Q. I need to obtain a large sum of funding for a security capital project. What advice can you offer to help improve my case when submitting the request?
A. Each company has its own forms and processes, but generally speaking there are some basic guidelines that one should follow when presenting a case for project funding. It’s important to know your audience, manage your time and prepare a thoughtful document that has considered the following:
• Title Page: Include the project name, the individual and department names of who has prepared and is presenting the request, the date and any other information that is a company requirement.
• Table of Contents: Include section numbers, section/subject names and page numbers.
• Executive Summary: First impressions are vital. Clearly and concisely state your case; a project overview of who, what, why, when and how. Who’s asking? What are you asking for? Why are you asking? When will the funds be used? How will the funds be used? All within a paragraph or two with supporting detail elsewhere in the funding request document.
• Project Description: Describe the project – history, recommendation, justification, strategic fit and alternatives.
- History. Present the project history; what is it that has brought you to this point? Have there been previous requests? Is the existing system on its last leg? Is it costing more to maintain than it would be to replace? Have technology advancements passed you by? Do new contractual agreements require a change? Do changes in regulatory requirements necessitate a change?
- Recommendation. What is it you want and why do you want it? What homework (benchmarking, testing, industry reviews) have you done to ensure this is the best answer for your situation? How long will it take to complete the project? What are the action steps of the project (testing, phased implementation)? Are there business partners (vendors, suppliers, internal departments)? Is there a long term or temporary operational business impact?
- Justification. A simple but not always obvious and very important question – why is it needed? Not only why is it needed but why is it needed now (replace failing systems, regulatory compliance, client requirement). What’s at risk if you don’t complete the project (business risks, loss of client, government or industry fines and/or sanctions, security risks, employee/customer safety)? What value will it bring to the company (reputation, client/customer value add, industry differentiation)? Is there an actual return on investment (ROI)? Is the project needed to meet contractual or industry requirements? Will this project result in potential business (marketing or sales) opportunities?
- Strategic Fit. How will this purchase fit with company and/or security department strategic goals, objectives and long range plans? How does this project fit with other business units, sector or department goals or objectives? How might this purchase facilitate and or support future business or security opportunities?
- Alternatives. What alternatives have you considered and why did you not choose them; other products, other timelines or other solutions?
• Request: Don’t forget to ask for the funding. How much will it cost? What will it buy; hardware, software, installation costs, operating costs (maintenance consumables, initial start-up costs). Are there tax implications or purchase incentives? Can related existing systems be repurposed? Are the funds budgeted? Remember to include a properly prepared and approved financial summary.
Check your math, dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s”. It’s very important that your request be professional and complete. Take the extra time to ensure you are prepared to answer any question or challenge that may come your way. While you may not get the funding you’ve requested it should not be because you failed to properly prepare. Generally speaking funding is a matter of prioritizing available dollars and while you may not get your money this time, priorities change.
Answer provided by Kenneth Kasten, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty.