Essential Ingredients for Effective Project Proposals

An effective project proposal is one that converts and contributes easily, catches the eyes of those presiding as decision makers, and makes the right impact. The essential contents of effective project proposals that get successful results include:
  • A thorough and comprehensive understanding of the issue on hand;
  • Situation or the “status”;
  • Areas that lead to complicated situations in context to opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses; in other words, a further elaboration of “status”;
  • Clear statements defining the problem along with needs and requirements; typically the “what”;
  • Solution hypothesis or the “going in” position that incorporates potential benefits and features, or the “why”. This metric also includes an explanation to the benefits of a particular proposal over other alternatives.

Objectives, Scope, and Goals

The project scope is typically a general statement that addresses the solution hypothesis as well as the problem. It establishes boundaries regarding what the solution hypothesis encompasses and what it does not. The project is usually subdivided into different phases like analysis, planning, design, implementation, construction, enhancements, and maintenance. So, the scope may be a definition of the overall project and/or phases within the same.
On the other hand, objectives are certain general statements that set the direction of the project, while goals are specific results that are to be attained by the project. In most cases, there should be no more than seven or no less than three objectives. 
The approach, appropriately supported by statistics, facts, and metrics, is a written narrative that is supported by a self-explanatory work plan that defines how goals and objectives have to be accomplished. This work plan includes a breakdown of all activities into segments, phases and tasks with accompanying schedules, work days and resource estimates in place. 
Resource estimates include those linked to facilities, human skills, materials, supplies as well as equipments. While the work plan is well supported by the assumptions for quality assurance reviews, availability of resources, sign-offs and schedules can be defined over time in the form of securely loaded milestones/activities. Proper work plans can help in determining the right critical path.
Expected Results and Deliverables 
The results and end-deliverables at intermediate milestones are to be defined clearly with the statements of benefits, features, and quality standards. If the project happens to be a phase or part of a larger program, a deliverable should serve as the plan of action for the ensuing phase of work. Other than deliverables, the expected results should also be clearly defined; for instance, the experience and learning gained by members of the project team, or the resultant goodwill that impact the organization as a whole. 
The responsibilities, roles and the structure of the project should include mention of the advocates, sponsors, beneficiaries, project managers, organization in the team and the steering committee. The approach towards quality assurance reviews, progress reporting, audits, signoffs and approvals should also be defined.
Project costs are generally based on deliverables, approach and governance. They are ideally presented with allowances for performance variances and unplanned activities. Additionally, all costs are to be presented as estimates on the basis of the assumptions defined in the approach. If these costs are related to downstream work phases then they should be defined as approximations with relation to the refinement based on future work.
Call for Action
This is a description of schedules, next steps, and responsibilities linked to the “what,” “status”, and “why.” A call for action should ably reveal the benefits of the approach and solution, as well as the reasons why it addresses opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses identified in the defined problem statement. The conclusion of the proposal should have a memorable statement related to the advantages of the proposed approach and the next steps that are to be taken by the audience. 
In case the audience is oriented towards “bottom-line” notes then recommendations should be presented with regards to the conclusions based upon facts. However, if people are “analytically” oriented then the findings should ideally lead to recommendations and conclusions. In the case of larger sized projects, a certain amount of design work and analysis may have to be done before a cost/benefit analysis is performed. The costs have to be approximated before the cost/benefit analysis and estimated thereafter. The basis of the decision for a “go/no go” of further work lies in the cost/benefit analysis. This because implementation costs are generally a multiple of those related to analysis, planning, and design.
Way Forward
After the proposal is approved, the structure of work breakdown is usually decomposed into a budget (as monetary terms) and a work program (as days or hours). These figures are activity weighted with appropriate resources on the basis of skill levels, and over time. The intermediate deliverables are to be produced regularly to maintain stable project momentum and ensure that work remains on track.
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Author : Uma Daga

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Uma Daga