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RFIs and their impact on the Professional Services Category’s industry partners

In January 2018, GSA’s Professional Services Category (PSC) Management Division conducted a survey through industry associations to gather industry input on the burden and impact of “Requests for Information” (RFI) on industry. The assumption is that some RFIs have a tenuous connection to winning a competitive task order award and reduce industry partner bid and proposal budgets. This begins a cycle where government asks a question and the suppliers, not seeing a value-add, pass on responding. In turn, the RFI issuing parties see no reason to compete a task order on a contract vehicle that seems to have unresponsive suppliers. This is not the case for all RFIs, which when used properly can play a crucial role in a procurement.

The PSC is exploring ways that  government can gain industry insight on particular requirements and acquisitions without drawing down on its industry partners’ bid and proposal budgets, saving their resources for true opportunities.

Survey Takeaways

The results speak to how companies bear the costs of responding to RFIs. Totals below were calculated using a weighted average and conservative ends of ranges available to respondents.

  • The cost in hours: 1,416 hours per year for each company that captured the cost in hours
  • The cost in dollars: $936,010.80 per year for each company that captured cost in dollars

In order to compare like with like, the cost in hours can be multiplied by a labor rate of $65 per hour. A quick calculation of 1,416 times 65 delivers a figure of $92,016. That figure is ~10% of $936,010.80, which is the sum derived from company responses that put the cost of RFI responses in dollars. In fiscal year 2016 756 suppliers controlled 80% of the professional services category spend. The conservative $92,016 per year cost puts the cost of RFIs to those 756 at 70 million dollars category-wide. The more aggressive estimate of RFI costs puts the expense at over 700 million dollars category-wide. 


There are a few steps that government can take to address some of the issues documented in this article:

  • In regards to signaling, are RFIs being used to indicate interest to a services marketplace? There are other tools available to the acquisition workforce that are better suited to signal intent like presolicitation notices and forecast tools. The PSC will explore ways to make these more available through the Acquisition Gateway.
  • Capture available information and make it accessible. When suppliers receive a Sources Sought RFI they can rightly point to on their capabilities outlined capability statements often found on their company websites. The Federal acquisition workforce can rightly point at their large workloads and indicate they don’t have time to conduct personalized interviews or do deep dives into individual companies as part of their market research. Sometimes an RFI is a requirement. The question that the PSC will attempt to answer is, “How do we make supplier capabilities more accessible to a time-stressed acquisition workforce?” Because both sides are right.
  • Share  work being performed by  contracting officers in other branches, components, agencies and departments. Different agencies have different missions and it makes sense that they are attempting to solve their own problems. Yet,  PSC posits that there are recurring requirements, questions and work being done across government. Information, including RFI responses, should be gathered and shared on a government-wide basis.

The Category continues to assess the impact of RFIs and how to address it. If you are interested in talking about the federal perspective of how and why you conduct RFIs or the industry partner perspective of your part in the RFI process contact Zachary Lerner, zachary.lerner@gsa.gov.



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