Sometimes referred to as a ‘business case’, the project proposal states the highest level goals in a project. It outlines the overall business goals and vision for the project as decided by the customer or client. It is sometimes drawn up well before the project starts although you may (if you are lucky) also get a hand in its creation.
The basic proposal should contain the vision for the project and the business goals, what your client hopes to achieve at a business level. There may also be a large amount of supporting information in order to qualify or corroborate the stated goals but the goal itself should be clear. The supporting information might include preliminary forms of the project planning documents, such as budgets, schedules and so forth.
Project proposals are often vital documents because they are what gets signed off when a commercial deal is agreed. As such you need to consider them carefully because they may be define what your are legally committed to delivering.
Below is an example based on our hypothetical sales and marketing system. The vision is stated first and after that a list of specific business and technical goals is listed. Each of the specific goals contributes directly to the vision of delivering the sales and marketing system.
Whizz-Bang Customer Relationship Mangling System
The project should deliver the best Customer, Sales and Marketing system on the market, it
- Reduce time taken to process sales orders by 50% (of manual process times)
- Provide detailed management reports on a quarterly basis
- Provide detailed market and customer analysis at request
- Link sales directly to marketing initiatives to measure marketing ROI
- Provide detailed client and prospect information to account managers
- Completely automate licence renewals via a website
- Provide a zero-footprint client, accessible via the Internet
- Provide an upgrade path for users of other sales order systems
You will note that this is not long or overly detailed. It provides an adequate framework for moving the project forward without getting bogged down in detail. The goals outlined will probably be supported by a fair amount of commercial and market research but within the context of the project, the above should be more than adequate. The level of detail will depend on the size and importance of your project to the organisation.
You should also note that some goals are more specific than others. For example “reduce time taken to process sales orders by 50%” is a fairly specific, readily testable goal. On the other hand “provide detailed management reports on a quarterly basis” is a little bit vague. What kind of reports? In what format? For whom?
Although more detail is desirable it is probably not necessary at this stage. The broad goals have been laid out and it will be the purpose of subsequent phases (like requirements specification) to define how they will be achieved.
Spend enough time on your proposal to make sure it is accurate and succinct. It will be the yardstick against which senior management will judge the success of your project. Don’t spend so much time on it that you delay the commencement of the project proper.
Nick Jenkins is an IT manager with 10 years experience in software development, project management and software testing. He’s worked in various fields of IT development in Australia, Britain and the USA and occasionally he learned something along the way. Now he lives on the banks of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia, and he publishes the odd guide to help aspiring IT professionals. Nick’s website can be found at www.nickjenkins.net.