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Project Management

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Common Sections in a Proposal
Organization of winning proposals
Formats of Proposals
Sometips for writing and presenting proposals
CommonSections in Proposals:
Thefollowing is a review of the sectionsyou will commonly find in proposals. Do not assume
thateach one of them has to be in the actual proposal you write, nor thatthey have to be in the
orderthey are presented here,plus you may discoverthat other kinds of information not
mentionedhere must be included in your particularproposal.
Plan the introduction to your proposal carefully. Make sure it caters to all of the
followingthings (but not necessarily in this order) that apply to your particular
Indicatethat the document to follow is a proposal.
Refer to some previous contact with the recipient of the proposal or to yoursource
of information about the project.
Find one brief motivating statementthat will encourage the recipient to read on and
to consider doing the project.
Give an overview of the contents of the proposal.
Rememberthat you may notneed allof these elements, and some of them can combine
neatlyinto single sentences. Theintroduction ought to be brisk and to the point and not
feel as though it is trudging laboriouslythrough each of theseelements.
Background on the Opportunity:
Oftenoccurring just after the introduction, the background section discusses what has
broughtabout the need for the project; what problem, whatopportunity there is for
improvingthings, what the basicsituation is. An owner of pinetimberland may want to
get the land productive of saleabletimber without destroying the ecology.
It is true that the audience of the proposalmay know the problem verywell, in which
casethis section might not be needed. Writing the background section still might be
useful,however, in demonstrating yourparticular view of the problem.And, if the
proposal is unsolicited, a background section is almost a requirement; you willprobably
need to convince the audience that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should
be addressed.
Benefitsand Feasibility of theProposed Project:
Mostproposals discuss the advantages or benefits of doing the proposed project.This
acts as an argument in favor of approving the project. Also, some proposals discuss the
likelihood of the project's success. In the forestry proposal, the proposer is
recommending that the landowner make an investment; at the end of the proposal, he
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explores the question of what return there will be on that investment,how likely those
returns are. In the unsolicited proposal,this section is particularly important as you are
trying to "sell" the audience on the project.
Description of the Proposed Work(Results of theProject):
Mostproposals must describe the finished product of the proposed project. In this
course,that means describing the written document you propose to write, its audience
and purpose; providing an outline; and discussing such things as its length, graphics,
binding, and so forth.) In the scenario youdefine, there may be otherwork such as
conductingtraining seminars or providing an ongoing service. Add thattoo.
Method,Procedure, Theory:
In most proposals, you willwant to explain how youwill go about doing the proposed
work, if approved to do it. Thisacts as an additional persuasiveelement; it shows the
audience you have a sound, well-thought-out approach to the project. Also, it serves as
the other form of backgroundsome proposals need. Rememberthat the background
section (the one discussed above)focused on the problem or needthat brings about the
proposal.However, in this section, we willdiscuss the technical backgroundrelating to
the procedures or technology youplan to use in the proposed work.For example, in the
forestryproposal, the writer gives a bit of background on howtimber management is
done. Once again, this gives the proposal writer a chance to show that you knowwhat
youare talking about, and buildconfidence in the audience that youare a good choice
to do the project.
Mostproposals contain a section thatshows not only the projectedcompletion date but
alsokey milestones for the project. If you are doing a largeproject spreading overmany
months, the timeline would also show dates on which you woulddeliver progress
reports. And if you cannot citespecific dates, cite amounts of time or time spansfor
eachphase of the project.
Most proposals contain a summary of the proposingindividual's or organization's
qualifications to do the proposed work. It is like a mini-resume contained in the
proposal.The proposal audience uses it to decide whether you are suited for the project.
Therefore,this section lists work experience, similar projects, references, training,and
educationthat show familiarity with the project.
Costs,Resources Required:
Mostproposals also contain a section detailing the costs of the project,whether internal
or external. With external projects, you may need to listyour hourly rates,projected
hours, costs of equipment and supplies, and so forth, and then calculate the total cost of
the complete project. With internal projects, there probably would not be a fee, but you
shouldstill list the projectcosts: for example, hours you will need to complete the
project,equipment and supplies you will be using, assistance from otherpeople in the
organization, and so on.
Thefinal paragraph or section of the proposalshould bring readers back to a focus on
the positive aspects of the project(you have just showed them the costs). In the final
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section, you can end by urging them to get in touch to work out the details of the
project, to remind them of the benefits of doing the project, and maybe to put in one last
plugfor you or your organization as the right choice for the project.
