Major corporations spend millions of dollars each year writing proposals to win software and systems business. They typically have a team of people that spend hours or days in strategy meetings to write what they hope will be a winning bid. Usually these companies are responding to a “Request for Proposal” which is sent out to a number of competitors. It’s almost like a sporting event. Let the games begin! Our team versus theirs. Sometimes jobs are on the line. No one wants to have to lay off people because there is not enough business coming in the door.
As part of this process, a project plan will be created. Oftentimes the team will work out a plan based on some previous experience and the opinions of a number of subject matter experts. Usually the plan will include a detailed spreadsheet with a larger number of tasks and the hours that it will take to complete each task.
The fact is most people don’t have a way to validate whether or not the plan is reliable. They also can’t see what chance they have of achieving their overall promised schedule, quality, and budget goals. They don’t have an easy way to negotiate these proposal decisions internally or with the client.
What's missing? A top-down, empirically-based estimate. Running a top-down estimate allows the proposal team to generate a “big picture” estimate for cost, duration, risk, and quality based on historical data and time tested mathematical models. With SLIM-Estimate (shown below), the team can run an overall project level estimate, and sanity-check their proposal with industry trends to make sure that their numbers are competitive and realistic.