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Is Your Project Proposal READY?

~ By Duncan Haughey

Businessman saying: Are you ready in retro style pop art

The mnemonic READY is useful when creating a project proposal. It provides a memory aid to help make sure your proposal is:

  1. Relevant
  2. Engaging
  3. Authoritative
  4. Directional
  5. Yield Optimised

What follows is how to write a compelling and well thought out proposal that will be difficult to ignore.

1. Relevant

1.1. Fulfils a Need

Does your proposal address a genuine business need? If not, this is your first problem. Why should the business invest time, effort and money in your project?

1.2. Focussed

Is your proposal concentrated on how you will address the business need? Make sure it is clear to anyone reading it what it is you are proposing to do.

1.3. Timely

Is the time right for this project? Will your proposal be well received now, or is there a better time to present it in the future? If there is a better time, consider holding off.

1.4. Meaningful

Make sure the project is important to the business and not just somebody's 'pet' project.

2. Engaging

2.1. A Compelling Value Proposition

Have you created a strong value proposition? Have you explained how investing in this project will, for example, increase revenues, reduce costs or produce a faster time to market?

2.2. Easy to Understand

Is your proposal written in a way the reader will immediately understand your project's aims, objectives and benefits? Write in plain English avoiding jargon and use of highly technical language.

2.3. Answers Questions

Does your proposal answer all possible questions? You can test this by asking a colleague or friend to read your draft proposal and see if they have questions once they've read it.

2.4. A Passionate Attitude

Have you communicated your passion for the project in the proposal? Consider whether you have written your proposal in active language. Avoid passive voice and use active voice in your writing. Passive voice is usually wordy, so you can improve your writing by using active sentences.

2.5. A Rational Justification

Do you have a compelling argument for your project? Prepare an elevator speech to justify your proposal. This speech will help anyone interested understand why you believe your project should go ahead.

3. Authoritative

3.1. Accurate and Concrete

Are all the facts and figures in your proposal correct? Make sure you have checked figures related to increased revenues, reduced costs or faster time to market to ensure they are accurate. Avoid guesses or statements that are easy to challenge.

3.2. Minimises Risk

Create a section in your proposal around risk. Show you know there are risks and state clearly how you intend to deal with them.

3.3. Give Assurances

Have you set the readers mind at ease by assuring them the project can deliver the expected benefits? Give assurances that you have considered the risks, issues and the wider impact of the project on the organisation.

3.4. Avoids Fluff

Do not include woolly or vague statements you cannot back up with hard facts and figures. Avoid irrelevant filler material used just to bulk out your proposal.

3.5. Enough Depth

Provide enough information for the reader to understand what you are proposing. Find a balance between a proposal that is too thin and superficial and one that is too detailed and hard to read. Provide enough detail, but not too much.

3.6. Sets Expectations

Is it clear what will happen if the project is approved? Can the proposal be misinterpreted, leading to disappointment or arguments over whether the result was a success?

3.7. Builds Confidence and Trust

Does your proposal show you (the writer) as a trustworthy and confident person? Avoid indecisiveness and give the impression you know how the project will deliver any particular element.

4. Directional

4.1. What Will You Do?

Say what you will do if the project is approved. Create a milestone plan to help the reader understand the steps from approval until project closure. Be positive.

4.2. Avoids Confusion

Have you contradicted yourself in the document? Make sure you are consistent with your naming conventions. Check your figures to make sure they all add up correctly. Carry out a spelling and grammar check.

4.3. Enough Information to Decide

Put yourself in the shoes of the approver, and ask whether you have sufficient information to make a firm decision to approve or reject this project. If you find you have questions, then you haven't provided enough information.

4.4. Maintains Forward Momentum

Show how you will keep the project moving forward. Identify any obstacles you need to overcome and explain how you intend to overcome them. Show that once approved, the project will move forward in a timely and controlled way until its conclusion.

4.5. Moves the Organisation Forward

Explain how the organisation will be different after this project delivers.

5. Yield Optimised

5.1. Quantifiable Benefits

What are the benefits your project will provide? List them in the proposal with details of how you will measure them. If you expect to achieve ten percent uplift in sales, say how it will be produced and later measured.

5.2. A Good Fit With Strategy

Say why the project is a good fit with the organisation's strategy. If it doesn't fit, explain why it should be approved.

5.3. Optimised to Produce the Best Return

Show that you have tuned the project to provide the best Return on Investment (ROI). If you don't have a high ROI why are you proposing the project. Are there regulatory, security or legal reasons? If so, explain what they are.

5.4. Realises Benefits

Explain what you intend to do to ensure the benefits envisaged at the start of the project are realised at the end of the project. What will you have in place to measure and confirm the benefits have been delivered? Keep in mind that most benefits are realised well after a project is closed.

When you next propose a project, take a moment to consider whether your proposal is relevant, engaging, authoritative, directional and yield optimised. Remember the mnemonic READY and produce a proposal that's difficult to ignore.

For more help with your writing, I recommend you visit Quick and Dirty Tips


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