Special Project-Specific Sections:
Rememberthat the preceding sectionsare typical or common in written proposals, not
absolute requirements. Similarly, some proposals may require other sectionsnot
discussedabove. Do not let yourproposal planning be dictated by the preceding
discussion.Always ask yourself whatelse might my audience need to understand the
project, the need for it, the benefits arising from it, my role in it, my qualifications to it,
Whatelse might my readers need to be convinced to allow me to do the project? What
else do they need to see in order to approve the project and to approve me to do the
Organization of Winning Proposals:
As for the organization of the content of a proposal, remember that it is essentially a sales, or
promotional document. Here are the basicsteps it goesthrough:
1. You introduce the proposal, telling the readers its purpose and contents.
2. You present the background ­ the problem, opportunity, or situationthat brings about the
proposed project. Get the readerconcerned about the problem,excited about the
opportunity, or interested in the situation in someway.
3. State what you propose to do about the problem, how youplan to help the readerstake
advantage of the opportunity, how youintend to help them with the situation.
4. Discuss the benefits of doing the proposed project, the advantages thatcome from
5. Describe exactly what the completed project would consist of,what it would look like,how
it would work ­ describe the results of the project.
6. Discuss the method and theory or approach behind that method; enable readers to
understand how you will go about the proposed work.
7. Provide a schedule, includingmajor milestones or checkpoints in the project.
8. Briefly list yourqualifications for the project;provide a mini-resume of the backgroundyou
have that makes you rightfor the project.
9. Now (and only now),list the costs of theproject, the resources youwill need to do the
10.Conclude with a review of the benefits of doing the project(in case the shock from the costs
section was too much), and urge the audience to get in touch or to accept the proposal.
Notice the overall logic of the movement throughthese section: you get them concernedabout a
problem or interested in an opportunity, then you get them excited about howyou will fix the
problem or do the project, then you show them what good qualifications you have ­ thenhit
them with the costs, but then come right back to the goodpoints about the project.
Format Of Proposals:
Followingare the options for the format and packaging of yourproposal. It does not matter
whichyou use as long as youuse the memorandum format forinternal proposals and the
businessletter format for external proposals.
CoverLetter With Separate Proposal:
In this format, you write a brief "cover" letter and attach the proposal properafter it. The
coverletter briefly announcesthat a proposal follows and outlines the contents of it. In fact,
the contents of the cover letterare pretty much the same as the introduction (discussed in
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the previous section). Notice, however,that the proposal properthat follows the coverletter
repeatsmuch of what you see in the cover letter. This is because the letter may get detached
from the proposal or the recipient maynot even bother to look at the letter and just dive
rightinto the proposalitself.
CoverMemo with SeparateProposal:
In this format, you write a brief "cover" memo and attach the proposal properafter it. The
covermemo briefly announces that a proposal follows and outlines the contents of it. In
fact, the contents of the cover memoare pretty much the same as the introduction
(discussed in the previous section). This is becausethe memo may get detachedfrom the
proposal or the reader may not even bother to look at the memo and just dive right into the
Business-Letter Proposal:
In this format, you put the entire proposal within a standard business letter. You include
headings and other special formatting elements as if it were a report.
In this format, you put the entire proposal within a standard office memorandum. You
include headings and other special formattingelements as if it were a report.
If we are in a competitive bidsituation, usually price,schedule, financial stability,quality of
experience and resources and financing offer(if any) are relevant.However, many contract
awardsare made on a negotiatedbasis. While success may depend on some or all of the above
features, two others many comeinto strategic play:
Interpersonalrelationships with people of the prospective client
Thewritten word in the proposal.Conveying the real proposalmessage witheffective
writing is essential.
Below is a list of seven keyingredients of a winningproposal.
That we understand the project, the owner'sreal wants, and are prepared to satisfy them
withour resources and company commitment.
Complete and direct response to the Requestfor Proposal (RFP) or the bidding
documents.The client wrote them, or at least approved them, and expects to see them
addressed in their entirety.
Comprehensive documentation of all relevant company experience. Careful attention to
personnel resumes, rewriting them to emphasizepertinent experience.
Somethingunique or innovative to set us apart from the competition.
Usuallybut not always a significantfactor in competitive proposals on bids.
