Proposal/Business Case Template
There are lots of examples on the Internet. This is what I use. Before you begin go back and read the earlier articles about why you go about writing a proposal and how to incorporate appropriate influence.
While this is a minimalist template, your document can be even simpler. Stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve with the document and incorporate only what you need to get the message across. Be economical with words and remember that the reader will form an opinion of you and your proposal within the first few seconds of looking at your proposal.
1.0 Executive Summary
Very important. Short & sweet. See earlier article dedicated to executive summaries.
Introduction &/or Background
In a big formal business case, likely to attract a high profile include it all, otherwise Include whichever of the following is necessary to make your case.
Describe the chronology of events that lead to this proposal becoming relevant. Eg: In response to concerns expressed by staff at last year’s PD day, HR staff surveyed …. and recommended …
Get into the head of the decision maker for whom this document is authored. In this section you are answering the questions: ‘If I say yes, who’s going to be happy?’, ‘Who’s going to be gunning for me?’ and ‘What resources am I going to have to free up?’.
Describe the part of the working environment that will be affected by this project. This is the context for the scope which you will write for your charter document. If your proposal is to introduce a water cooler then there will be a small change to the office geography but a big change in the social interaction between staff members.
Critical – of course! This is where you describe what you want to do. Consider the following sub headings:
Describe the change that you propose. Remember to use terminology and language appropriate to the reader.
There are always alternatives, even if it is to do nothing. You include this section to demonstrate that you have considered the options and that you are recommending the best one for the organization, not just you. Make a bullet point list, ending each alternative with a ‘but’, ie why it is not the recommended option.
Don’t confuse this with costs vs benefits. Arguments for is regarding your proposal compared to the alternatives.
Again, this is about your proposal compared to alternatives. If there is a down side at all it is appropriate (and better for your case – influence! See earlier proposal article) that the decision makers hear about it from you.
This is a section you would normally include. If your proposal is leading to some project work then there are two areas of costs which you need to address.
What is it going to cost to execute the project? Ie how much is needed up front.
Once the change has been implemented how is the budget for the target environment going to be effected? What are the on-going costs? Eg subscriptions, maintenance, additional resource requirements etc.
Firstly you need to establish a link between your proposal and the corporate mission. How will what you are proposing contribute to what the organization is all about? Check out the the ‘Joe Locker’ post’. For extra brownie points use words from the mission statement. There are two elements to benefits:
Tangible: The more obvious, measurable benefits like projected revenue, reductions in staff turnover or reductions in operational costs.
Intangible: Sometimes the real payload of a project are the benefits which are most difficult to quantify. There’s no doubt that a happy workforce tends to be more productive than a miserable one. I’ll go into how to quantify the unquantifiable in a future article.
6.0 Proposed Implementation Plan
This is the document equivalent to draping a scantly clad woman over the bonnet of a car clearly marketed at men. It’s not a working plan. You are just painting a picture of what it looks like having made the decision to go ahead. Tangibly speaking it’s a very brief project execution plan. It needs to be brief for two reasons: Firstly, you most likely don’t have the data to do a detailed plan yet. Secondly, remember why you’re writing it. It’s not a plan from which you micro manage resources.
7.0 Risk Analysis
See previous article re: writing risk mitigation plans. Remember that the events of interest here are those that affect the decision to endorse or not to endorse the proposal. Ie if the project goes ahead, what could compromise or negate the benefits described above? You’ll have the same table in the project charter but there you’re concerned about threats to the execution, ie delivery. Here you are concerned about threats to the organization that accompany the decision to do or not to do.
8.0 Constraints & Assumptions
List here any any parameters imposed on the proposal either internally or externally. If you’ve had the conversation with your boss in the corridor and he’s said, “OK but you have to keep it under $10,000”. Documenting the proposal is the next step but you cannot ignore the instruction you’ve been given. List it here. It will affect what you can and can’t achieve with the project. Perhaps on reading your draft, your proposal is given greater consideration and you get a call rescinding the limitation, perhaps not. Either way the outcome is affected by this constraint.
Likewise if you’re doing things a particular way to accommodate company policy or legal requirements, note that here. If there is an immovable deadline, list it here.
If your proposal is in the form of an email to the boss, all you need is a positive reply.
If your document is formal enough, include a signature block at the end of your document. It helps to remind them to think carefully, they will be held accountable for their decisions.
It is also important that the sponsor knows that at this stage they are agreeing in principle only and that they will have the opportunity to review a plan of execution (project charter) before you start spending the money.