labProposal: Drupal-based Contracting Proposal Generator
labProposal: Drupal-based Contracting Proposal Generator
The first project proposal system for Drupal. Rapidly compile itemized proposals for your projects. Open Source and GPL.
The first project proposal system for Drupal. Rapidly compile itemized proposals for your projects. Open Source and GPL. Read more
The proposal generator was originally dubbed "labProposal", since I release code under "MirageLab" and tend to slap "lab" onto the beginning of the name of the software packages I write. It was first created for use on the [now defunct] PostNuke CMS platform. I chose PostNuke at the time because it offered the most modular CMS backend available for use on a LAMP stack and because it was available for free as Open Source software available under the GPL (General Public License). That means it was written to run on the Linux operating system using an Apache web server running PHP and with a mySQL database server. Most people liked it because of the GPL part... well, and it was free.
Later, when the PostNuke core development team felt the need to revise the platform, they moved on to develop Xaraya, an even more sophisticated platform that enabled me to do more with labProposal. I expanded on it. I got to put it through it's paces with a few clients. And I made heavy use of it myself, of course.
The user base for Xaraya was not large enough to keep me from continuously reviewing competing platforms over the years like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. About two years ago, I started making active use of Drupal for my client projects, and I have found it to be mature enough to use on even the most sophisticated project since then. Neither WordPress nor Joomla offer the level of flexibility that I require in order to create the tools I want.
Which brings us to now. I am ready to migrate the labProposal module to the Drupal platform and release it to the public, for free, as open source software (FOSS) under the same license as the Drupal platform itself.
That's right, you do not have to invest in this project in order to benefit from it. You should, though. Just click "BACK THIS PROJECT" to the right, in order to get started.
The rewards that I am offering for various pledge levels include stickers, t-shirts, USB keychains, peer recognition, project participation, and early access to the module software.
Everyone gets access to the final software release, though.
I am one of those weird open source guys that thinks software should be free.
Unfortunately, I am also a web developer who knows that it doesn't get written for free. In the past, I have released software that I managed to finish on my own without any budget, in my own spare time. However, when paid work presents itself, it always gets prioritized first, and my own personal projects spend a great deal of their time on the back burner before they get put to use or released to anyone else.
Let's get one thing straight: I use my own software. I develop projects that have value to me, that I know I can make use of, that will make my life easier, simpler, and less stressful. Too often do I find the creators of popular infrastructure software do not make use of their own products, and it bothers me. I stand by my own work because I use it.
I want to make the benefits of this software available to everyone else because I think that helping to improve other businesses makes the market a better place. Business owners deserve a better B2B experience, especially when there are so many tools available to help us provide it to them.
So where is the disconnect?
I have reviewed my collective intellectual property in software infrastructure to try and answer this question. I have a respectable selection that has been custom built to provide for a range of services:
Step 1: Dossier - Contact data for new leads is collected and stored.
Step 2: labProposal - New RFP's are entered and used to populate a new proposal and budget estimate based on past project proposals.
Step 3: xProject - Proposal line items become project tasks that are prioritized and get worklog entries as they are completed.
Step 4: labAccounting - Project hours are pulled from task worklogs and summarized for billing in a PDF invoice that the customer is sent.
There are many more modules that can become involved, but these are key. A quick search on Drupal.org will turn up a multitude of address books and contact managers, as well as ToDo list managers and task managers. Drupal also integrates with QuickBooks, which has the accounting angle kinda covered.
But Drupal has no proposal generator software that I can find. In fact, proposal generator software is not a very well covered market niche, period, for anyone that wants to use free and open source software. That last part is important, because it lets you customize your copy of software without having to consult with anyone first.
You can help get labProposal launched and make use of it yourself by pledging now. Click "BACK THIS PROJECT" on the right and pledge to support this open source software.
labProposal will be made available in a standard archive intended for installation on a Drupal website. Once installed, it will have a standard "settings" page for the site administrator to configure details about how it will work.
A proposal will be created as a special Node type in Drupal, with custom functionality specific to the creation of project proposals. Originally, labProposal was written as a (you guessed it) web design/development project proposal generator. The Drupal version will be developed to stay open ended enough for projects of any type to be spec'd out and estimated on.
Most contracting companies will end up submitting many proposals for variations on the same work over and over again. Each time, the same essential pieces are included with each proposal that is sent, much of it just boilerplate. Each line item in each section of the proposal using labProposal will be an individual "addenda".
After several proposals have been created in labProposal, by manually entering in each of the line items, new proposals can be created using a GUI that allows searching of past addenda in prior proposals and one-click inclusion of them in the new proposal. The copied addenda can be modified as needed and then made available to future proposals for easy inclusion.
