Ever had a great project opportunity arise, only to have it get lost in the chaos of emails, sticky notes, and chat threads?
The problem here isn't team communication, or even a lack of good ideas; it's not having a defined process for tracking and initiating project ideas. Or as we call it, not having an intake process.
Without a defined process, there's no way to tell which projects are the highest priority, or to get a clear understanding of project health and status. In this situation, it's easy for projects and initiatives to fall through the cracks, or for teams to focus only on projects with the loudest advocate rather than those that would make the highest impact.
This is not an ideal situation for long term strategic growth, and it's a huge hurdle for teams of all sizes. But the good news is that creating an intake process can be a simple process that immediately improves project visibility and follow-through.
Start Simple: Creating an Intake Process
The first step to any project intake process should be a standardized intake form. The requirements of an intake form will be unique for each organization but should include things like:
Contact information of the requestor
Stakeholders (e.g. project approver, lead, etc.)
Also, it's important to include the main goal of the project. Often requestors will request a solution before digging into what the overarching problem is. By defining the actual problem, decision-makers are able to determine the solution that will provide the highest value to the organization’s strategic initiatives.
We recommend keeping the form as minimal as possible and request more information as the process goes on. This encourages full adoption as the form is easy and clear to fill out.
When creating a project intake form, it's helpful to integrate the form into a software that your team already uses, like Smartsheet, Monday.com, Asana, or ClickUp. This opens the door for many automation options to improve consistency and transparency across all levels. Here's a quick tutorial of how to make a form in one of our favorite programs, Smartsheet.
Leveling Up: Automating Your Intake Process
Once your intake process is in place, consider adding some automations to reduce manual data entry and save important mental bandwidth. We often set up automations to notify correct decision-makers, create conditional actions to request information, send automated status requests to keep everyone informed, or to notify project assignees.
When automations take care of some of the management of intake items, there's a lower risk that those initiatives will get lost in the shuffle. Automations have the added benefit of improving consistency across the organization with set date fields and forms.
Consistency is Key
As if more visibility and less busywork in your workflow wasn't enough, there are even more benefits to standardizing project intake. For example, a project intake process can help you clearly establish priority for new ideas and projects, ensuring your team focuses on the highest impact projects for the organization's strategic goals. Because every project or initiative is considered through the same lens of the intake process, they all have the same standards in terms of setting priority. In addition, using an intake process can help teams get a better sense of project health. Understanding the expectations for budget, deadlines, and cost-effectiveness at the start of a project helps teams stay on track throughout its execution.
It's clear that having such a streamlined system goes beyond simply managing new projects; it also allows teams to stay connected and aligned throughout project execution and completion.
If you're interested in giving your project intake process an upgrade, reach out to us! We include an intake overhaul in many of our package offerings, and can point out more resources if you're interested in building out your intake on your own.