Data from Finances Online shows that most businesses expect their total IT spending to remain consistent or increase year-over-year between 2021 and 2026, with some of the biggest factors driving that budget increase including updating outdated infrastructure (56%), increasing concerns about security (39%), and prioritizing IT projects (45%).
But just because your company is increasing IT spending doesn’t guarantee your new custom software or off-the-shelf technology project will get approved.
Remember, leadership teams tend to hyper-focus on minimizing risks and increasing revenue. Any changes that could involve spending money, losing productivity, or flat-out failure will not be high on their to-do lists.
So, how do you convince risk-averse people in power to invest in your new software development project proposal?
Answer: You need to make them aware and care about your proposal.
Even though you know that your company would be more successful with a new technology solution or a custom software project tailor-made for your workflows, the rest of your company may be unaware. If they are ignorant of the problems these software solutions would solve, you can’t just expect them to approve your project and give you a budget.
If you want leadership to understand your proposal and approve both a budget and an implementation timeline, you need to follow these six steps first:
- Identify the problem to solve
- Explain how you want to solve the problem
- Determine why solving the problem is important
- Build your presentation
- Get early buy-in and support
- Deliver your presentation
6 Steps to Build a Software Development Project Proposal
Step #1: Identify the Problem to Solve
Leadership and other stakeholders may not be aware of the day-to-day activities going on for every team, so they probably don’t know about the problem you want to solve. Therefore, you must provide them with relatable context.
Think in business terms. How is the problem negatively impacting the business?
When considering such a problem, consider your company’s current business metrics related to ROI. Understanding how those metrics relate to solving this problem will help you frame your business case in a way that speaks directly to leadership. Such metrics may include:
- Cost to complete business processes at current state vs. with new custom software solution
- Cost to complete sales at current state vs. with a new custom software solution
- Current hours spent on business processes vs. hours saved with a new custom software solution
- Current business risks due to inefficiencies and slowdowns vs. risk ratio with upgraded custom software
As you gather metrics, remember that a list of numbers may not always impress leadership. They need to care about what's going on, so providing a scenario that includes the metrics often works better.
For example, you could share how there are several teams manually entering data on multiple spreadsheets stored in several locations across the business. None of the spreadsheets are automated, so the data will not sync up unless someone types in those updates. All that typing takes 10-30 hours a week per person for a total of 50 people (500-1,500 wasted weekly hours).
If the company were to invest in a custom software solution that automated data across spreadsheets for real-time numbers, you could save 90-95% of those wasted weekly hours. That time could be better spent on higher-value tasks to support customers, research new products, negotiate deals with better suppliers, and so forth.
Step #2: Explain How You Want to Solve the Problem
In a nutshell, how you want to solve the problem will be your proposal, but you should be able to state in one or two sentences what you want to do to fix this problem. Some example statements may include:
- Research shows that our current website does not attract customers in the 20-29 demographic. These customers expect mobile apps, so we should invest in mobile app development to attract this younger demographic and grow the current customer pool.
- Our company has more than 15 years of customer behavior data, but we do not have sufficient tools to pull out useful insights. We should build a data analytics platform to better understand our customer behavior patterns and create appropriate products and services.
- Our manual, task-based customer billing processes cause significant lag that is upsetting customers and causing revenue cash flow problems. We should create an automated system to manage all the billing tasks for better customer service and to fix our cash flow problems.
As you can see from these examples, you have metrics to back up the problem, and they present a business case on why action is required. These statements do not go into detail, which is important for keeping leadership’s attention. After all, leadership often doesn’t care about the nitty-gritty of how things get done. At the presentation stage, they mainly want to know why it matters to the business, when it will get done, who will do it, and how much.
If you don’t know exactly how to fix the problem, it’s important to also state that information.
While you recognize the problem, you may not have a background in software development and technology, and therefore cannot suggest an appropriate solution. In that scenario, part of your proposed solution could include seeking out a custom software development company to make recommendations on what it would take to solve the problem.
At AltSource, we meet many professionals who know that they need to solve a problem, but they don’t know how.
