The following short tutorial with Devin Deen provides practical tips to create a strong and successful project proposal.
In Review: How to Write a Winning Project Proposal
Devin guided you through the elements of creating a superior project proposal.
- Define the problem.
- Maintain vision; align with strategic objectives.
- Describe benefits; explain how you’re going to deliver and what the users can expect
- Define success criteria. Be specific, measurable, achievable and realistic.
- List deadlines (and the approach for meeting them).
- Cost & budget plan, including how you’ll meet it against deliverables.
Make sure you consolidate your high points into an executive summary at the beginning, you don’t want to bog down the document at the start. Remember, your project proposal is the way you communicate the project’s vision and benefits to the organization.
Tell a story with your proposal. Like any good read, define the problem (villain), the rising action (your proposed project plan), and a hero. In this story, you’re the hero. You’re going to solve the problem and bring the project to a successful completion.
Pro-Tip: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Pros use templates to save time. You can find our free project proposal template on our site.
Thanks for watching!
Hi. I’m Devin Deen, Content Director here at ProjectManager.com. Today I’m going to teach you how to help sell your project using a project proposal.
A key thing to remember is that people buy from people. Don’t expect the project proposal document that you put together to be taken up by the decision makers in an organization in isolation of any communication you’ve had with them and award funding and mindshare and great resources to that project.
It’s important to remember this because you can write the best project proposal document but without that people interaction you have a slim to no chance of getting your project funded.
While you’re preparing the project proposal document, it’s really important for you, your project sponsors and the champions of your project to go out there and actively lobby the decision makers of your organization about your project. Use those lobbying sessions and those one on one meetings to actually refine and hone your understanding of what the problems are in your organization and the benefits that your project can actually realize, that strike a chord with those decision makers.
In developing your project proposal document I highly recommend in tandem going out there and actively seeking the feedback of those decision makers so that feedback help you refine and forge the sales pitch you put together in your proposal document.
Your decision makers are going to make the decision whether to thrill or kill that project within the first five minutes of picking up your project proposal document so it’s really, really critical that you make a big impact right at the start of that project proposal document.
The way you do that is in stating that problem statement. You really need to paint a bleak picture of your organization that shows or depicts the problems that you’re having in the organization which could be overcome had your project been in production when those problems occurred. Highlight some specific examples of where opportunities were missed or where risk or costs were incurred that your project could have prevented or could have gained access to in terms of opportunities if your project had delivered by the time of that event.
Efficiency gains or general skills uplift are not the messages you want to communicate in terms of looking for those problem benefits. By saying that Sally works 50 hours a week and your project is going to solve that problem is really not going to strike a chord for those decision makers. Look for those specific examples of where your company missed an opportunity or incurred costs because your project wasn’t in place. Put those in your problem statement.
Now the vision statement is a section that needs to tie your project to the company’s long range strategy and vision and long range goals. Without tying your project in to your organizational strategy and vision you run the risk of having your project being looked upon as a rogue project: it’s out there in the distance, it really doesn’t fit with what we’re doing so you run a risk of not having your project being funded because of that reason. You need to tie your project into your company’s organizational strategies and vision.
Benefits further expand upon the vision that your project will have, that you paint the picture of that vision. You’re going into a bit more specific details on what are the things your project will deliver, what new capabilities or what costs you’re going to avoid by having the project deliverables in place. Be very specific about the benefits and make sure they’re things that are measurable.
The deliverables section further goes into another level of decomposition about what your project is going to deliver. It talks about the artefacts which your projects will deliver and how those will be delivered in terms of what the users can expect. A deliverable might be, for example, for a call center project you’re delivering new computer telephony integration. That would be a deliverable when that call center has that equipment.
Success criteria are very important to outline in that project proposal. You need to be able to have smart success criteria which mean it’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. These success criteria, once they’re met, give the project owners, the decision makers and the stakeholders 100% confidence that your project has achieved success. It’s important that you list out those criteria which everyone is looking at your project to deliver.
The next section is talking about how your project is going to achieve the deliverables and success criteria and benefits. In here is where your deadlines are listed, where the project plan comes together and what the approach to delivery might be for your project. Are you going to use external vendors? Are you going to use internal staff? Are you going to use an agile approach to delivering that project or are you going to use a more traditional waterfall method to enable your project to deliver on its deliverables?
Lastly, of course, the cost and the budget. Here’s where you pull it together and you show the funding plan for that project and how it’s going to achieve its deadlines against those deliverables and for the dollar value.
Now if you find in the first section that you’re getting into quite a lot of detail that runs past, let’s say, two pages I think it’s really important to take the time and consolidate all the high points from these into an executive summary for that document. Put the high level problem, visions and benefits in that exec summary. As I mentioned before, decision makers will take about five minutes looking at your proposal to make sure that it’s something they’re going to fund or decide that they’re not going to fund it in this year.
Ensuring those messages are concise is really critical and by putting these elements into executive summary if you find them going long is a really important way for you to quickly communicate those ideas.
It’s important to remember the flow of the document in the proposal. You need it to flow like a fiction book. You need to tell a story and paint a picture and leave no stone unturned for your decision makers to ponder. Everything needs to flow from the start of the problem down to the cost and benefits in terms of the key themes of your project need to be expounded upon, need to be mentioned at the start and then further drilled down upon throughout the rest of your project proposal.
If you have items that you’re introducing in your deliverables, for example, that don’t fit in with solving the problems you’ve identified up here or fit in with the benefits that you’re going to realize your decision makers will look at that and it will cause them to think a little bit more about your proposal in terms of does this proposal really communicate in a tight way the objectives that it’s going to achieve for the organization. It needs to flow. All the items here need to mesh with one another and not introduce any new topics or any new items as you go along in the project document.
Your project proposal is one key way for you to communicate your project’s vision and benefits to the organization but a project proposal in itself is not going to sell your project and get it funded and resourced. Only you can do that. Only your champions and your sponsor can do that. Like I said in the start, the proposal will help you sell your project and get it funded and resourced but really you need to be there actively lobbying for that project and getting it off the ground.
Once your project’s approved and funded, you need rock-solid software to take it from plan to completion. ProjectManager.com has all the features you need to build a plan to match your proposal. Get started today.