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The realm of public procurement can be confusing to navigate, which is why we’ve put together this easy-to-follow guide on what each type of procurement request is and when to implement it. Keep in mind, every state and agency has its own set of regulations surrounding procurement, so regard these as general guidelines only when deciding how to move forward with your purchasing process.

RFI (Request for Information):

A non-committal way to obtain a perspective on available services or products on the market.

When/how to use it:

  • Early into the discovery phase of a project
  • When you are trying to define a scope of work that encompasses the options on the market
  • Assessing the differences between vendors on the market
  • Creating a presentation about a concept or project
  • As a way to obtain information without indicating future RFP or procurement plans

RFQ (Request for Qualifications):

A way for vendors to deliver their qualifications for an invitation to bid on your RFP.

When/how to use it:

  • As a more official and in-depth way (as opposed to an RFI) to view the qualifications of vendors
  • As research (when there are too many products on the market) to refine your scope language to be more targeted
  • As the initial “round one” of procurement to better understand what options are available to you
  • As a pre-selection process, to narrow down vendors to invite to bid on your RFP when you do not have to invite all submissions to bid on the RFP—dependent on state regulations
  • To gain further information about vendors in order to have a discovery period between the RFQ and RFP phase
  • As a non-committal way to observe the market

Request for Quotes:

An official way to request just pricing information from vendors.

When/how to use it:

  • After the RFQ process is complete or as a standalone request
  • In order to discover more about the price of products
  • Useful for price analysis of the market and setting a budget
  • Can be used to include information from an RFQ/RFI along with the quote, or to just receive price quotes
  • Depending on the state, request for quotes can be both committal and noncommittal bids

RFP (Request for Proposals) a.k.a. IFB (Invitation for Bids):

As the all-inclusive request for committed, competitive bids in order to procure a desired service or product, RFPs/IFBs are generally the final stage of procurement before an award is given.

When/how to use it:

  • Typically the last form of procurement documentation
  • Used when your agency is ready to receive committed, competitive bids
  • As legally-binding documents that contract the vendor to complete what is promised in their response, RFPs/IFBs are used only when your agency has a clear understanding of what you want in your scope of work

Other Options (i.e. Sole Source):

Depending on your state or agency regulations, you may be able to procure services via sole source, meaning to bypass the RFP process entirely, however these are usually limited by budgetary constraints or prior experience with a vendor and should be thoroughly vetted.

When/how to use it:

  • Typically for lesser projects/services that fit into a budgetary window allotted for sole sourcing
  • Does not need to go out for bid, which means you can choose your vendor
  • Prior experience or project completion with a vendor can be a factor in allowing for a sole source (again, please check your specific procurement regulations)