Morethan ever, an importantconsideration, even a requirement. Bidsare usually
adjusted by financing terms offered, so the product of price and financing determines
the "bottom line".
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Wellcomposed, concisely written,logically organized, properly referenced, and
In preparing the proposal strategy,all of the homework already accomplished needs to be
woveninto the plan. Some Requestfor Proposals (RFPs) (mostfor engineering work)include
an evaluation system to award proposals a number of points in selected categories. Typical
evaluationcriteria may include a pointdistribution as shown below:
Qualification of proposed personnel, particularly the project manager: Up to 50%
Experience on similar projects: Range of 25-35%
Proposedwork plan and approach: Range of 25-35%
Cost or level of estimated effort in terms of man-hour or man-months maywell be the deciding
factor.   If so, in times of a strong U.S.dollar it very definitelyplaces a U.S. firm at a
disadvantage overseas.
Obviously, if evaluation criteria arespecified, every effortneeds to be made to achieve the
maximum possible score.
Various techniques are employed in proposalwriting, i.e., getting the message across. Aside
fromoutlines, schedules and tables of contents, one technique, whichhas come into wideuse, is
called the "story board".
It employs modules organized foreach strategic message intendedfor the proposal.Each
module is composed of:
1. A topical sentence describing the module theme
2. A theme expressing the strategic messagein, say 400 ­800 words
3. Graphic or artwork to illustrate the theme
Modulesfrom their earlier skeletonform and further developedduring the proposalpreparation
processare posted on the wall of a control room. When finishedthey tell the complete story.
Thistechnique permits early organization of the proposal contents, allowscontinuous
managementoverview, directs the tone of the proposal toward its strategic objectives,clearly
establisheswriting assignments, andproduces a balance of content.
A carefully conceived financingpackage is often a proposalrequirement. This subject is
covered in separate former oral presentations, in addition to written proposals, sometimesare
importantsteps in the process. However,overseas clients generallyare less interested in
receiving them than in the UnitedStates.
Whatabout post proposalstrategies? Continuous contact with the perspective client, in an effort
to answer his questions and to furtherdemonstrate our commitment to his project, can be
worthwhile. If our proposal was notselected, a postmortem will be of value to determine how
we went wrong or how the competition outdidus.
Some Tips for Writing andPresenting Proposals:
Thefollowing tried and testedtips are to encourage the 100%ers to write more proposals and
the low raters to take heart and give it another try.
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Beforestarting your proposal, takesome time to make sureyou know exactly whatyou
areproposing. If you are unclear about any part of the project, ask your potentialclient
a few meaningful questions. If anythingseems vague in their description of "what they
want",ask for clarification andthen give them a list of possible options as to whatyou
thinkthey might have meant. Foryour sake, when preparing to give a price, it is
importantthat you and the client both have the same amount of work in mind.Note that
if you decide to include a list of questions along with your proposal,include an
educatedguess as to what theiranswers would be. Make it clear that your price is based
on you having made the correct guesses to the proposed questions and that if anything
needsclarifying or if anything is missed,you can adjust your quoteaccordingly.
Summarizethe Project:
Takeall the information on the projectthat you have received from the client thus far
and summarize it briefly, usingyour own words, in an opening paragraph. This not only
helps you get a clearer concept of the project in your own mind butalso gives theclient
confidencethat you have given it thought and you understand what they want. It also
provides a solid opportunity for them to clarify encase you didnot understand.
BreakDown the Project into a Nice"To Do" List:
Afteryour summary, follow-up with a solid "To Do" list, that is very useful forboth
youand your client. Listeverything that they have requested so far as well as your
standardwork on the project. Fordesigners, this wouldinclude listing the initialdrafts,
etc.For programmers, this wouldinclude planning the database,building it, etc. Be
thorough in your list. It will helpgive the client a strong sensethat you know whatyou
aredoing and that you will do the job well. It will alsohelp you make sure nothing slips
through the cracks. Use the list in your project updates and cross things off as youmove
Splitthe Project intoPhases:
Afteryour "to do" listsplit the project up into a number of clearly defined phases. It is
recommendedstarting out with a minimum of three. Your first phasemight be the
"InitialFirst Draft". During thisphase, you begin work on the project and end the phase
by sending the client a first draftfor testing and revision.Your next phase, in a simple 3
phaseproject, could be "Bug Squashing and Customizing". Duringthis phase the
project is tested and revisions aremade until the client is happy with the work and it is
readyfor action. Your last phase is "Finalization". Once the work is finished, you send
them an invoice, ask forreferrals, collect payment, and end with a virtual handshake,all
parties satisfied with a job well done. Bonus: A useful strategy to keep in mind when it
comes to pricing is splitting up a longto-do list into meaningfulproject phases and then
pricingeach of the "phases" individually. Thiscan be especially useful forisolating
featuresthat require additional time and energy and being sure the client recognizes the
workinvolved when it comes time to give them the price.
