Here are 6 Tips to “Show Me the (Project) Money!”
So you Want Some Money for a Project? Get In Line!
Project funding in a company with aggressive growth goals can be challenging. There are many departmental initiatives competing for a finite pool of budget money each year. What usually happens is the projects that are researched fully and presented well will tend to win the funding — and quite frankly, that’s how it should be. If the company is willing to fund a project with capital funds there needs to be a return for that investment.
Having presented many project proposals I have learned some things about the process over the years. Here are some tips that will help you get your next project funded:
Tip #1 – Know your Audience
Who are the decision makers and what are their interests in your project? To whom are you presenting your ideas? Often times, it may be more than one person in the role of senior manager or stakeholder. Each decision maker may be looking at your project from a different perspective. It’s your job to satisfy their needs and get them comfortable with your plan. Whether it be the CFO who wants to know how you’ll be affecting the operating expenses or the COO who wants to know how you’ll affect worker productivity, each will have a different interest in what you’re pitching. They want to know why funds should be released to your project over others that may be on the table. And this leads into Tip #2…
Tip #2 – Anticipate Questions
Anticipate the questions that each decision maker may ask. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “if I where that person why would I want to fund my project?” Will you be asked about productivity savings? Will you be asked about project milestones and related billings? Will there be questions about comparative features or pricing to other products or services to the one you’ve chosen?
Whatever those questions are, anticipate them and be ready to answer them. Not only will this show that you’ve done your due diligence, but it may help you uncover potential pitfalls and address them in advance.
If you are dealt a question that you’ve not considered, don’t panic — and by all means don’t make something up. The correct answer is “that is not something I’ve considered, I will find an answer and get back to you.” Then tuck this question away for future project proposals.
Tip #3 – Use Real Numbers
There are two numbers you need to be focused on when presenting your request — the cost and the ROI.
In the cost column, consider all of the costs. Will there be tax? What about shipping? Do you need consulting hours to marry up with your main project costs? Will there be travel or hotel costs? Look at the project from all angles and include the total cost of your project. Cost overruns will lead to the perception that the project was poorly researched and/or managed.
Don’t oversell your ROI. If anything be a bit conservative with your approach. Whether it be productivity savings (hours of labor saved) or hard dollar savings, don’t promise more than you can deliver. Over promising may get you the funding for your project this time, but if you fail to deliver, the eyebrows will be raised the next time you come to the table. Conversely, don’t sandbag your ROI. Your goal should always be to present the benefits of investing in your initiative and then deliver as closely as you can to those results.
Tip #4 – Have a Clear Scope of Project
When completed what objectives will have been met? Don’t leave it up to assumption — clearly define your scope of project. Scope creep is the number one reason for project failure. Not only does it lead to unplanned activities, but it can also lead to underfunded projects. If you have a three-phase project and your proposal is to complete two of those three phases with the funding you are requesting, state that very clearly in your request. It is your responsibility as the project manager to manage the expectations of your stakeholders.
Tip #5 – Establish Timelines
You’ve done all of the hard work to research, prepare your proposal, calculate your project costs, and pitch your plan. The decision makers have unanimously agreed that your project is worthy of funding. The very next question to anticipate is — “how soon can you have this completed?” Don’t get caught off guard by this question — it’s coming every single time. Linking back to Tip #2, this should be the first question you anticipate. In fact, you should bake your answer into your proposal or presentation. Establish a clear timeline for completion of your project and set realistic milestones. If there is a need to release payments along with these milestones, spell that out as well. Ultimately, the shareholders want to know when cash needs to flow out and when the benefits can be realized.
Tip #6 – Post Project Evaluation
After the completion of every project, evaluate your success. Did you meet your budget? Did you meet your timeline? Are you realizing the ROI you expected? Learn from every project by identifying what went well and where you could improve the next time. Whether this post-project evaluation is something your stakeholders request or not, you should complete this exercise. It will hone your skills for preparing future project proposals.
The old adage practice makes perfect applies here. Each of your project proposals may be unique insofar as the details are concerned, but the general approach should remain consistent. Do the legwork, anticipate the questions, be factual, be prepared, and have a plan. Believe in your plan and it will be easy to justify your request to fund it.
If there are tips you wish to share about how to present requests for project funding, please comment below.