Andy Weeks answers questions from TechRepublic members about project management. Weeks has worked in the information technology field for over a decade as an end-user support manager, network architect, and a business process consultant. Currently he’s VP for business development.

A TechRepublic member asks …
“I am new to the IT industry but have several years of project management experience in other industries. I was wondering if you have a sample or a previous project proposal or presentation (in Word or PowerPoint) that I could use as a benchmark for IT-specific formalities I might be unaware of.

“I have noticed from my past experience in other industries that certain aspects of a project proposal require more attention (and others less) when presenting for project approval.

“While project cost is always a major factor, it seems to me that project completion and success at any cost is more acceptable in this industry than it was with my past employers in other industries. Bottom line: What are the key points upper management will focus on and consider when approving projects?”

Andy’s answer
Many people assume that the IT industry has special demands in regard to project management. However, I have found that there are more differences among companies than differences among industries. Sometimes a particular project creates unique demands that may not exist in other projects.

It’s important to understand the key drivers for the project you are proposing. If you have a good handle on your strategic stakeholders (the ones who hold the purse strings), then the next task is to find out what is important to them. There are three key drivers for any project that can be summed up in the fundamental project equation:
Cost= f (Q,T,S)

This equation basically indicates that the Cost of a project is a function of the Quality of the result, the Time allotted to complete the project, and the Scope of the project.

How to calculate the true cost
I like to use a triangle to see the way these drivers interrelate. With this model, you can see that as one or more of these variables increases, the project cost must increase as well, or you must compromise some other area.

If the business is currently driven by cost concerns, then you must focus on the cost/benefit of the project, remembering that the netproject cost is the implementation cost minus the financial return or savings generated by the project. On the other hand, if quality or time is the critical issue, then you must emphasize that issue in your proposal.

What is interesting in our new e-conomy is that time and quality are (at least perceived to be) money. As a result, this has led to a mentality at a lot of companies that the project must be completed on time with high quality at any cost.

Here is a copy of a basic project proposal outline I have used successfully in the past.

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