GiveYour Clients a Timeline:
Onceyou have gone over the projectphases, let your clientsknow approximatelyhow
longyou expect the project to take. Be generous (overestimate if need be,but gently)
and then strive to finish up ahead of time. While a project may only takeyou a few
hours to finish up, keep in mindthat there will be waitingtime between the initialdrafts
and the finished project as the clientreviews the work andprovides feedback. If the
client is in a rush, let them knowexactly when it can be finished and be sure to go over
in detail exactly what, if anything needs to be done on theirpart to make thatdeadline
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EstimateYour Time Involved:
Whilenot useful for allproject types, giving an estimate of time involved is usefulfor
most and not only gives the client a sense of what to expect and that you knowwhat
youare doing, but also helps you know exactly what to plan ahead for. A large
design/programmingproject, for example, with a high dollar amount, can be an
excellentopportunity to detail the hours involved in each step of the to-dolist. Be
generous,but honest. The last thingyou want is word gettingaround that it takesyou
several hours to do what takes the averagefreelancer 15 minutes.
Usethe Multiple Choice Price Strategy:
Nowthat all the details have been clearly laid outand your client is confident in your
understanding of the project and your ability to see it through, it's time to give them the
price.Calculate your predictedtime involved and be surethat nothing is overlooked.
Then,give them the total number of hours alongwith your standard hourly rate
followed by a discounted "flat rate". Let us say you estimate about5-8 hours involved
in the project and your hourly rate is $40 an hour. Your proposalwould then read
something like this: "At around 5-8 hours of work, you are welcome to my basic hourly
rate of $40 an hour or a discounted flatrate of $250." 9 times out of 10 the client will
choose the flat rate over the hourly and will be happy with having had the freedom to
choose.Note that as an honest freelance artist whose abilities areconstantly improving,
youwill often reach a point where what once took you 5 hours now takes you an hour.
Oncethat happens, the multipleprice strategy is no longer needed.Give them your flat
rate and do an excellent job. Be surethat, along with yourprice, you give them your
optionsfor accepting payment.
Offer a Satisfaction Guarantee:
Onceyou have given them the price, be sure to include your satisfaction guarantee. Let
them know that you arecommitted to working on the projectuntil they arefully
satisfied and then, once they have accepted your proposal,stick to it. There is always
the possibility that it canbackfire with a client whojust does not everseem to be
satisfied(we can talk aboutdealing with them another day),but the vast majority of the
time a solid guarantee will giveyour clients an extra vote of confidence and help to
close the deal. There is always the possibility of a project costingyou more time than it
is worth, but no matter. Give the project your absolute best and learn everything that
youcan. Satisfied customersoften end up being repeatcustomers and they are more
thanworth the time spent on those who may not appreciate your work.
EndWith a Call to Action:
Finally,after all the details have been made clear, and the price and guaranteegiven,
end with "what happens next."Let them know exactly whatthey need to do to get
started. If you require paymentupfront, let them know where to send the money. If
everythingprior has gone well, younow have a client who is excited and eager to see
theirproject come to life and youwant to make sure thatthey know what needs to
happen next.
Writeand Format Professionally:
Nothingsays "unprofessional" like a bunch of "misspellings", grammatical errors, and
"IM Style" typing. Take the extra time to proof readyour proposal and fix anylittle
errorsthat may have slipped in.Use spacing between your paragraphs and divide your
varioussections (Project Summary,Timeline, Price Quote, etc.) withsubheadings. For
extrapoints, put your proposal up on a password protected page (make sure the
passwordworks) within your website. Remember if you arestruggling with style or
wouldjust like some extraideas/opinions, put together an example proposal and share it
withfamily and friends alongwith a request for feedback.
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Once the proposal has beenaccepted and the project complete, be sure to always ask the client
if they have any suggestionsfor how you canimprove and do even better work in the future.
