A great project proposal outlines every core aspect that project stakeholders should know to initiate the project to solve a particular business problem. Service providers will need to demonstrate their competences in understanding client’s business challenges as well as organisation capabilities and explain how the proposed solution can bring value to the client in the project proposal. Even though I am not a big fan of writing a lengthy document, a well-structured project proposal should be logic to your audience with including some must-have elements.
The main goal of writing a project proposal is to ultimately get your client buy in for your solution by building project viability and setting up project expectations. Considering your target audience and the main objective you want to achieve upon presenting the proposal, below are the essentials you need to incorporate in your document.
Three Steps to Write a Great Project Proposal
1. Conduct research before writing your project proposal
It’s necessary to do your research on your client’s business and your competitors so that you can provide specific information tailored to your target audience. By looking at client’s company website, industry report and having an exploratory discussion with the client, you will have a better idea about what problem the client would like to address and what challenges faced by them within their organisation and externally in order to tackle the current situation. Additionally, after the exploratory project discussion, you will also understand more about the client’s expectation towards a potential solution. On the other hand, analysing your competitors’ services, their value proposition, solution delivery approach and customer engagement method gives you an edge over identifying your unique competitive advantages. Once the research is completed, you should be able to:
- Understand your client’s current business situation and opportunities
- Define key project stakeholders, your audience and the sponsor who signs off the project proposal
- Determine the problem being solved by your solution
- Identify how your client can benefit from your solution
- Establish a timeline within a budget
- Determine the type of resources required to deliver the project
2. Set up a clear structure in your project proposal
Depending on the nature of the project and the objective of your project proposal, I strongly recommend using seven sections listed below to outline your document.
Section 1: Project Summary
This action aims to relay the reasons for doing this project. Therefore, project background, project objectives and project scope should be included in this section. In the project background, the root cause of the problem or the main contributors of the opportunities, the gap analysis of existing capabilities versus required capabilities and the critical success factors are key elements. In the project objective part, a situation statement documenting the business problem or opportunities to be addressed including the value to be delivered to the client must be highlighted. It’s highly recommended to use a well-established tool to describe objective – SMART. If a goal is described as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, it will be easier to manage. The project scope outlines what main activities and deliverables are required.
Section 2: Solution Overview
The purpose of this section is to present a brief introduction about the potential solution. A solution could be a COTS solution, a bespoke solution or a combination of two. However, when explaining the benefits of the solution, it’s useful to adopt a decision criteria approach when evaluating the solution in terms of cost, risks, data security, ease of integration with other systems, training needs, scalability and flexibility.
Section 3: Project Delivery Approach
Agile method is most frequently used in software project whereas the plan-driven delivery approach remains within large enterprises. No matter what approach taken, you should always incorporate the project approach summary, task breakdown and time estimates, and project deliverables in this section. Project approach summary details what approach you are going to use and how changes as well risks will be address during the execution. Task breakdown presents the project schedule and an estimation of the hours required to complete each task. Gantt chart is a common tool to outline the resources, tasks and timeline. Project deliverables, with the associated delivery dates, list out what your clients can expect at the end of the project.
Section 4: Project Cost
It’s always a good idea to give a range when indicating cost. When outlining your estimate, it’s crucial to break down the cost by categories and clarify each cost stream.
Section 5: Project Risk Management
This section introduces how to monitor project progress, how the change will be managed, and how you plan to minimise the chance of risks during project execution. Setting up rick register gives your client a clear idea about the risks and potential counter efforts that will be used to counteract these risks.
Section 6: Conclusion
Project conclusion intends to display a brief review of all key points discussed in the proposal. You should emphasise how the solution can help achieve your client’s business objectives and reiterate why it’s the best possible solution for your client.
3. Provide supporting documents
Don’t forget to incorporate all the essential document such as data directory, graph and report that support your project proposal. This can be an “Appendix” sitting at the end of the proposal. You client may need to validate your ideas or retrieve the information from these supporting documents.