How to Write a Project Proposal

July 16, 2008 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Proposals

How to Write a Project Proposal
By Michael D. Taylor



The purpose of a project proposal is to determine if a proposed project is feasible, practical, and worth pursuing.

Who Writes the Proposal?

The project proposal is usually developed from discussions among key stakeholders, and is generally written by marketing personnel, a project sponsor, or a project manager.

What Should a Proposal Contain?

The project proposal should address at least the following questions, but this too depends on the corporate culture, and should be adapted accordingly.

Project Proposal

A new project should be authorized only if it successfully addresses each of the following questions:

1) How will this project solve the problem, or meet a need?

New product projects must be based on meeting a need or solving a problem. For commercial products marketing personnel attempt to identify needs within a market segment. In some cases, a customer may define its needs and seek a corporation that can best meet them. Another marketing strategy is to identify a problem to be solved within a market segment. It is this need, or opportunity, that becomes the fundamental reason for considering a new product project. This aspect of the proposal should consider the following aspects: Describe the problem to be solved or the need to be met. Describe the factual evidence that defines the problem or need. Verify the accuracy of the factual evidence, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

2) Proposed Solution?

Next, the solution to the need (or problem) is to be evaluated. How well does it meet the need? Who are the competitors, and how will the new product fit into the market window?

3) What will be the goal of this project?

In most cases, the problem solution becomes the goal of the project. Whenever possible, the goal should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant to the corporate strategy
  • Time-lined.

4) What are the product (or service) requirements?

Either marketing personnel, or a customer will identify the product requirements–what the product is expected to do, and how it must perform. Requirements at this stage are embryonic and will be defined during the project planning processes. Most customers don’t know what they want until they know what you can provide.

5) Is this project aligned with corporate goals and strategies?

The proposed project should be evaluated against the overall strategies of the corporation to ensure that it is properly aligned with its strategic goals. Business strategies may include any one of the following:

  • Delayed Revenue Generation. Defer immediate return on investment in favor of generating revenue from long-term product operations and support.
  • Market Penetration. Saturate market at near cost value to become the dominant leader.
  • Immediate Revenue Generation. Produce a maximum return on investment in the shortest possible period.

6) What is the overall scope of work required for this project?

Provide a top-level description of the overall scope of the project. At this point, not enough information is typically available to describe scope in detail. This will take place during the initial planning stage of the project. However, the general description of the project’s scope should be sufficient for making rough estimates of the project’s schedule and costs.

7) What obstacles and risks will this project face?

Any identifiable obstacles and risks (threats) that might prevent the successful attainment of the project goals must be considered. Each risk must be analyzed, quantified, and prioritized as much as possible with the information available at this stage of a new project.

Risk responses, including mitigations, risk sharing, risk avoidance, and risk tolerances should be described in this portion of the project proposal.

8) How long will this project take (schedule)?

Once a general product concept is established, and its requirements are proposed, an estimate of the project’s duration is to be made. Since most information at this stage is very general, only a top-level schedule duration estimate can be made, and it is usually given as a range estimate, such as “the schedule duration is estimated to be between 19 to 26 months.”

9) How much will this project cost?

Order of magnitude cost estimates are also made as part of the project proposal, and like the schedule estimate, are usually given as a range, such as, “the cost is estimated to be between $2.1 to $2.6 Million.” Cash flow tables, projected return-on investment, and funding requirements are also considered in this step.

Project Forecasted ROI

Projected ROI depends on the market size, the estimated market share to be gained, and the cost per unit. Before marketing and sales personnel can determine the quantity of units to be sold in a given commercial market, a design must be proposed. The product design at this stage need not be a detailed design since that would be impractical. The most likely individuals to propose new products designs would be the project manager and the functional managers. Marketing and sales personnel can then take the proposed designs and examine the ROI in a given market. Should the ROI be deemed too low, the designs can be modified until an optimal design vs. sales ROI is attained. Techniques such as “conjoint analysis” can greatly assist with this process1. The figure below illustrates how this design vs. pricing iteration cycle takes place.

10) What resources will be required by this project?

Before a project can be authorized it is vital that a corporation consider the resources needed to support it. Resources include needed personnel, equipment, facilities, processes, and funding. Should insufficient resources be available it may be necessary to either outsource portions of the project, or reduce its scope to fall within available resources.

1 Conjoint analysis, also called multi-attribute compositional models, is a statistical technique that originated in mathematical psychology. Today it is used in many of the social sciences and applied sciences including marketing, product management, and operations research. The objective of conjoint analysis is to determine what combination of a limited number of attributes is most preferred by respondents. It is used frequently in testing customer acceptance of new product designs and assessing the appeal of advertisements. It has been used in product positioning, but there are some problems with this application of the technique.

MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. He also taught courses in the UCSC Extension Leadership and Management Program (LAMP), and was a guest speaker at the 2001 Santa Cruz Technology Symposium. His website is

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15 people have left comments

[…] but healthy process for a group of key stakeholders in a corporate environment. For that reason, a project proposal should be written and approved before the project charter is […]

How to Write a Project Charter – Part 1 – PM Hut wrote on February 6, 2009 - 6:17 pm | Visit Link

though this site gives us help about how to write a project proposal but i (think as a student)you should give a sample of a project proposal online so that the new comers on this site can properly take an idea of proposal

falak naz wrote on March 19, 2009 - 6:45 am | Visit Link

Hi Falak,

here’s a project proposal template (it’s actually labeled as concept proposal).

PM Hut wrote on March 19, 2009 - 10:12 am | Visit Link

This is only an introduction. Can you tell me all abouse project proposal from planning stage to evaluation stage.

ZUBAIDA FUTA wrote on April 7, 2009 - 8:07 am | Visit Link

This is a well articulate and all embracing project proposal format. you have really done perfectly well.

Ajayi, Adeyemi wrote on April 29, 2009 - 6:44 am | Visit Link

It’s good to find guides on making a project proposals on line. It surely help me a lot. Thanks.

MARIA DOLORES C. YABUNAN wrote on July 15, 2009 - 8:57 pm | Visit Link

It is a good approach and it would be better if a sample was given to make it easy to understand.
Thanks for good work.

Charles wrote on August 5, 2009 - 10:50 am | Visit Link

Thanks for the enlighten my elite on projct proposal. I will apperciate were you could help with a tutorial. I wish to presuade my master programme in project management.

Choloply Q. Toe wrote on August 21, 2009 - 9:41 am | Visit Link

I would like a sample copy of your project proposal report.
thank you

Ronald Wakere wrote on November 26, 2009 - 12:36 am | Visit Link

For those who have not made a project proposal, a set-by-step process on how to make one would be more practical. For example, there is a dearth of Ilocano (one of the Philippine”s ethno-linguistic groups) magazines in the country, especially in Northern Luzon. There is a great number of writers in the language.One of the biggest dailies can publish the magazine. How will the writers make the project proposal to the sail daily newspaper?

Peter La. Julian wrote on July 7, 2010 - 4:12 pm | Visit Link

Hi friends i want know how to write project proposal.
Thank for your concern.

Wilfred Browne wrote on July 22, 2010 - 10:25 am | Visit Link

I think this is very important for all those interested in aquaring knowledge. i only thank all those who were behind this because it a way of sharing, hence contributes to development.

Musisi Rajab wrote on August 28, 2010 - 4:09 am | Visit Link

It’s one of the important tool used by a number of organizations to mobilize the resources. So you’re doing good job to empower groups, individuals and organizations to manage their own projects.

Mr. Patric Masiemo- Kenya wrote on September 5, 2010 - 5:38 am | Visit Link

Project Information
Project Time-frame: STARTDATE – ENDDATE
Attached worksheets:
Plan > Resource needs
Related Documents:
Project proposal > Target audience and benefits
Software development methodology
Process impact: This plan will be used to evaluate and manage the project. Key assumptions that affect the plan should be documented here. The project plan should be updated throughout the life-time of the project.
TODO: Fill in the information above and below. Add or remove rows as needed. Use the worksheet to help identify and scope resource needs.
Summary of Project

ONE OR TWO SENTENCES HERE. For more information see the Project proposal.

Summary of Methodology

What general development approach will be used?
How will the project team be organized?
The development team will consist of …
The change control board will consist of …
What development and collaboration tools will be use?
We plan to use the following tools extensively through out the project:

* Project website
* Project mailing lists
* Issue tracking system
* Version control system
* Automated build system
* Automated unit test system

How will changes be controlled?

* Requests for requirements changes will be tracked in the issue tracker
* The change control board (CCB) will review requested changes and authorize work on them as appropriate
* After the feature complete milestone, no new features will be added to this release.
* After the code complete milestone, no entirely new product source code will be added to this release.
* All source code commit log messages must refer to a specific issue ID, after the feature complete milestone.

How will this plan be updated?
This project plan will be updated as needed throughout the project. It will be placed under version control and instructions for accessing it will be on the project website. Any change to the plan will cause an automatic notification to be sent to a project mailing list.