We specifically developed our “Reimagine” Discovery process to dive deep and investigate what’s going on inside a company concerning the known problem so that we can get to potential answers. From there, our team of business workflow analysts and software development professionals provides a full project proposal on the best strategies to fix the problem, including a timeline and budget.
By the way, presenting this type of proposal and solution roadmap to your leadership team can make a powerful impact. It answers their key questions and can make them more likely to approve your project, or at least request further discussions on the topic.
Step #3: Determine Why Solving the Problem Is Important
You and your team may feel that solving this problem is crucial, but what’s vital to your team may seem less important to the company. Luckily, there are ways for you to sway the stakeholders to your way of thinking.
First, step outside of your immediate position and team space to figure out what solving the problem will do for the company at large. Consider how your team’s outputs and deliverables impact the rest of the company.
For example, implementing a custom automated data and business intelligence software solution would increase the number of useful insights your team could pull from decades worth of customer data. From there they could create real-time reports related to:
- Customer behavior trends over specific date ranges
- Customer purchase patterns
- Prospects content engagement patterns
- Typical customer journeys for each customer persona
By upgrading the data and business intelligence tools for one team, that team could create new outputs for multiple other groups in the company to act on. Doing so could help increase revenue, provide targeted messaging to prospects, and provide better products and services to customers that would increase both their engagement and their LTV.
Having this more global view of how your team’s actions could impact others can help you more accurately highlight why solving your team’s problem with a custom software solution can prove essential for company-wide success.
Another important step in proving the importance of solving peak the problem includes determining the cost of doing nothing. At first, spending nothing always seems cheaper, but that perspective doesn’t consider what you lose out on by doing nothing.
Consider this graph and imagine that you are trying to convince leadership to invest in a customized data software upgrade that would automate processes, provide better access to accurate data, and let the company make decisions based on real-time figures. Some members of leadership have argued that the current software is good enough and that productivity will continue to improve year-over-year. You've decided to do some research to verify this claim.
In your research, you discover that productivity using your current software has been steadily on the decline for several years. Going at this rate, overall productivity will decrease by at least 25%. That loss in productivity translates to a loss in revenue, an increase in employee morale problems, and being outdone by competitors.
Whereas, if leadership agrees to invest in custom software development to upgrade the company's data, your research indicates productivity would increase by over 50% within four years. That type of growth would keep your business competitive in the marketplace and increase revenue. Both are solid reasons to explain why leadership needs to approve your solution.
Another key question in determining why your proposed solution is important involves answering why now?
You or your team have been getting your tasks done without solving this problem. So, what has changed? Potential changes could include:
- Increase in customers or customer activity
- Supply chain slowdowns impeding business processes
- Regulatory practices are about to change and require implementing new standards
- Data security laws are changing and require the business to be in compliance by a specific date
Time-sensitive industry changes can often provide excellent leverage in persuading your organization to approve custom software upgrades or technology overhauls. Just make sure that you understand the full ramifications of those industry changes. When your leadership team asks you about it during your presentation, you’ll want to be able to answer intelligibly and relate the information directly to how your proposed solution helps your company be in full compliance with those time-sensitive changes.
Step #4: Build Your Presentation
The build part of the process is the most time-consuming, but by taking the time to tailor your presentation for your stakeholders, you increase your chances of success.
At the start of your build, gather as much data and research as you need, but try to avoid going down any research rabbit holes. Remember steps #1-3 about what, how, and why you need to solve the problem. Try to keep your research focused on those areas.
After you have gathered research, made notes, and have reliable data to support your proposal premise, you must make everything presentable. This is the tricky part.
How do you transform pages of data and research into something short for stakeholders to absorb, understand, and act upon?
Generally, whenever talking to leadership, the best advice is to get to the point quickly.
One way to avoid overloading the presentation includes using a presentation structure. Not only will the structure give you a framework to craft your presentation, but you can also use it to build a key points takeaway sheet for leadership to review as they make their final decision.
