A project proposal is the “sales pitch” to convince outside contributors to join your call to action. This is a required step in formal business proceedings, facilitating the expenditure of resources towards a certain goal. Your overall purpose is to lay out a plan of action and clearly communicate it to those who can enable the plan to move forward.
The Purpose of a Project Proposal
- Establish project viability
- Clarify goals
- Create structure
A project proposal can have any of the following general forms:
- Formally solicited – The interested organization has submitted a Request For Proposal.
- Informally solicited – No request in writing, however the organization has expressed casual interest.
- Unsolicited – The equivalent of a cold pitch.
- Continuation or renewal – This extends the frame on an existing project.
- Supplemental – A side project which is needed to facilitate an existing project.
Before Writing a Proposal
- You should have in mind a clear goal. Start with the problem you want to solve and demonstrate why it is an important issue worthy of resource expenditure. Then detail your plan of action for solving the problem, meeting the need, or otherwise resolving the situation.
- After this, gather all the information you can on the resources you will need to accomplish this project. This can include time frame, budget, manpower, supplies, and your plan to manage them.
- Next, outline your success condition. Detail the deliverables, and the deadline to expect them. Also detail any risks and issues that might be encountered along the way, with possible routes to resolution should the project become roadblocked.
- Close by summarizing the project’s scope, and cite historical precedents where applicable. If you can find documentation supporting your proposal, have it ready to attach.
A Project Proposal Outline
The introductory information, outlining the project name, a top-level summary, a timeframe, and the names of the organization and any personnel who will be involved.
- Project Summary
Lay out the reasons for this project, and state its objectives. Give the background information here: Why is this an urgent matter that we must act on immediately? Justify why the project must happen and detail the benefits to the organization, company, committee, or society in general at the project’s successful completion.
- Project Plan
This is the part where you lay out your methods for accomplishing the project. Refer back to the objectives in the last step, and outline how your plan will meet those objectives. Break down the tasks into steps and document their timeframe estimates and required resources. This plan should be so thoroughly mapped that a successor could step into your place and accomplish the project in your absence.
- Risk Management
Now you ask “What could go wrong, and what is the worst that could happen if it did?” Some projects are inherently risky. Just because a project has risks does not make it a bad idea, however. You should outline how you will monitor the projects for signs of risk, detain a list of possible risk scenarios, your plan for overcoming these obstacles should they arise.
How much will all this cost? There should be a detailed line-item expenditure sheet here, broken up into categories of wages or other compensation, costs of materials, contractors needed, travel needs, and anything you’d include in a business budget that will be necessary to the project’s success.
This is your closing argument. Summarize the above points, and demonstrate why your project proposal should be put into action. You should leave the audience with the impression that you have “done your homework,” adequately researched all solutions and courses of action, and are an expert in the topic of this project’s scope.
Attach citations from past cases, case studies, historic precedent, charts and graphs, and whatever else the audience needs to see. If you have had experience with a similar project and completed it successfully, by all means include that here.
As stated, just because a project has risks does not mean it’s a bad project proposal. History is full of dicey propositions that worked out because somebody came forward with a good project proposal. History is also full of projects that failed, even in a spectacular fashion, which nevertheless started out as a sound project proposal.
Finally, not every project is guaranteed success. If your plan is justified by nothing more than a theory, but you’re tackling an urgent problem with no clear solution presented by anyone else, it just may be the solution everyone’s been looking for. You can be a successful project manager and still have a project fail, as long as you can demonstrate that you had the right idea and plan, and that the failure was an unforeseeable catastrophe that was out of your control.
This is certainly the place to demonstrate your passion and commitment to your goals. The point of a project proposal is to show that you have thought the idea through completely, and that you are the competent and capable person to bring it to realization.