In this way, available proposal addenda become refined over time. Instead of deciding that it will take too much time to write out full details for each line item and just listing bullet points, you will be able to quickly find and include your own previously written addenda items. After you build a library of addenda items to cover most every aspect of your business, you will only have to manually enter new addenda for services or features that you have not offered previously.
Sitting down to write a new proposal can be one of the most daunting tasks I know of. I'm not ashamed to admit that it's a pain point for me. Using a proposal generator populated with addenda items, getting started is quick and I have 90% of the proposal finished just by clicking to add the addenda items in my library.
Addenda items can also be flagged as boilerplate items that are automatically included in each new proposal, although they may be removed afterwards. All addenda items can be removed individually as well as have their position within the proposal adjusted to move them up or down in the list, or even categorized within it.
I will also be building an initial library of addenda items to include with labProposal when it is released. This library will be tailored for use by other web developers. I will also be putting together an alternate library of addenda for use in putting together KickStarter project proposals. The degree to which the project is able to exceed the funding goal will determine whether or not I include addenda libraries for other types of business, but it will not prevent anyone else from building their own from scratch using labProposal.
Proposals have optional cover letters (which can also be boilerplate template) and will also be exportable as PDF files.
One of the features that I have not included in prior versions of labProposal will be tie-ins to digital signature services so that each proposal can instantly become a contract that the client can sign online. Having a professional proposal to offer your clients can be what finally seals the deal. Having your clients sign them can be what makes sure you get paid for your work. Having them sign your proposal/contract online can help get things moving much more quickly. Working without a contract isn't the smartest way to go.
Another feature that will be new to labProposal, as a benefit of being on the Drupal platform, will be tie-ins to Ubercart for inclusion of products to be listed in proposals.
I will be releasing labProposal to the public when it is finished and a stable release is ready. It will be released for free, published on Drupal.org, like most other Drupal modules. There will not be any commercial purchase involved. Everyone gets it, not just those who pledge to the project.
What you get if you pledge to the project is to be included in a mailing list that I send copies of each alpha/beta version of the code to. The list will allow those who are on it to reply with feedback that is shared and used to improve the project and fix bugs.
- Sticker - as part of the design work, a sticker will be created for the project that will be sent out as one of the rewards for pledging. It will feature logos for PHP, Linux and Apache alone with the Drupal icon and a slogan: "labProposal: helping you distribute more open source projects" (slogan subject to change if I hear something that really catches my ear)
- T-Shirt - similar to the design elements of the sticker, but with well designed artistic splashes.
- Beta-Tester - you will be rewarded with direct access to my own development site, where I will be actively writing code between releases. Your private login will give you access to the labProposal module, installed on Drupal, as well as online submission of bugs. Start putting labProposal to use the moment it is functioning without having to install it yourself.
- Launch Party - to celebrate having achieved the project goal, I will be throwing a private party in Austin, TX. If you live in or near Austin, I encourage you to make VIP pledge and get invited. Hang out with other area developers and talk some shop while knocking back a few pints!
- Project Priorities - I work with a task manager that prioritizes from 1 to 9, with a Priority 1 task being the most urgent. Each week, I will conference with the Producers to determine prioritization of all remaining tasks.
- Rebranding - if you pledge enough to cover the full project, then I will create a custom rebranded version of the final release for you. I will rename it anything you want, and GPL even allows you to sell it to your own clients (as long as you do so under the GPL).
The project will run in weekly sprints, utilizing various parts of Agile methodology (and a la carte pieces of other methodologies). All project features will be itemized as tasks, including subtasks, as necessary. The same applies to bugs. Task priority will determine the order that work is completed in.
The weekly project meeting will be used to reprioritize all current features and bugs for inclusion in the next sprint. This meeting will take place on a conference call that all Producers will be invited to attend and take part in. Everyone on the call will be allowed to voice their opinion for consideration by myself and the rest of the call attendees. I want to reward those who support the project by making them an integral part of the team, or at least allow a first hand look at how I do web development.
Don't wait until after this KickStarter project is over and it's too late to pledge! Click "SUPPORT THIS PROJECT" up at the right and become a part of it. You will need an Amazon Payments account to pledge. It works just like Paypal, connected to your bank account or credit card. Remember that KickStarter is an all-or-nothing process; if there are not enough pledges, none of the funds will be made available for the project. Pledges are not charged unless and until the pledge period is over AND the minimum pledge amount is met.
Your support not only goes towards making this project happen, but also serves to show other open source developers that their projects can happen too. labProposal can even serve to provide other developers with the tool they need in order to get their own projects funded.
The world doesn't need another proprietary closed source solution to doing business. Great open source ideas happen all the time, but they don't usually pay for for themselves directly.
...and, if you can't pledge, you may know someone who is an advocate for free and open source software. Please tell them about this project; they may even be in need of a good proposal generator!
- (30 days)