Creating a Project Intake Process for Success
Teams of all sizes know the pain of communication breakdowns between when a project or initiative is first introduced and when it is completed. Without a defined process, projects and initiatives are introduced through all different forms of communication whether that’s casually mentioning during a meeting, a phone call, chat in the hall, or sending an email, instant message, or text. This leads to communication breakdowns, lost initiatives, and often not completing the projects of the highest value but rather the projects requested by the “squeakiest wheel”. One of the easiest ways to overcome this is to set up a process that can easily be replicated to streamline project requests to successful completion!
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 contact information of the requestor, requested timeline, description, impact, and stakeholders (who will this impact). Also, essential to include is what is the main goal of this project or the problem it is trying to solve. 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. At Echo Consulting, 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 establishing a project intake form for the teams we work with, we like to set one up that integrates into a project management information system or a task management system such as Smart Sheet, ClickUp, or one of the other countless systems! This opens the door for many automation options to improve consistency and transparency across all levels. We often set up automation to include notifying correct decision-makers, conditional actions to request information, automated status requests to keep everyone informed, or assignments. This protects initiatives from getting lost as they are easy to track in the system as well as improves consistency across the organization with set date fields and forms.
A standardized intake form through a project management system also helps to ensure that decision-makers can prioritize the right projects for your organizations' strategic objectives as well as ensure that projects are being completed in a cost-effective and timely manner. Having a database of requested initiatives also for a clearer picture of the budget, timelines, and project impacts on overarching goals.
Streamlining through a system also improves communication throughout all levels and stages in a project whether that at the request or completion. For example, the reviewer or decision-maker is easily able to request more information and provide status updates to the requestor as well as have transparency of workload of “doer” and be able to easily relay information needed. Using a project management system for an intake process also establishes a framework for how a project request moves through an organization to completion. The key component to an effective project intake process and establishing a procedure that will work for your team that offers transparency & communication throughout all stages from intake, acceptance, completion, and approval.