Software Project Proposal


I am in need of delivering a proposal for a software project I may work on. Some of the areas they would like me to highlight is "implementation timeline, cost, overall system functionality, and continued tech support after development." Is there any template that I should use out there, or is it not like a resume with critical ways to put it together?

Any insight/examples would be greatly appreciated!


asked Mar 29 '11 at 07:57
121 points

3 Answers


It looks like you are asking if there's a standard template to use to answer these questions. Having spent years in consulting, I can tell you that the answer is generally "no."

Since the client specifically asked for responses in those areas, I would make sure to include sections that correspond to those areas.

  • Implementation timeline: Make this a relatively high-level Gantt chart with milestones. Highlight key delivery dates. Use this as an opportunity to show that you understand the software development lifecycle, and use it as an opportunity to communicate to the customer what SDLC methodology you will be using.
  • Costs: Remember time and expenses. Break it down by whatever slice-and-dice the customer is expecting. If it's full time & materials, give them number of hours times hourly rate. If it is flat fee, give them one number, but explain to them what they're getting by major deliverable (just make sure they don't expect to be able to smorgasbord the features and get a different price).
  • Functionality: Communicate to them what they're getting for their money. Which major features are in scope, and which are out of scope. Depending on the size of the organizations on both sides of this deal, there's a very real possibility of the proposal becoming the contract. Make sure you spell out very clearly what you will deliver for the agreed-upon price.
  • Tech support: Be simple and clear here. Once you've delivered the software, if they need help or changes, how do they get them, and how much will they cost. Do not sell yourself short on this part. Clients always find new features, and do a great job finding bugs five years after the software is delivered. Also, make sure you expressly define your warranty here.

Structure of the proposal should probably be in this order: Functionality, Timeline, Tech Support, Cost. Overall, though, the order of these items doesn't matter a whole lot.

CAVEAT : If the client has given you a format in which they want you to respond, use that format! I've had a lot of RFPs that I've sent out that specifically state for the vendor to use the approved format, only to have a provider-branded PDF come back that has me scrambling to find answers to critical questions that have been scattered throughout their response. It's annoying, and has caused more than one potential vendor to make it to the bottom of my list.

Another caveat : If you are responding to a governmental RFP, re-read the above caveat and repeat to yourself: "I will respond in the format they require."

answered Mar 29 '11 at 22:54
188 points


I suspect no one is answering this question because there is no short answer. You are asking for the work product of what is essentially a full time job for many people in software development.

The most immediate question that comes to my mind is who exactly is asking you to put together a software proposal when you seemingly have relatively little experience in this area?

The best advice I can give you is to go to your local bookstore and buy some books on software project management. I don't have my personal library in front of me at this time, so unfortunately cannot recommend particular books.

However, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Implementation timeline is highly dependent on the team doing the work. Unless you know historically how a team has delivered, you really have no basis for predicting a timeline. This is essentially what agile development processes attempt to overcome.
  • Cost: is this a time and materials project or a flat fee? If the latter, then you better have a good idea of the timeline before quoting a fee.
  • Defining overall functionality can a slippery slope. Unless you know precisely what you are building, it is very hard to define upfront what the functionality is. A second reason why agile processes exist.
  • Tech support - I interpret this question to mean what are the operational requirements of the software. How and on what is it installed, what are the uptime requirements, how easy is it to fix things when they fail, etc.

The proposal you describe sounds very much like your client is expecting a waterfall style software development project. While those can work, they are fraught with peril. Be thoughtful and diligent in your planning. You might also want to read up on agile style development.

answered Mar 29 '11 at 22:41
Doug Donohoe
401 points


If they have already given you some idea of what they are expecting to see, feel free to ask them "what else should I be sure to cover?" or "do you have a preferred format for proposals?" No need to make this hard.

I generally structure proposals quite simply: situation summary, solution (including timeline and what your team and their team needs to deliver), pricing (preferably not hourly, but that's another story ), terms and conditions, and a place to accept.

And, of course, they can view, comment, and accept online.

answered Dec 4 '12 at 03:04
Reuben Swartz
21 points

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