[thelist] Writing Proposals

Matt Warden mwarden at gmail.com
Mon Dec 18 11:10:29 CST 2006

On 12/18/06, Dawson Costelloe <costelloe at gmail.com> wrote:
> They liked the initial proposal and ideas, and now want us to go on to
> write a final proposal, which would include a LOT of work and a huge
> amount of detail, as the project is very technical and not on the
> small side.

It sounds like you are getting into general system design, or even
detailed system design. Putting aside for a moment whether this is
actually a good idea (yes, the project is very technical, but beyond
feasibility considerations, you probably should not be concerned with
such details at this point), these are phases of a project which are
absolutely chargeable. Our firm sometimes is involved in only these
phases, and then the client passes design deliverables off to someone
else to implement.

> However, our new business manager was concerned when I suggested we
> charge for the final proposal? Is this so wrong/strange? Do you
> guys/girls charge for final proposal and if so how? how do you put
> this to the client and work out the fee etc?

Sounds like there is a conflict between the business and technical
side of things. The business side is concerned that the project is not
nearly "won" and that suggesting that the client be charged for this
time will jeopardize your company's chances of getting to the table.
The technical side is concerned that the project is highly complex and
will require considerable effort to develop the type of solution
proposal requested. (I also wonder why such a detailed proposal was
requested -- it sounds like the business side is not doing their job
to make the client confident in your company's ability.)

If asking for compensation for this work may jeopardize the
negotiation situation, would that not be *further* argument for making
sure all this work is not in vain and resulting in a total loss?

If such a proposal is going to require that much effort, perhaps the
scope of the proposal needs to be changed. I don't know your
relationship with the client, but my guess is that it is far too early
to say you understand their business. And if you don't understand
their business, you're going to have a lot of assumptions. And if you
make a lot of assumptions, you're going to end up with a design that
does not meet their needs.

It seems like this is a very high risk path, from both the business
and technical sides. From the business, it sounds like there is high
cost and relatively low chance of revenue. From the technical, it
sounds like there is a lot of detail requested at a very early stage
-- you will probably end up boxing yourself into something you can't
deliver, or something that doesn't make sense to deliver.

Matt Warden
Cleveland, OH, USA

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