Ask them if your proposal was clear and ask if you were able, what the deciding factor was in
choosing you to do the work. Takenote of all you learn and apply it to the next proposalyou
write.Although not directlyrelated to "proposal writing",here are two othertips that areworth
Pre-Screenyour Clients:
To save both you and yourclient's time and energy, it is important to be sure thatthey
are as informed and as prepared as possible before they contact you.This is where your
website can step in and do its job.After they have browsed throughyour portfolio and
decided to go for a price on yourservices, it is important thatyou provide a clear path
to follow. Create a pagespecifically for those interested in working with you.Outline
the types of projects that you do and the processes that you use. Do not hide your
prices. As well as offering an hourly rate and flat rate estimates forvarious project
types, it is better to mention thatyou are always open to creative negotiations. You can
oftenend up with "free projects"that more than pay whatyou would have charged
Whilenot always possible, whenyou are able to,respond to your prospective and active
clientsimmediately. If you have an expected delay, let them know thatyou plan to be
unavailable. Be punctual with all your appointments and make sure thatyou meet your
deadlines. If you miss a deadline and you are at fault, take a hit on your earnings. This
willlet the client know thatyou mean what yousay and it will also helpyou to make
sure it does not happen again.
Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION TO PROJECT MANAGEMENT:Broad Contents, Functions of Management
  2. CONCEPTS, DEFINITIONS AND NATURE OF PROJECTS:Why Projects are initiated?, Project Participants
  5. PROJECT LIFE CYCLES:Conceptual Phase, Implementation Phase, Engineering Project
  6. THE PROJECT MANAGER:Team Building Skills, Conflict Resolution Skills, Organizing
  7. THE PROJECT MANAGER (CONTD.):Project Champions, Project Authority Breakdown
  9. PROJECT FEASIBILITY (CONTD.):Scope of Feasibility Analysis, Project Impacts
  10. PROJECT FEASIBILITY (CONTD.):Operations and Production, Sales and Marketing
  11. PROJECT SELECTION:Modeling, The Operating Necessity, The Competitive Necessity
  12. PROJECT SELECTION (CONTD.):Payback Period, Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
  13. PROJECT PROPOSAL:Preparation for Future Proposal, Proposal Effort
  14. PROJECT PROPOSAL (CONTD.):Background on the Opportunity, Costs, Resources Required
  15. PROJECT PLANNING:Planning of Execution, Operations, Installation and Use
  16. PROJECT PLANNING (CONTD.):Outside Clients, Quality Control Planning
  17. PROJECT PLANNING (CONTD.):Elements of a Project Plan, Potential Problems
  18. PROJECT PLANNING (CONTD.):Sorting Out Project, Project Mission, Categories of Planning
  19. PROJECT PLANNING (CONTD.):Identifying Strategic Project Variables, Competitive Resources
  20. PROJECT PLANNING (CONTD.):Responsibilities of Key Players, Line manager will define
  21. PROJECT PLANNING (CONTD.):The Statement of Work (Sow)
  22. WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE:Characteristics of Work Package
  24. SCHEDULES AND CHARTS:Master Production Scheduling, Program Plan
  25. TOTAL PROJECT PLANNING:Management Control, Project Fast-Tracking
  26. PROJECT SCOPE MANAGEMENT:Why is Scope Important?, Scope Management Plan
  27. PROJECT SCOPE MANAGEMENT:Project Scope Definition, Scope Change Control
  28. NETWORK SCHEDULING TECHNIQUES:Historical Evolution of Networks, Dummy Activities
  29. NETWORK SCHEDULING TECHNIQUES:Slack Time Calculation, Network Re-planning
  34. QUALITY IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT:Value-Based Perspective, Customer-Driven Quality
  35. QUALITY IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT (CONTD.):Total Quality Management
  38. QUALITY IMPROVEMENT TOOLS:Data Tables, Identify the problem, Random method
  39. PROJECT EFFECTIVENESS THROUGH ENHANCED PRODUCTIVITY:Messages of Productivity, Productivity Improvement
  40. COST MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL IN PROJECTS:Project benefits, Understanding Control
  42. PROJECT MANAGEMENT THROUGH LEADERSHIP:The Tasks of Leadership, The Job of a Leader
  44. PROJECT RISK MANAGEMENT:Components of Risk, Categories of Risk, Risk Planning