Jan 162012

Project proposal is sometimes called as ‘Project Profile’ or ‘Project Brief’. It is the first document that is produced by the project. One way it probably is the most important document because it sets the stage for the rest of the project. Unfortunately, in most cases it is one of the often neglected documents. Reason being the challenges faced by the author to identify the project as accurately as possible but at a very high level so that the executives can understand the problem, solution, and benefits as well as the time and cost required to get there. It may be created by someone in the group that is the direct beneficiary (the Users) or their manager or someone in IT, maybe a line manager or project manager. In worst case scenario, it may be written by an admin secretary (not that admin secretaries are bad writers).

Let us look at it in reverse order to see what is required and who the best person to do it is?

What is the objective of project profile?

The main purpose is to get funding approval for the project. Another is to provide a starting point to the project team who will later work on the project. The executives responsible for funding approval will need several pieces of information. Some of the major ones are:

  1. How does the project benefit the organization and how significant is this benefit?
  2. How well this project aligns with overall corporate strategy and vision and with IT strategy
  3. How much it is going to cost and how much will it save once implemented? Also what is the breakeven point?
  4. What are the major risks and what are the chances that this project may not deliver what it promises? and
  5. Where are the funds coming from? etc.

Next we review each typical role and its level of knowledge on these questions.

The Admin Secretary: The secretary has almost no knowledge of how the project will benefit organization and its impact. Neither does the person know how project aligns with corporate strategic goals and how much it will cost to get the work done and what will be the savings. Even if they have been provided numbers, those just remain numbers, and without any context to it, they cannot judge whether the numbers make sense or not. The person might identify couple or few risks based on their experience in the organization but definitely cannot perform a comprehensive review. They will know funding source because they will be told or they have to find that out. This again will be limited to just knowing the account or name of the source.

The Users: have reasonable knowledge of benefits to the organization as they are the direct recipient of the benefit but that knowledge will probably be limited to their work or at the most their department. Alignment with strategic corporate goal may just be too abstract for them.  They will have some idea of the size of the project but probably cannot put a number on it. Because of their closeness to the domain impacted by the project, they can identify several real risks which would need to be managed later on.  They will have hardly any clue about funding source.

The Users’ Manager/Business Leader: The business lead can estimate the benefits to the organization really well. This person is expected to have good grasp of corporate strategic direction and really strong understanding of department goals and thus can tie in the project really well with both corporate and departmental plans. The leader will understand, with experience, some of the project costs that will be incurred including overheads but may do a weak estimate for a project that significantly spans multiple departments and/or has a high IT work component. This individual can identify risks much better than the users’ because of their level in the organization and will be the best one to say where the money is going to come from. In fact, among all the roles discussed here, they are the one that most likely will identify source of funding.

The discussion is continued in part 2…