Work Breakdown Structure and Estimates
TODO: List tasks that will be needed for this project. Keep dividing tasks into subtasks until you feel that you have enough detail to expose risks and make reasonable estimates in ideal engineering hours.
TIP: Label each step uniquely to show its position in the WBS, e.g., Step 1.1.4.A. Use numbers for steps that you intend to do in sequence, and use letters for steps that you intend to do in parallel. E.g., Step 1.1 comes before Steps 1.2.A and 1.2.B, but those two steps may be done in parallel, and Step 1.3 will be done after all 1.2.* steps have been finished. Don’t worry about renumbering if you delete a step.
Step Description Estimate
1. Preparation
1.1. Developer training 30h
2. Inception
2.1. Requirements gathering 30h
2.2. Requirements specification 20h
2.3. Requirements validation 10h
3. Elaboration
3.1. High-level design 5h
3.2. Low-level design (break down by component)
3.2.A. Object design 10h
3.2.B. User interface design 10h
3.2.C. Database design 3h
3.3. Design review and evaluation 5h
4. Construction
4.1.A. System implementation
4.1.A.1. Implement COMPONENT-NAME 1 25h
4.1.A.2. Implement COMPONENT-NAME 2 25h
4.1.A.3. Implement COMPONENT-NAME 3 25h
4.1.A.4. Implement COMPONENT-NAME 4 25h
Integrate Components
(mostly done during component implementation)
4.1.B. Technical documentation (break down by component) 10h
4.1.C. User documentation (break down by component) 10h
4.1.D. Testing
4.1.D.1. Test planning 10h
4.1.D.2. Test code implementation (break down by component) 30h
4.1.D.3. Test execution 10h
4.2. Implementation review and evaluation 15h
5. Transition
5.A. Release packaging 3h
5.B. Documentation for other groups 3h
6. Reflection
6.1. Postmortem report 10h
Total 329 hours
Deliverables in this Release
TODO: List project deliverables in detail, with delivery dates.
Deliverable Name Description Delivery Date
Deliverable Name Description Delivery Date
Deliverable Name Description Delivery Date
Deliverable Name Description Description Description Description Description Description Description Description Delivery Date
Deliverable Name Description Delivery Date
Schedule for this Release
TODO: Make the rows in this table match the steps in your WBS above. If you have a large number of detailed steps, you can skip the most detailed ones. The columns of the table represent weeks of calendar time. For each cell in the table, enter the number of hours ideal engineering time that the team will spend on that task that week. Total your hours across and down.
TIP: These hours should total to the same as the total of the hours listed in your resource needs document. And, the hours for each type of effort resources needed should correspond to the sum for each type of task.
Task \ Week W-01 W-02 W-03 W-04 W-05 W-06 W-07 W-08 W-09 W-10 W-11 W-12 Task Total
1. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
2. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
3. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
4.1.A. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
4.1.B. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
4.1.C. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
4.1.D. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
4.2. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
5. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
6. 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
Weekly Totals 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
Risk Management
TODO: List and rank the major risks of this project, and what you plan to do to mitigate each risk. If you don’t plan to do anything to mitigate the risk, state that. Use the risk list below, or the risks worksheet.

Please see the risks worksheet.

The main risks of this project are:

1. There is a potential conflict between the goals of a high-quality appearance and one that is completely customizable. We can only succeed if players find the web site appealing, and game vendors can customize it with no more effort than would be needed to build a static website. We already have a design in mind that will address this risk and we will review it with a web site designer who worked for a game vendor site.
2. There are significant technical difficulties in building a web site and web application. This will be a risk because one person on our team has much experience with the relevant tools and technologies. Although the others will learn, we will certainly make some mistakes and suboptimal choices. We will address this risk by scoping the project such that we have enough time to train and to review the design and implementation.
3. The schedule for this project is very short. We will manage this by planning a conservatively scoped functional core and series of functional enhancements that can be individually slipped to later releases if needed.
4. The performance of the system will be significantly impacted by the decisions made during the database design task. None of our current team members has experience with database optimization. To address this, we will arrange a review meeting with an experienced DBA or hire a consultant from the database vendor.
5. We could be underestimating known tasks. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
6. We could be underestimating the impact of unknown tasks. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
7. We could be underestimating the dependencies between tasks. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
8. We could have misunderstood the customer’s requirements. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
9. The customer could change the requirements. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
10. We could face major difficulties with the technology chosen for this project. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
11. We could have low quality that demands significant rework. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
12. We could incorrectly assess our progress until it is too late to react. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
13. We could lose resources. E.g., team members could get sick, spend time on other projects, or quit. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?
14. There may be a mis-alignment of stakeholder goals or expectations. HOW TO AVOID/MITIGATE?

Project Planning Dependencies

Does this project conflict or compete for resources with any other project?
No, this is the only project that we are working on.
Yes, and we have determined how many hours each person can actually dedicate to this project.
Are the same human or machine resources allocated to maintenance of past versions and/or planning of future versions during this release time period?
No, this is the first release and we will not plan the next release.
Yes, we predict that team members will spend an average of 20% of their time maintaining previous releases and planning future releases during this release time frame. Some weeks may be higher if an urgent patch to a previous release is needed.
Does this project depend on the success of any other project?
No, this project stands alone.
Yes, project P1 must provide library L, and project P2 must prove the usability of feature F, and….
Does any other project depend on this project?
No, project is not producing any components that will be used in other current projects.
Yes, we must produce library L for our project and support users of L in projects P1 and P2.
Are there any other important dependencies that will affect this project?
No, everything is covered above.

TODO: Check for words of wisdom and discuss ways to improve this template. Or, eva

sherzad. M.permosa wrote on December 24, 2010 - 12:25 pm | Visit Link

I’d like a copy of a project proposal seeking donor funding for an impact project such as water supply project in a developing country like Papua New Guinea.

Baia wrote on December 8, 2011 - 9:32 am | Visit Link

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