Ability to write a professional and convincing project proposal is a key skill to have for every student or manager. Some documents are more important than others. Even if one’s idea is ground-breaking and innovative, it may forever be buried under unless it gets an approval. Post-reading this article, one will be equipped to write an effective project proposal that no client can turn down
1. Define The Project Benefit/Strength
Along with defining your project objective, it is better to mention the benefits of the project or its key strengths. While doing so, you could try to include this part in the introduction/abstract portion. Most readers or decision-makers tend to read the initial pages very carefully and the aforementioned detail will catch the reader’s eye. A SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis could also be briefly written in this section, which will make sure that your project proposal will stand out from the rest and provides more value. Irrespective of the project objective, your project proposal should mention the following as its key benefits
- Relevance of the topic in the current environment or market
- Broadness of the project objective
- Credentials of project members
- Suggested partnerships with industries/other companies/academic institutions to showcase combined strengths
- How the project can add value to minority persons’ lives
- Social responsibility
- Originality and uniqueness of the project objective
- Ways to evaluate/assess project outcome and progress
- Cost-benefit ratio
- Opportunity to scale up the project in future if commercially viable
- The payback period of investment, considering the current market conditions
2. Write An Executive Summary
Depending on how elaborate your project is going to be, providing a perfect summary of your project and its objective will help throw light on your ideas. This is, in effect, a brief description of your project idea. You should try to be very clear about what you are hoping to achieve and your idea. It is also very crucial to keep in mind that the person/s evaluating your proposal might not be as well versed in your field of work. Therefore, the summary of the project along with its description should be understandable to every person reading it.
The executive summary is, as the name suggests, intended for top-level management and can include key insights from the project in the form of tables, graphs or infographics. The executive summary will turn out to be paramount as the ideas are shaped, presenting it to colleagues, speaking with middle-level managers and officers, and, eventually, convince potential investors for funding the project.
Whether your project proposal is of a single page or 100 pages, it is always advisable to start with an executive summary. However, it is enticing to plunge into the technical details of your proposal and even though it would solicit attention from ready-to-buy parties/influencers, most top-level decision-makers would seem less interested in them. Instead, what they would like to know is the project’s potential benefits for them.
3. Clearly Define The Goals
Now it is time to define the goals that you hope to achieve from your project. This is essentially a succinct declaration about your project’s reason for existing and what larger picture/business problem it hopes to solve. You may even defend your project’s timely positioning by touching down on the existing market landscape where opportunities lie and how your project can tap into them. An example of a well-defined goal statement is as follows:
“This project aims to develop a functional prototype which can be fitted to automobiles so that its emission can be controlled to meet EURO VI emission norms. Challenges associated with sulfur poisoning of the catalyst is also resolved using the proposed arrangement. By employing the proposed emission control system, the overall SO-x (Sulphur Dioxide) and NOx (Nitrous Dioxide) from the car’s exhaust appears to have reduced to thirty percent of initial values. CFD simulations have been very useful for analyzing the designed models and for optimizing various design parameters. CFD analysis involves analyzing the flow and other parameters in a virtual environment as per the initial and boundary conditions fed to the system. Fabrication of the designed system has been initiated, and CFD simulations have been carried out to validate the geometric design.”
4. Define Project Scope
Numerous projects have started with great ideas, implemented with genuine efforts and reinforced by heavy investments. Nevertheless, many of them do not achieve the success level they were intended to. One of the main reasons for this is the lacking of a clear project scope. A sufficiently sketched scope ensures good project quality to the involved stakeholders within the mandated cost and time. Often, product scope is confused with project scope. The former is a standalone system within the project. The needs, objectives, drivers, etc will be different for both. In a way, product scope can be considered as a subset of project scope. Project scope is work-specific and is required to complete the project objectives. Whereas, a product scope includes the properties of deliverables during the formation of a project. Besides, the scope of the product is quantified against requisites.
However, the scope of a project is measured against its roadmap/plan. Each project scope has to be effectively captured, defined as well as documented. Only then will the project can proceed in an attuned approach. Attaining goals as enumerated in the project scope might be the key element determining project success. Because defining and following scope is the pragmatic way to execute the road map. Below follows a generic and most common way of creating project scope.
- Justify the project
- Justify the product/service
- Defining the deliverables of the project, against project scope
- Enumerate the project objectives
That said, the following elements are paramount and hence should be included in your project proposal at all costs, to ensure its acceptance and success.
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- Project Scope
- Project Timeline
- Project Cost
- Project Quality and Key Performance Indicators
- Ensure Stakeholder Satisfaction
5. Lay Out The Project Timeline
It is also very important to include the timelines of the project in your proposal for early approval. While mentioning the project timeline, one has to be most specific in detailing the individual items in the scope. Such as how much time each item in the scope takes to complete. In the case of inter-dependent parts of scope, one can define tolerance levels in the project scope time. For example, + or – a few days/hours/months depending on the nature of the project. It is also interesting to note that certain industrial project managers provide timelines to clients for getting their scope items reviewed.
