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- The First Steps Towards A Great Project Proposal
- What to Include in a Project Proposal
- Project Proposal Best Practices
- Next Steps
When it comes to trying to get yourself noticed and listened to in the world of business, you’ll probably end up having to write a project proposal every once in a while.
Project proposals can be relevant in a lot of different situations and are an essential part of project management as a whole. Let’s say you’re working in a big corporation – you might have an idea or two on how to make your department run smoother. You can’t just go up to the management & say, “guys, I have the most amazing idea ever!”
Or, let’s say you’re a marketing agency. If a potential client approaches you and asks how’d you’d handle a project with them, you can’t just eat up all their time and start talking for hours.
For both cases, what you’d need is a project proposal – a document that describes what, exactly, the project entails, what’s the budget, timelines, etc. So as you could have guessed, nailing a project proposal can be what stands between you and a promotion.
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Anyway ... sorry for the interruption! Let's resume the rest of the article.
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The First Steps Towards A Great Project Proposal
Before you even start writing a project proposal, you’ll have to put a lot of thought into the preparation. You’ve probably had a conversation with your boss or client until that point, and they might have even liked the idea.
That is, however, just the first step in your project proposal. You’ll have to turn your vague idea into something extremely detailed – with information on the scope, budget, steps, goals, etc. So before you dive into the writing, you should…
Ask The Right Questions
If you’re working with a client, you’ll need all the information you can get about their business. So if you’re a marketing agency, the questions could be something like…
- What marketing strategies have you tried before?
- Did you succeed? Lost? What was the ROI?
- What are your current sales metrics, and what are your goals for the campaign?
- What’s your budget for ad spend, and what type of ROI do you expect?
Or, you could be an individual working in a corporation, with an ambition to improve the efficiency of the department you’re working on.
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Anyway ... we'll continue from where we left off above.
For the sake of the example, let’s say you’re carrying out a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) initiative. BPR means that you’re going to take an old, inefficient process & re-create it from scratch using some sort of new methodology or technology.
In that case, you’d want to question the employees working with that specific process. They might have a lot of insight on how you could go about the entire project.
What to Include in a Project Proposal
Once you have a good idea on what you’ll be doing with the project, it’s time to put that down on a project proposal. This, of course, depends on what kind of project you’re working on. Typically, however, a project proposal tends to include:
Brief Summary – This should be no more than a couple of lines about the scope of the project
Time Frame –Make sure to be specific but also realistic
Prepared By – Who has the lead on the creation of the proposal?
Attached Documents – Any supporting documents for the project. Projected metrics, budgeting, etc.
Project Leads – Other company employees that’ll take part in the initiative.
Project Summary – General information on the background of the project, goals you’re trying to achieve, etc. Of course, this has to be a summary, and thus concise, mentioning only the most essential information.
Methodology – In this section you need to start off by describing the overall approach you will take, followed by a step-by-step guide to the methodology being used, how potential problems will be addressed, etc. The section should also include a breakdown of the work with estimated completion time in the form of a schedule. You could use some project management methodology to help with this, such as the PERT chart. Finally, detail the deliverables that the client will receive and the delivery dates.
Risk Management – This needs to include an action plan for how risks will be identified and minimized as well as what the potential cost to the project would be.
Costs – Here you need to detail the budget line-by-line with accompanying narrative when required to ensure clients understand the reasoning behind your costings.
Conclusion – This needs to be a concise summary of all of the key points from above, focusing on the positives and what you can deliver.
Appendix – Any additional documentation required as part of the proposal and listed in Attached Documents
Project Proposal Best Practices
While the preparation is the most important part of a project proposal, the way you write it and what information you’ll include is also very much essential. So, here’s a couple of best practices you should follow…
Get the Timing Right
This is an area of the project proposal that is critical to get right. When talking about timings, you need to balance the desire to impress the client with the speed at which you’ll be delivering, with the need to not immediately put yourself under pressure to deliver to unrealistic deadlines.
If you allow yourself too much time you will look like a rank amateur, so the balance is key. You need to give the estimate of your time for the project but should also break it down into a timeline to give the client as much information as they might need to help them pick you.
Solve the Problem (And Make Sure It’s Clear How)
This is where you really need to do the hard sell in your project proposal, as you explain why you are the right person or company to deliver the project and what you will do differently, beyond the timescale and price tag.
You need to focus on the objective, what problem it is solving, what the potential is of it to change their business for the better, and it’s important to combine the practical with the aspirational. If you can estimate what the outcomes will be, both in the short term and long term, you will have the chance of capturing the imagination of the decision makers.
Remember Your Audience
At this point, it’s essential to take stock of what you have written so far and assess how fit for purpose it is. Think about who you are writing for, what kind of business it is and what kind of relationship you have with the key figures.
This will dictate the way you write and how you present your proposal, so revisit the crucial information you have written so far and re-assess whether there is a better or more appropriate and engaging way of doing it.
Get The Ending Right
When you have laid out what you will do, when you do and how much you will charge, you need to make your closing arguments for why you are the right choice.
You may well get the chance to make this final pitch in person, in which case what you write here is a dry run for how you’ll present it (or a transcript to look back to). You should, however, have a clear vision in your head before you can hope to sell it to a prospective client.
An important thing to include in your conclusion is a call to action, explaining what they need to do to kick things off with the project, offering positive affirmation without sounding over-confident about your chances of winning the job.
Check & Double Check
When you’ve finished adding to your proposal, it’s time to thoroughly sense and spell check. Make sure there are no typos or clumsy spelling mistakes and take out anything that reads like jargon or unnecessary padding.
Make sure it is laid out in a professional and easy-to-read layout and it represents you in the best way possible. When you are happy with it, you will have a project proposal that will not let you down.
If you followed all the steps correctly, you probably just landed yourself a new project. Congratulations!
Before you start carrying out the project, however, you might need to work out a new document – the project charter.
The main difference between the two is that the charter goes into much more detail about the hows and whys of the project and acts as a guide for the execution of the project, while the proposal is mainly used as a “pitch.”
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