In order to get the best out of any project, it is important that a clear and concise project proposal is written, and one that is personalised for each project. The key of a project proposal is to help the project manager structure documents, so that focus is on the proposed plan and its related materials.

Empathy with the end user is crucial. This means understanding what and how they are thinking and what the end user's expectations are. Some of the many key questions that you will need to think about as you create a project proposal are:

  • What's the challenge you're trying to solve?
  • How does the project align with your company's overall strategic goals?
  • What are the benefits for the end user?
  • What metrics will you use to measure success?
  • What are the deliverables, and do they align with the budget?
  • Who are the key stakeholders, and what are their duties?
  • What is the timeframe, what are the deadlines, and what is the plan to achieve the expectations?

While there are many strategies to plan a project proposal, here are the top three that should be taken into account:

Research and Due Diligence

A well planned and thought process needs to be implemented before writing a proposal. This mean carrying out detailed research into all the possible variables listed in the questions above, and really figuring out what is best for the end user. Giving yourself extra time in case things do not work out in the end is also important because that way you can deal with any extra last-minute requests or delays to the project. This also means having a backup plan for resources, including stakeholders who may not be able to make it for the full timeline of the project.

If the correct amount of research and due diligence is carried out, there is less of a chance of any risk involved (though risks are always going to be an ingredient of any project management issue). To eliminate risks, it is important to get feedback on the draft proposal from stakeholders and from peers. Not only can this save a lot of time and effort when delivering the actual proposal, but it can help to set realistic expectations and add credibility because everyone has been briefed and they are on the same page. A key part of any project is to gain the 'buy in' and trust from everyone, and so if you have the support throughout the creation of the project proposal phase then that is an extra positive moral booster.

Nail the Executive Summary

The finer details count when a project proposal is written, and the first impressions are key to access. Just as if you are writing a resume to sell yourself when applying for a job, or if you are pitching to sell any type of product or service, it is vital to impress your audience in your opening pitch. Be clear, be concise, and get to the point of what exactly the project is about and why it matters to have the resources and the people on the project. The executive summary needs to be factual but at the same time it needs to be an interesting and exciting statement of work that addresses a problem that needs resolution and one that can be profitable.

Provide a project background and history, as well as detailed synopsis of the type of project, its scope, industry analysis, and competitor research. Explain the return of investment without overloading the document with too much information. The best executive summary showcases the key aspects of the research and due diligence you have carried out. Finally, make sure that you mention keywords because the majority of the readers will just scan through the summary and pick up useful notes without reading every single word.