particular needs. There is no limit to the number of companies that can be approached with an RFI. We are simply trying to understand the options that we have available to us and to learn from those providers such that we can inform the next step in our purchase process.


Our suggested approach is to issue the RFI as a problem statement. In other words, we want to explain the problem that we have today, and let the suppliers help guide us with their experience and knowledge. Too many companies issue an RFI with lots of pre-conceived ideas and this only restricts the suppliers and leads to them all providing the same solution to the problem.


The RFI should:

  • Be short (in the region of 10 pages long).

  • Focus on the problem at hand.

  • Be issued to a wide audience.

  • Look for a quick response by keeping the RFI document short.

  • Enable the team to narrow the field for an RFP.

Viewpoint Analysis runs a 'Rapid RFI' (RRFI for short) with the aim of getting to a shortlist in a couple of weeks or so. It's a really swift approach but it's really crucial to quickly move from longlist to shortlist and we strongly recommend that an RFI does just that.


You can download an RFI template to get you started quicker.


RFP Use Case


A 'Request for Proposal' is where we are looking for a shortlist of providers (perhaps 5 or 6 maximum) to provide a costed proposal that we can then select and buy from. As such, it tends to be more detailed than the RFI and we take the feedback and recommendations that are an output of the RFI and build them into the RFP.


It is easy to spend lots of time and effort to create a perfect RFP. It is also common to go deep on functionality and requirements. That would be a mistake as it can severely delay the process, reduce the number of bidders prepared to bid for the project and slow down the selection decision. Like with the RFI, we want to get the document out in the marketplace and then spend the right amount of time with each of our main contenders.


The RFP should:

  • Be around twice the size of the RFI document.

  • Contain attachments (e.g. security questionnaires, vendor questionnaires etc).

  • Explicitly ask for pricing from the vendors.

  • Outline the timescales for the process.

  • Include a list of required features - but limited to the most important.

  • Aim to arrive at a preferred vendor (or final two).

In the same way that we provide a Rapid RFI, Viewpoint Analysis also conducts Rapid RFPs on behalf of clients of all shapes and sizes. An RFP Template can also be downloaded to speed up the writing of the RFP.


Alternative Approaches


The RFI and RFP almost always happen in the same buying sequence. However, there are alternative approaches.


Standalone RFP


If the provider options are limited, or if the team already knows the key players and have put the groundwork in ahead of time, an option is to just issue a standalone RFP. This obviously saves time and effort and is an accepted approach.


RFI Replacement


An RFI (other than an approach like the Rapid RFI) can take time to conduct and as such, may not be an approach that every company wants to take. In these cases, there are various ways to conduct a market assessment that does not need a formal RFI. One approach that we use is our 'Technology Matchmaker Service'. Like an RFI, we write up a very short problem statement (shorter than an RFI document). We then invite the supplier community to present how they can help us. No formal document is required and we can then quickly see what's available and shortlist to RFP. It's a great way of quickly finding fantastic vendors.


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RFIs and RFPs are simple to get out in the market - at Viewpoint Analysis we're a big believer in cutting through the process and getting things moving along. It's all about speed to deliver the project and finding the right vendors without creating a project out of the selection decision.



Or check out our Vendor Selection area for more useful information about selecting the right vendors using an RFI or an RFP.


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