Each project requires a project timeline for achieving its deliverables. This timeline has to articulate the broader project roadmap and project objectives, along with the stipulated deadlines if any. It is also very important the timelines can be customizable after getting feedback from the prospective stakeholders. As a project manager, one has to ensure the project timeframes are strictly followed, to meet the quality criteria and maintain client confidence. The stakeholder would like to be confident the project manager has a plan to meet individual project milestones. This is done so that the quality of the final product/service is not compromised and therefore enabling quality control.
6. Include Budget Allocation
Allocation of the budget for your scope of work is, perhaps, the most crucial aspect of a project proposal. One has to understand the project budget is the financial expression of your statement of work. It becomes easier to create a budget if you know what you are trying to achieve and how you will achieve that. Budgets are often a best estimate of the costs and most top-level stakeholders understand this. Therefore, according to the nature of your project, the individual items in the budget may change. But a generic budget involves the following:
All manpower including the names, roles, how many months, or the percent of effort that will be devoted to the project. Salaries and wages should typically be budgeted with the industry-standard inflation rate per year.
- Travel and accommodation
Characterized as expenses for travel, lodging, subsistence and related items incurred by manpower allotted throughout for the project. Travel can be both domestic as well as foreign and hence need to be mentioned separately. Travel justification should include who is traveling, where, the purpose of the trip, the number of trips, the costs for the travel fare, lodging, vehicle rental, fuel costs and other costs associated with the travel.
Equipment includes any tools, tackles, instruments, and machinery required for carrying out the whole or a part of scope throughout for the project.
- Material and Supplies
This section includes both consumable and non-consumable provisions to employees and managers associated with the project. Since it may be impossible to list out each item which falls under “Material and Supplies”, a general description shall suffice.
- Indirect Costs
Any other costs associated with the project, including Hiring additional consultants, Visa cost (in case of foreign travel), animal care cost, administration costs, etc fall under this category.
7. Include Project Team Details
This forms a key element in project proposal preparation. The credentials, both educational qualifications and previous work experiences in relevant projects, of those involved in the project throughout the project, shall be mentioned in the proposal. This practice helps leverage the workforce credentials to gain the confidence of stakeholders/decision-maker. Depending on the nature of the project, skilled or semi-skilled labor might be a mandatory requirement.
8. Explain Project Methodology
Explaining project methodology in a proposal is a crucial element for clarity of the project and gaining investor confidence. Besides, techniques such as Gantt chart could be instituted to track the status of the project. Also, this section is where the deliverables from the project can be listed along with their timelines. In this section, you can also mention how the funds requested/allotted from the stakeholder in the project budget will be utilized. Hence, explaining the project methodology in a clearly defined structure is sure to obtain stakeholder confidence.
9. Include Communication And Reporting
Perhaps the most important aspect of writing a proposal, clear communication in proposal ensures the decision-maker/reviewer understands what the proposal writer intends to articulate. Brevity is of essence in writing a proposal. However, that should not result in the loss of important details in the proposal. In all the sections, that precede budgeting, a clear road map has to be presented throughout underlining the need for execution of your project, how it will benefit the stakeholder/investor and the project execution plan. Regardless of the nature of your project, clear articulation and brevity are of prime importance while designing a project proposal.
10. Define The Payment Structure
The payment structure throughout the project can be defined through Milestone based method of payment.
For instance, proposals for consultancy assignment/projects elicit a 40% advance upon signing the contract with the client. Thereafter, proceeding payments are disbursed by the client after each milestone is achieved.
Often, the budget along with the payment structure for the project is mutually decided upon consultation with the client. While defining the payment structure in the proposal, local trade and government rules have to be enumerated along with any other general terms and conditions followed by the organization. For making corporate proposals, templates exist within the organization for declaring the budget as well as payment structure. Similar practices follow for academic proposals as well. When responding to RFP (Request for Proposals) by any government or federal bodies, mandated templates need to be followed by the person preparing the proposal.
11. Company Background And Achievements
Considering the project proposal is written by an employee of a company, it is worthwhile to include similar projects done by the firm in the past and their cumulative value. This practice gives more confidence to the investor/stakeholder to accept the proposal. Also, reference letters and recommendation documents could be added to showcase the company’s strength. For example, federal/corporate tenders mandate the inclusion of previous project experiences and the total value of projects handled by the company.
In many ways, writing a conclusion is synonymous with writing an executive summary for the proposal. All the key findings-results expected, a cost-benefit analysis for the stakeholder/s, socio-economic benefits, the roadmap for execution of project, possible opportunities, threats and roadblocks anticipated by the designer, SWOT analysis, etc. could be added here. Although, there is no globally defined methodology for writing a perfect conclusion for a project proposal. However, all the key facts, figures and statements detailed in the proposal should be collated in this section. Unlike an executive summary, the conclusion of a project proposal need not include technical details diluted into layman’s language, rather should concentrate more on the benefits/strengths of the project. In this section, a roadmap for future expansion/scale-up plan can also be included. A SWOT analysis can be done here again as a separate section for such plans. Such an approach will throw light on the far-sightedness of the person who proposed and will gain stakeholder confidence.