A powerful project presentation structure may include the following elements:
- Project/Initiative: Explain what you’re proposing or recommending in 1-2 short sentences. Make sure it’s clear and say exactly what it is you want them to approve. [Refer to Step #2]
- Context: Avoiding any unnecessary details, provide a bit of background as to why you’re proposing this project. [Refer to Step #1]
- Reasoning: While there are many reasons you may want to start this project, remember the business needs. Discuss the top 4-6 business reasons. [Refer to Steps #1 & #3]
- Cost of Doing Nothing: Use compelling reasons and data to show them why remaining status quo will be a disadvantage for the business. [Refer to Step #3]
- Milestones: Leadership needs to know the timetable of the project and the milestones to measure success. If you don’t have exact numbers, make the best estimates you can, but be realistic. You will be held to these numbers. [Refer to Steps #2 & #3]
- Budget: Be honest with the budget but soften any potential sticker shock by going right into what their return on investment will include. [Refer to Steps #2-#4]
- Formal Ask: Finish the presentation by reminding them of the direct ask you stated at the beginning. Keep it short, but make sure they understand what they’re being asked to do. [Refer to Step #2]
After you complete this first draft of your presentation, play devil’s advocate. Pretend you’re a member of leadership and think of all the questions you would ask to poke holes in the plan.
During this part of the process, be brutal. Anticipate every question and obstacle that may come up to blow your project out of the water. Then start building your defense.
Gather data, find proof of concept from other companies, whatever it takes. Have that information ready, but don’t pack it into the presentation. The goal is to be ready when leadership starts asking questions, not before. Then you can say, “I’m glad you asked that question,” as you pull out the data to back up your answer.
Remember, as you play devil’s advocate, it may change your presentation, and that’s a good thing. Finding holes in your presentation and fixing them ahead of time builds your confidence and helps you further prove the merit of your proposal.
Step #5: Get Early Buy-in and Support
It may sound strange but talking about your software development project proposal with coworkers and leadership way before you make your presentation can help you better sell your idea and get approval.
In marketing terms, you’re creating buzz. In reality, you’re shedding light on a problem that others have either accepted or ignored. As you start to talk about it and casually workshop solutions, your coworkers and some of your leadership team may join in the discussion.
Pay special attention to what everyone says in this conversation. No doubt you’ll gain perspectives different from your own, which can help strengthen your proposal. You’ll also start to see who’s interested in your idea and perhaps willing to champion your software development proposal to everyone else.
Having team members buy into your proposal before it’s even officially presented sends a clear message to the decision-makers that people want to solve this problem and are ready to get behind the proposed solution. If you can get a member of the leadership team on board as well, then you’ll have someone in the room fighting for your cause as the decision is being made.
Step #6: Deliver Your Presentation
On the day of the presentation, provide the leadership team with a formal key points takeaway document with all the elements of your proposal. That said, do not read from the document while you’re presenting. Use it as a conversation starter and as a mental checklist. You should know your project well enough to present it by heart, but it doesn’t hurt to have your list of key points in front of you and the team.
Depending on how your leadership team operates, you may immediately get a yes or a no right at the meeting, but chances are they will need to deliberate privately. You may have to wait for the answer, so be patient and accept the results gracefully.
AltSource Can Help Before or After You Get Full Software Development Project Approval
Before you can get approval for your custom software development project, you may need advice from professionals about how to leverage technology to solve your business problems. Headquartered in Portland and servicing clients in Seattle, San Diego, and throughout the US, we at AltSource are happy to start a conversation and gain a better idea of your business challenges, workflows, and tech stack. From there we can build out your software development strategy and technology roadmap.
If you already have budget approval, you may still need to find the right software development partner. Kirby Electric was in a similar position. They had budget approval, leadership buy-in, and they were ready to get started. They just didn't know how to start, which was why they approached AltSource.
The Kirby Electric team knew they needed a better way to manage their projects, support unique workflows, and have full visibility of their data in real-time. They wanted a solution that let them see all the details of every project in a clean, simple view.
Our team of product managers, business workflow specialists, and software developers guided the Kirby Electric team and recommended that they replace their inefficient Excel and server-based filing system with a custom project management platform that AltSource would build for them. Get the full details by clicking here.
If you need guidance on how to make your customized software solution proposal into a reality, contact AltSource today: email@example.com