Selling an exciting idea to a business executive is never an easy task. But sometimes, it’s not your idea that they disagree on rather, it’s the manner in which it was presented. A project proposal is a core document that conveys a solution to an existing problem. In the field of technology and development, these solutions come in the form of a software or system that can help enhance specific aspects of a business.
But writing a software project proposal isn’t as easy as it seems. There a few guidelines that must be followed in order for it to suit the needs and demands of prospects.
Creating a proposal for something as huge as software project can be pretty challenging for many developers. Whether you’re a student enrolled in an Information Technology, Computer Science, or Computer Engineering program, or a professional software developer in the field, creating a software project proposal that can persuade a prospective client to do business with you is just as difficult as any other business deal.
There are a few things that a proponent needs to remember when creating a project proposal. To gain a better understanding of such, let’s start with the basics.
The length of your proposal would depend on the scope of the project. Bigger projects need to be explained clearly enough for a reader to understand the benefits and constraints of the said proposal. However, advocating for a simple proposal that’s 100 pages in length isn’t going to do you any favors. You’ll likely lose the interest of a business executive after the fifth page or so.
In certain cases, the length of your proposal would also depend on the client’s request. A proposal presenting a complex system may possibly run for 10, 20, 30, or even 50 pages long. Large organizations that have a formal proposal process would require proponents to adhere to their standards as well.
Regardless of the length required, what matters most is that you are able to expound the general functions of the system along with its development process for business executives to grasp.
Although project proposals usually vary depending on its specified purpose, there’s no harm in utilizing a template containing a general structure of a basic project proposal. This can serve as your guide if your client has not supplied you with any instructions regarding how the proposal should be made. Using a proposal template can also spare you a good amount of time and effort to focus on the actual content of the document.
1. Executive Summary
If you’ve written a proposal that’s over 20 pages long, then you might want to consider providing an executive summary of the entire document. This is the part that most executives read first before they continue reading the rest of the proposal. If the summary seems interesting enough, then this would encourage them to turn the page.
2. Project Title
Your proposal must have a title, as well as a subsection that summarizes the context of the proposal. You should also include the name of the company, department, division, or service that the project proposal is intended for. This information should be organized in a single-page format with the title located at the center of the page.
3. Table of Contents
If you’re creating a proposal that’s less than 10 pages, then you can skip this step.
The table of contents must present a complete list of all the major sections of the document. This must be arranged in a chronological manner (according to their respective page numbers), along with their subsections found in each chapter.
This part of the project proposal is crucial for both the client and the proponent alike. This section documents the confirmations made indicating that the project is a go. It contains the name of the person, their role or title, their signature, followed by the date when the document was signed. This acts as a binding agreement between each member of the said project. It is never advisable to begin with the project unless all signatures have been collected and that each member vows to stay committed to the team’s end goal.
Once these signatures have been acquired, then it would be much harder for the scope and deliverables to be changed. This will also provide a better understanding of what has been agreed upon to avoid potential disputes and concerns that may arise.
The revisions or changes section of the proposal serves as a log to document the changes that have been made or will be made to the software project proposal. But keep in mind that only minor changes to the document are being recorded, therefore changes to the scope or any other aspect of the project may not be permitted.
This section should include the name of the person making the change, the date it was changed, and a brief description or comment of the changes made.
6. Glossary and Acronyms
No matter how hard you try to use simple language, you can never completely eliminate some technical terms from being stated in your proposal, especially with a software project. But you also can’t assume that every professional knows what certain acronyms stand for or what some technical words mean. Since every organization and field is bound to have its own lingo, it’s okay to use them, as long as they are properly documented for better understanding.
Industry-specific acronyms should also be documented to formulate clearer interpretations. Otherwise, some parts of your proposal may be understood differently, which can then affect one’s perception toward it.
7. Scope and Limitations
This is one of the most important parts of every project proposal. The scope would outline the overall project details, specifically what would be included and excluded from the system. This includes an overall description of the project, its length, and its major objectives. It should clearly indicate what you are trying to accomplish if a client wishes to invest on the proposed software project.
As for the limitations of the project, try to downplay it a little. You don’t want to make a big deal out of the negatives, as this will only hurt your pitch as opposed to elevating it.
8. Project Members
The members of the project refer to those responsible for its development. This may consist of the project champion, or an executive who handles the project and its budget, and the stakeholders, who can either be an internal sponsor or promoter of the software project. Other members included in the list are the typical roles of the individuals that perform specific tasks in building the system. Depending on the scope of the proposed software, your list can be quite lengthy compared to others.
9. Business Opportunity
The business opportunity, which is a fancy term to describe the statement of the problem in a standard thesis proposal, presents the potential problems that exist within the business. Though many executives may find this hard to believe or rather offensive to know that they may need help to address these problems, this is all part of the business operation that must be dealt with accordingly.
But some problems are bigger than others. And if you fail to prove why there’s a need to solve an issue and why you’re the perfect person to call, then a prospective client may end up rejecting your proposal.
Once you have identified the problem, you must then present your proposed solution. In this section, you can include a flowchart or a navigation map showing the process flow of the project. A diagram may also be necessary to create a visual representation of how the system is meant to function.
11. Features and Deliverables
Formulating a list of deliverables and their tentative due dates can be a beneficial component of any proposal and project plan. By documenting such commitment, this creates client expectations that the development team must abide to. Rather than slacking off and sending meaningless updates to their bosses, the team can estimate the amount of workload that need to be completed within a given time frame along with the tasks that must be prioritized first. It’s almost like a project checklist that indicates what needs to be done, what has been done, and what requires a little more effort and support to work on.
12. Budget and ROI
Some executives consider this as the most critical part of your proposal. Investors are all anxious to know how much a project might cost them and how it may impact their department budget. This is especially true if the potential costs for the investment had not been considered when the company’s annual budget plan was made.
So when writing your proposal, be sure to include a breakdown of the suggested budget. You also need to be prepared for any negotiations that are likely to happen, and be flexible enough to settle with minor changes that could possibly affect your funds. But remember to be realistic when doing so. If a client offers a budget that’s far from what you need to complete the project on time, be practical and refuse the offer. It’s better to walk away from an opportunity than to settle for something that will only cause you major problems along the way.
Finally, list all the benefits that the project may bring the business. This is your chance to entice prospects with a demonstration on how the software or system may enhance the value of a company. This may be listed in bullet format or through a brief paragraph explaining each benefit, as long as it ties in with your overall objectives. However, it’s also important to keep this as specific as possible, as broad answers may fall flat in the eyes of an investor.
Everyone has an idea they want to share to the world. But bringing this idea to life costs money. Without investors and sponsors to support your program, it’ll be impossible to make ends meet. This is why having an interesting project proposal in place can be advantageous in many ways. With the help of a well-written proposal, you’re sure to make a good impression in the minds of business executives.