Improving Your RFP Response Process Using Kanban

Over the last 15 years I’ve managed hundreds of proposals in response to formal Requests for Proposals (RFP). If you have ever managed this process you know it often feels like this:

When responding to an RFP, there are lots of moving pieces and parts requiring participation from members of various departments. In addition to sales and marketing, often times developers and / or technical staff may have input into the scope of work, project managers may need to develop the proposed schedule and allocate resources, and HR may even be involved when insurance and financials are required. The timeliness of receiving all of this input is critical as most formal RFPs have a strict deadline.

To manage this process, most marketers default to using a spreadsheet to assign and track the various tasks. The problem with this approach is it still requires a lot of one person’s time to continually update the spreadsheet and resend often to get status updates (refer back to the herding cats GIF above). It’s really more of a “me” document rather than a “team” document.

I’ve recently discovered a far better way to manage this process using a Kanban board. Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal” or “card.” A Kanban board organizes categorized cards to provide a visual of work in progress in order to better communicate and monitor tasks as they flow from scheduled to completed.  I’m already a huge whiteboard fanatic who loves to reduce things to a visual representation so I took to this idea like a fish to water.  (To learn more about Kanban visit

Using a configurable Kanban app (i.e. LeanKit) you can create “lanes” to track which RFPs are in review, which ones have been green lighted, the tasks associated with each, the due dates for each task, and who is assigned each task.

Here’s an example of an RFP template I created.

rfp kanban

In the example above I categorized most of the cards by department (i.e. blue is HR, yellow is project management). Each card represents a task that can be assigned to someone within the appropriate department. The calendar icons in the corner of the cards represent the due date with the color of the icon providing an indication of how close it is to that date. As tasks are completed, the card is dragged to the next lane or section in the workflow.

Here’s what the details of a single card may look like.


Using a Kanban board for this time sensitive process will provide a far more efficient way to organize all of the moving parts making it easy to see what’s in the works, what’s complete, and what’s still outstanding. Since everyone assigned a task can move the cards themselves, this becomes less of a “me” document and more of a true collaborative team process.


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