As IT companies embrace the business opportunity the cloud presents and transition to become cloud-ready service providers , one of the first questions that may arise is how to draft a proposal that reflects the change in orientation, from traditional project-based to managed services.
For the answer, Small Business Trends turned to Chaitra Vedullapalli, cloud architect and CMO of Meylah , a cloud and software-as-a-service strategic advisory and consulting practice.
She listed the following steps:
1. Educate the Client on What to Expect
“Before submitting a proposal, the IT provider should meet with the prospective client to educate him on what the cloud experience will look like,” Vedullapalli said. “This meeting is designed to bring the client into alignment with how moving to the cloud can impact his business.”
The amount of detail and number of topics to be covered may require a series of meetings.
“Two to four is typical,” she said. “This is an all-important first step and must not be overlooked.”
During the meeting, the IT provider should articulate his employees’ expertise, the company’s operational experience and the ongoing costs for maintenance after implementing the plan, along with any new roles it will create.
The provider should also explain the pricing model, which includes the Proof of Concept (POC) and managed services subscription costs.
“Leave the meeting by validating the client’s challenges and opportunities, and then get an agreement to send the proposal,” she said.
2. Draft the Proposal Around a Complete Solution
Vedullapalli said that the IT provider should draft a proposal that implements a complete solution — “What the customer will need both now and in the future.”
(Click here  to download an editable cloud solution proposal template in MS Word form.)
It should address the following data points:
Executive Summary. Describe the opportunity, cloud solution and business impact.
“Use this section to summarize the customer opportunity and solutions you will stitch together to achieve the business outcome,” she said.
Define the Problem Statement and Benefits. Articulate the current landscape and challenges clients face today. This section can help providers organize the challenges in order of urgency, strategic priority, customer satisfaction and operational efficiencies.
Also, describe the benefits to the client that come by implementing a cloud solution.
“The benefits have to be quantified and tangible,” Vedullapalli said. “Use metrics and data to showcase the value you will provide by enabling a cloud solution.”
Proposed Cloud Solution. In this section, review the cloud solution being offered.
Roles and Responsibilities. State the roles and people who will be working on the project.
“Here, you can take the liberty to brag a little,” she said. “Mention any relevant education, industry-specific training, certifications, years of experience or successful projects that relate to what you’re offering. Defining roles and responsibilities upfront will help you secure alignment and commitment from your customer.”
Pricing Estimate. Disclose the cost, payment and schedule for delivery.
Case Studies and Reference Materials. Include two or three case studies as examples and any other reference materials that would help convince the prospect to purchase the cloud solution.
Upon completion, send the proposal, and schedule a 30-minute meeting with the client to review it, get feedback and make necessary adjustments. After that, send the revised version for approval and Proof of Concept implementation.
“The IT provider should make the proposal turnkey so the prospective client can see and understand things clearly,” Vedullapalli said.
She stated that the provider should also show the client a clear ROI and impact on business — what will change as a result of implementing the solution.
“This could include such factors as productivity, cost savings or new business leads,” she said. “Don’t say, ‘We are going to enhance your business process,’ but rather, ‘We’re going to help you reduce 30 percent cost savings by implementing the cloud solution.’
The POC will prove that data point, so when you go mainstream it’s consistent relative to your proposal.”
Vedullapalli added that, when drafting the agreement, providers should write down the objective and what the program will look like. Specify the client’s responsibilities and the IT provider’s role and responsibilities — what each party agrees to do and not do as the case may be.
Also, include the financial terms, timelines and good faith and non-disclosure agreements. If a POC is involved, consider adding an incentive, such as a discount, special offer or other enhancement, to induce the client to sign, she advised.
“Providers should also refer to the contract as ‘Cloud Partnership’ agreement rather than a ‘Project’ agreement because it more accurately reflects the nature of the contract,” she added.
3. Define the Proof of Concept
The Proof of Concept phase comes next, and providers should base its use on metrics — the things the client wants to be accomplished.
“The POC is a test drive to see if the proposed solution can solve the client’s problem,” Vedullapalli said. “It’s limited in scope and time — 90 days is typical.”
She said that the IT provider needs to conduct a series of educational sessions during the POC period, training the client and his employees on topics such as how to access the cloud, what life in the cloud looks like and what the company should expect regarding its experience.
4. Go Mainstream
Once the POC is successful, the client should be ready to take the solution mainstream, opening it up across the breadth of the organization.
Vedullapalli provided the following tips:
Know your customer. To create a successful proposal, it’s vital that providers have a thorough understanding of the client, particularly the decision-maker.
“Know who the decision-maker is — the person who can champion or drive the transformation,” she said. “You want someone who is ‘checked in,’ the right leader. It takes leadership on the part of the client to make this work.”
Provide a turnkey solution. Make sure the solution is turnkey and very clear — not something “hodge-podge,” to use her term.
“Include start and end dates, and showcase only the product or solution that is ideally suited to the customer,” she said.
Clarify what the POC includes. In the proposal, explain exactly what the POC will involve.
“Don’t say it will cover everything,” she said. “Be specific. If it’s only about email, then say that. Keep the Proof of Concept very targeted.”
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