An Executive Summary should detail information in a concise and self-explanatory manner, quickly grab the reader’s attention and provide an understanding of the whole report without the need to peruse the entire report. The Executive Summary is usually written after an entire report is complete by encapsulating the information contained in various sections. Usually the summary does not exceed two pages. This article describes the structure of an Executive Summary that is designed to form part of a bid in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for project execution. The same thought process can be applied to write Executive Summaries for most proposals – be it to secure funding for new ventures, securing approvals for new projects or initiatives.
Executive Summary Structure:
The Executive Summary does not have a rigid structure. One way of organizing the information within the Executive Summary is to have the same presentation structure as the main report. It may be worthwhile to include a sentence (or two) summary of each section of the main report. This will ensure a logical flow and minimize the risk of omitting important information. Some of the key sections are covered below.
Opening paragraph of Executive Summary: This should provide a background, objective and description of why the initiative is being undertaken. The reasons for initiation of the project should be mentioned in bullet points and can include the need to meet compliance requirements, cut costs, increase revenues or secure competitive advantage.
Salient features of the proposed solution: This section should highlight the approach that is being taken and the methodology that would be followed to implement the solution. For each phase of the project, the associated deliverables, timelines and the cost should be provided. The benefits of the proposed solution should be listed and quantified. The commercials associated with the initiative should also be included here so that a cost benefit analysis can subsequently be performed.
Differentiators: The key value proposition should be included here. Some of the items that can be listed here include past experience and track record of the personnel and the firm, industry recognition and accolades from other clients. In short, this section should describe why the bidder should be selected.
Scope definition: To ensure that the scope of the proposed solution is well understood, this section should be included. All features that are being included in the solution delivery should be grouped under inclusions and a separate section should list items that are deemed “out of scope”. A separate sub section should include the scope of services being provided as a part of the engagement. The scope section as a part of the executive summary helps establish the understanding of the project objective. This also serves to eliminate scope creep at a later stage.
Timelines for action: Including this helps set expectations on why action is required by a certain date.
The goal of the Executive Summary is to provide the audience with enough information to avoid them having to read the entire report. It should however inspire the reader to want to read the entire report. Recycling sentences from the main report should be avoided to ensure that there is no repetition for the reader. The writing style should be formal and devoid of jargon.
If you still are not sure how to go about writing an Executive Summary, feel free to use our Executive Summary Template