Most jobs are able to work through the RFI process with no impacts to cost or schedule. Other projects cannot seem to get their arms around RFI’s. Which describes the project you’re currently on?
If you’re on the latter, join the crowd! After realizing you’re in good company, let’s get a handle on the components of the problem so that we can address them and spend time on other things to enhance turnover and improve client satisfaction.
Here are a few critical things you might want to keep an eye on. If you can answer any of the following with a yes, you can apply the ‘why?‘ question (some may take a couple of why’s) so that you can better understand the root cause. Once you understand the root cause you can develop a plan to deal with them:
- Are the overall number of RFI’s continuing to increase week after week? (Assuming work is steady)
- Is a particular trade or subcontractor submitting an abnormally large number of RFI’s compared to others? (Considering workload)
- Is RFI review and response time longer than you anticipated?
- Are RFI’s initiating a disproportionately large number of changes? (Uh-oh)
- Are a significant number of RFI’s rejected or returned with No Action Required?
Other reasons RFI’s can indicate imminent problems and impacts:
- Are your suppliers or subcontractors using the process to develop a Case for Claim?
- Are your suppliers or subcontractors using the process rather than providing proper training to their trade? (Ugh!)
- Are your suppliers or subcontractors using the process to delay the start of work? (The lazy bums!)
You will benefit by creating a high level GRAPH/METRIC (Figure 1) and VISUAL INDICATOR (Figure 2) which provide succinct visuals depicting the health of your RFI process.
Secret 1: Do not make this too complicated
Secret 2: Never provide a graph alone. Graphs, by themselves, add almost NO VALUE
A graph means very little to your client without some context and knowledge. Why? Because information is not necessarily insight. The example in Figure 1 provides good information. I see that RFI’s have been submitted over time and there are RFI’s showing open. I cannot help but see that and ask…”So what?”
When you peel back a layer you should know that on your project 3 RFIs a week are typical. You should know if an increase in RFI volume is directly related to work volume. You should be able to let the client know what is considered “GOOD,” and why. You may also know that the average RFI response time of 14 days is unacceptable based on the pace of your project – be sure to let the client know that is “BAD”. This binary approach allows you to give GREEN/YELLOW/RED (GOOD/BAD/UGLY) indicators that are hard to argue.
Combining this type of knowledge within your key project metrics is very insightful. Most importantly, information becomes actionable. People can begin taking steps to support you and your overall effort.
Our systems are built with these sorts of logic and visuals, along with a common-sense approach to making information actionable. Our goal is to put our clients in a strong position with their clients so that they can be confident that everything’s under control.
Make sure these, or similar tools, are deployed in your construction project management software or on an ad hoc basis. You won’t be sorry.