Project Management Institute

Delivering on a Promise

Bridge the Gap Between Proposal and Project Teams


By Yael Cohen, PMP

Imagine your organization is one of several competing to manage a big client project. The client picks your organization, and you're assigned as project manager. The problem is, you weren't involved in proposing the project, and you notice that what was promised can't all be delivered. To make matters worse, you don't have a strong relationship with the client or the project team assigned to you. The project struggles, and substantial time and money is required to get it back on track.

Clearly, the way your organization handles proposals has a big impact on the projects themselves. That makes it crucial for project managers to pay attention to the proposal process, whether they have a formal role in it or not.

Here are three ways organizations and project managers can work together to create strong proposals—and successfully deliver on them.

1. Involve a project manager from the outset. A project manager can provide early technical expertise and often a reality check while the team is still crafting a proposal. After all, a proposal ultimately becomes the contract between the organization and client. When I've been involved in a proposal effort, either as proposal manager or contributor, I was able to be a more successful project manager during execution. If it's not possible for a project manager to be part of the proposal development, try to have someone else be involved in both proposal and delivery to bridge any gaps and create a stronger relationship with the client.

The way your organization handles proposals has a big impact on the projects themselves. That makes it crucial for project managers to pay attention to the proposal process.

2. Weave a cohesive, authentic story. Having worked as a proposal evaluator, I know that evaluators can read right through weak proposals. I have seen proposals where client names are incorrect—telling me that the proposal was merely copied and pasted from a previous one. Even worse are proposals that don't address all the requirements. Project managers involved in proposals can prevent this from happening. Cost element aside, the proposal winner is usually the one that provides a compelling start-to-finish account addressing all of the requirements.

3. Speak with one voice. Organizations that don't have the right requirements, skills or experience often partner with outside organizations to make a proposal. However, all parts of this combined team need to be on the same page to avoid confusing the client, both during proposal writing and project delivery. If the project manager can be involved, he or she can help ensure the client sees a united front—one entity that promises to help the client achieve its mission, rather than a disjointed team of people from different organizations.

Being involved in the proposal process requires project managers to invest time upfront, but this early investment can result in a smoother project in the long run. Organizations can't just be focused on winning the work; they also have to successfully deliver what was committed to in the proposal. As a project manager, your reputation will precede you if you can bridge both worlds. PM

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image Yael Cohen, PMP, is a freelance project manager in Denver, Colorado, USA.
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