Sunday, February 22, 2009

Anatomy of a proposal...project plans and schedules

Part of the Learn to Write Proposals online proposal guide.

A schedule is an important part of your business proposal, giving the client organisation a visual guide to duration of not just the entire project, but specific tasks within the project.

When you write a proposal use a high-level schedule, unless a detailed schedule is specifically requested, ensuring you include the main project activities and all project milestones and deliverables.

What’s the difference in these items? The Learn to Write Proposals glossary defines each of them as:
  • Activity - Task or work required to complete part of a project
  • Milestone - In Project Management a point at which specific work packages or deliverables have been completed and accepted. Milestones are purely an administrative point of reference and should have no cost or time associated with them
  • Deliverable - A tangible and measurable output of a project activity

Often a table is all that is required to demonstrate a timeline of events and the relationship and relative importance of the project activities. However, on more complex projects (or where it's requested by the client where a tool such as MS Project is used to schedule projects I recommend
using a Gantt chart saved as a .gif file. We'll show how to do this in
another article.

If the schedule is too long for the page width then consider using a fold-out or use section breaks and page setup to change the schedule page to landscape orientation.

Key dates

It’s also useful for to extract key dates from your schedule and insert them in a separate table – it’s just another way of putting clarity in your document, making it easier for the buyer to evaluate it – it also helps you obtain the dates for your invoicing schedule. Indeed in smaller projects where there aren't large numbers of deliverables or project activities, a simple table of key dates may be all that is required.

You can show dates of deliverables or start date/end date of key activity - it may be that a product based proposal has key deliverable dates but a service based proposal has start date/end date. You may want to include these in your Executive Summary.

Some quick tips on creating a project schedule
  • Involve the person who will be responsible for creating the full project plan and delivering the project - they should be involved with your proposal production.
  • If there is a set deadline work backwards, but be wary of forcing an unrealistic amount or project work into too short a timeframe - it's better to be realistic with your client and set realistic goals that can be met without impacting on quality.
  • Make sure you know your projects dependencies - that is what activities need to be finished before another can start.
Next...We'll have a tip on creating images from Gantt charts...then onto costs