As a project manager, you might be responsible for writing RFPs for your organization’s projects, or proposals in response to RFPs publicized by other organizations. You might also be responsible for drafting parts of a contract such as language describing the scope of work. At the very least, you will need to be conversant enough with contract terminology so that you can ensure that a contract proposed by your organization’s legal department adequately translates the project requirements into legal obligations. Whatever form they take, to be useful, RFPs, proposals, and contracts must be specific enough to define expectations for the project, yet flexible enough to allow for the inevitable learning that occurs as the project unfolds in the uncertain, living order of the modern world. All three types of documents are forms of communication that express a shared understanding of project success, with the level of detail increasing from the RFP stage to the contract.
Throughout the proposal and contract stages, it’s essential to be clear about your expectations regarding:
- Expected level of expertise
- Expected quality
- Expected length of relationship (short- or long-term)
Take care to spell out:
- Performance requirements
- Basis for payment
- Process for approving and pricing changes to the project plan
- Requirements for monitoring and reporting on the project health
At minimum, a proposal should discuss:
- Scope: At the proposal stage, assume you can only define about 80% of the scope. As you proceed through the project, you’ll learn more about it and be better able to define the last 20%.
- Schedule: You don’t necessarily need to commit to a specific number of days at the proposal stage, but you should convey a general understanding of the overall commitment, and whether the schedule is mission-critical. In many projects, the schedule can turn out to be somewhat arbitrary, or at least allow for more variability than you might be led to believe at first.
- Deliverables: Make it clear that you have some sense of what you are committing to, but only provide as many details as necessary.
- Cost/Resources: Again, make clear that you understand the general picture, and provide only as many specifics as are helpful at the proposal stage.
- Terms: Every proposal needs a set of payment terms, so it’s clear when payments are due. Unless you include “net 30” or “net 60” to a proposal, you could find yourself in a situation in which customers refuse to part with their cash until the project is complete.
- Clarifications and Exclusions: No proposal is perfect, so every proposal needs something that speaks to the specific uncertainty associated with that particular proposal. Take care to write this part of a proposal in a customer-friendly way and avoid predatory clarifications and exclusions. For example, you might include something like this: “We’ve done our best to write a complete proposal, but we have incomplete knowledge of the project at this point. We anticipate working together to clarify the following issues”—and then conclude with a list of issues.
If you are on the receiving end of a proposal, remember a potential supplier probably has far more experience than you do in its particular line of business. Keep the lines of communication open and engage with suppliers to use their expertise to help refine deliverables and other project details.
Assessing New Communication Technologies
New technologies for communicating electronically appear with increasing frequency. Using a new technology that is unfamiliar to the team increases the technology complexity, which can cause delays and increase costs. To decide if a new technology should be included in a communications plan, seek answers to the following questions:
- Does the new communication technology provide a competitive advantage for the project by reducing cost, saving time, or preventing mistakes?
- Does the project team have the expertise to learn the new technology quickly?
- Does the company offer support such as a help desk and equipment service for new communication technology?
- What is the cost of training and implementation in terms of time as well as money?
Communication Plan Template
So how do you create a communication plan?
- Identify your stakeholders (to whom).
- Identify stakeholder expectations (why).
- Identify communication necessary to satisfy stakeholder expectations and keep them informed (what).
- Identify time-frame and/or frequency of communication messages (when).
- Identify how the message will be communicated (the stakeholder’s preferred method) (how).
- Identify who will communication each message (who).
- Document items – templates, formats, or documents the project must use for communicating.
This chapter is a derivative the following texts:
Essentials of Project Management by Adam Farag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.