Thursday, May 17, 2007

RFI Time - Answering an RFI

These things sometimes seem to be the bane of my life. A big company or public body decides to buy some big expensive piece of software, so they decide they need to make it a big process for everyone to answer the demand. I usually spend the best part of a week on these documents which can weigh in at 50-100 pages.

An RFI (Request for Information) is a business process (similar to an RFP or and RFT) requesting information from vendors in solving a business problem. All of the vendors will respond, usually in the format of the request for easy comparison to give the company a chance to narrow down the selection process to the tool(s) that they might consider purchasing. Of course, once they have started the process, it doesn't actually mean they need to buy, or even that they only need choose between companies that respond.

What to do with an RFI:
  1. Respond on Time. This is the most important thing to do. If you don't respond on time, you might not be included in the process.
  2. Be Positive. Your job is to represent what you think the product can solve and present it in its best possible light
  3. Conciseness. Do not write a page when a paragraph will do. A short answer says that you know what they want. A long answer tries to answer all sorts of unasked questions.
  4. Pictures, Graphics, etc. A picture tells a thousand words. They also help skip a lot of technical jargon and show basically what the product does.
  5. Be truthful. This document will stick around for the whole sales cycle and beyond, and you will be made accountable for the claims you make.
Remember, the RFI is your 'foot in the door' but won't be enough to sell the solution. You should have plenty of opportunity to do that later.

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