Operational Excellence

The Role of Project Intake in Successful Project Management 

March 22, 2024
9 min read

Starting a project without a structured project initiation phase in place is like starting a build without a foundation—it’s a nonstarter. It’s considered the first step in a project lifecycle for a reason, because it’s where the project initiator outlines exactly why their proposed project is needed using a project intake form. The form is then sent to the project management office (PMO) with the hopes that the information provided was enough to convey the project’s feasibility and value. This can be a competitive process, with numerous clients submitting requests for projects to get off the ground. As a result, being able to quickly capture demand and prevent work from slipping through the cracks has become a priority for project managers.

The process starting from the project intake form typically goes something like this:

  1. Project intake form received and PMO confirms that all necessary upfront criteria is met.
  2. PMO determines if the project is a good fit for their team’s skillset and their strategic and financial objectives.
  3. PMO assesses the potential benefits and risks of taking on the project.
  4. After all information is collected and reviewed, a decision to move forward with a project or refuse it is made.
  5. For approved projects this is when the planning stage begins, and teams are assigned and tasks are outlined.
  6. After planning is when the actual work gets done and the project’s progress is monitored and adjusted as needed.
  7. Once a project is complete the work is held up against the original project intake form to ensure that all the work has been done to meet industry and client standards.

This is why a solid and standard project intake form is essential for any PMO.

Some of the key areas a strong project intake process helps with include:

  • Consistency: Being able to collect submissions and compare them against your goals using a standardized method is priceless when trying to vet which projects are going to offer the greatest ROI and are worth adding to your project pipeline.
  • Collaboration: When there isn’t cross-team communication sometimes an eager sales person can bite off more work than your project management team is able to chew. Or they may choose to send over projects that don’t align with your financial or strategic goals. By having a single project intake form that is visible cross functionally, you can ensure everyone is prioritizing the same projects and project criteria without causing any internal conflict or confusion from team to team.
  • Planning: With a project intake form, key information is provided right away so unnecessary guess work is removed from the process allowing projects to start on time and with less back and forth and fewer cases of inaccurate or incomplete resource planning.
  • Organization: Data chaos is a real threat to project managers, and the intake planning process is no exception. Having a standardized project intake form is the most efficient way to stay organized and on top of every detail with less confusion and fewer delays.
  • Clarity: A project intake form acts like a visual reminder of a project and therefore makes tracking it much less tedious. By tracking the project, you can make sure work is properly distributed so no teams are covering a disproportional amount of tasks.

Your Guide to an Effective Project Intake Form 

Creating a standardized, well-designed project intake form has become a priority for project managers who want to streamline the process for proposed projects to avoid ad-hoc submissions and unexpected project arrivals. Having a standardized process not only drives efficiency, organization, and consistency, but it also ensures that all clients know what is needed upfront resulting in faster project approvals.

Without a standard project intake form, there are common pitfalls that can occur such as:

  • Submission chaos: when projects come at you from different sources like email, DM, phone, meetings, and even word of mouth. When there isn’t a centralized request process, projects get lost in the chaos and reflects poorly on your resource planning and leaves you susceptible to missing the mark and taking on projects that aren’t a great fit for your team’s objectives or capabilities.
  • Miscommunication: One of the key benefits to having an automated project intake form is that everyone starts off on the same page. Deadlines are addressed right away, budgets are part of the conversation from the jump, and there aren’t any ad-hoc requests because all information is in one form. No more surprises or misunderstandings that can jeopardize a project and inevitably a client relationship.
  • Poor decision making: When projects are submitted without a standardized method, information can be sent in that isn’t complete or necessary information can be buried and you have to then spend time digging through pages of project details in order to find what you need to move forward. Not only is this inefficient, but it leaves you open to making poor decisions that can leave you stuck with projects your team can’t handle whether for capacity, budget, or scope reasons.
  • Lack of control: There is nothing worse than starting a project feeling in the dark or out of control with what is expected of your team. With a project intake form you get to define the criteria you need to make a successful decision and you have much more room for pushback if you don’t have the information you require to make a decision. Or, if a client reaches out with out-of-scope requests you can avoid awkward conversations by referencing what was agreed upon from the initial project intake form.

Setting up an effective project intake form means asking the right questions right away. They are typically set up as a questionnaire with requests for information like:

  • Client contact information. This should include their website and email address.
  • Background on the company and what service or product they provide
  • Who are the company’s main competitors
  • What type of project are they proposing?
  • What is the expected scope of the project?
  • What are some expected risks and challenges associated with the project?
  • What are the goals of the project?
  • Who is the target demographic for the project?
  • What is the proposed budget and target start and end dates?

Task Management Begins with Proper Intake 

For industries like construction and manufacturing that tend to have multiple projects going on at once, making a standardized intake form can also be an invaluable tool for getting an early pulse on forecasting ROI, cost-benefit analysis, risk mitigation, and resource requirements.

When the right information is received through a proper intake process, it sets the tone for the rest of the project once approved. Empowering a project management team to plan out exactly what is needed and expected during the intake stage allows for a much more proactive task management process. Tasks like assigning tasks based on project type, establishing realistic deadlines, allocating and logging time, scheduling meetings, and flagging any potential conflicts and/or bottlenecks can be complete faster and with my accuracy.

Best Practices for Managing Project Intake Forms 

Project intake forms offer a single-entry point for potential projects. Yes, they can be more work upfront, but the amount of time and energy they save in the long term is undeniable. We’ve put together some actionable tips for creating, maintaining, and optimizing project intake forms questions.

Digitize the process

Digitize the process and link the form in emails and on your website for easy and sharable submission access. Automating your standardized project intake form can make the process even more efficient by allowing for confirmation emails, error notifications, and even an expedited approval process.

Don’t just set it and forget it

As you start to understand what criteria is needed upfront, you can begin to adjust the intake form to request more and perhaps even less information from the client.

Establish firm criteria

Understanding exact processes for approved projects to make it as clear as possible which types of projects should be considered.

Allow for a hierarchy of review

Use the intake form to determine the size and scope of a project and have a system in place for who should review, approve, and take on the project from that point forward.

Customize your project intake form

You can customize this by project type, size or client. Whether it’s your first time working with a client or you have specific requirements, some of the form details can be tailored to make this initial step feel more personalized and targeted. You can also specialize based on your client – a PMO project intake form could be used for specialized intake forms for PMOs. Also, templates are your friend! Don’t feel the need to start from scratch when so many project intake form pre-designed forms already exist.


Don’t create or modify the project intake form in a silo, make sure everyone on the team is on board with the project intake form questions being asked.

Have reliable systems

Have a reliable content management system or application platform that can help keep track of submissions, resource capacity, task assigning, and overall project planning.

Make the intake form a mandate

If a project proposal doesn’t come through the intake form, it doesn’t get reviewed. Period. This may seem like an obvious point, but getting everyone to follow through can be a challenge. Stick to the process, it’ll pay off in the end.

Make your project intake process a breeze

While managing project intake forms can be overwhelming, having a template with standardized questions makes it easier and faster to receive submissions and thoroughly review them for approval. A well-designed project intake form is the first step to streamlining projects from initiation to completion. 

See how Quickbase can help you during your project initiative phase and beyond with a 30-day free trial!

With your trial, connect your custom projects, teams, and data with our easy-to-use and highly configurable platform:

  • Use AI to create secure, custom applications
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  • Organize all of the moving parts of any project for better collaboration
  • Centralize important compliance and regulation documentation

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