Efficient Project Intake Processes for Painless Project Management

March 21, 2024
8 min read

First Things First, what is Project Intake and Why Does It Matter? 

At its core, project intake is the initial phase where a new project request is submitted and then evaluated to determine if it should be accepted or denied. This step involves collecting comprehensive project details, assessing its value and feasibility, and gaining approval from relevant stakeholders. The significance of a robust project intake process cannot be overstated; it sets the stage for project success, aligning initiatives with overarching business goals, and ensuring that the right projects are undertaken at the right time with the right resources. 

Understanding that the project intake process is widely considered the project 'conception' phase allows project managers to grasp and appreciate its place in the management lifecycle. It’s a failsafe to ensure that each new project is not merely a 'good idea' but is substantiated with the strategic underpinning to turn it into a feasible, valuable, and actionable endeavor.    

It’s also important to note that project intake forms can be internal or external. In other words, the project may be presented from someone inside your organization or externally from an existing or potential client. For internal project intake processes the information needed to move forward would include information like the initiator’s name, the potential benefits of the project, some of the strategic goals and risks that may come up, a proposed budget, stakeholder impact, and a proposed deadline. For external project intake processes, the information is required but it is presented from the customer and may require more background and market information.   

In either case, the project intake request is then reviewed. Often several project requests can be in the queue at once, making it essential that a single point of entry for requests be in place. Standardizing the intake form making it clear what initial information is needed and expected and offering a platform for all requests to be submitted through is the most efficient way to get projects off the ground. Otherwise, you can expect requesters to submit from any number of different avenues such as social media messages, email, phone calls, in-person, through referrals, and even through standard mail.    

Creating a project intake process can help businesses save time, improve client relations, and prevent mistakes that could end up blowing the budget.   
Without a standardized project intake process, businesses wouldn’t know what works or whether or not it was a good idea for them to take it on. The project intake process often works as the gatekeeper to new projects. Streamlining this pivotal process ensures that your team is investing time and resources into the right projects, at the right time, and for the right reasons. For project managers striving for optimal efficiency, let’s go over the blueprint for how to re-engineer your project intake processes for painless project management.   

There are some main considerations for a successful project intake process. For starters, keeping everyone on the same and all information flowing through a single source of truth is key. The main benefit of a project intake process is organization, so this should be a top factor when setting up your work. To build on that, make sure everyone understands their role and what their responsibilities will be for the project upfront and document it.    

Once the proposal is created it can then be reviewed and a decision can be made if the project makes sense for the business to follow through on.  

The Project Intake Funnel: A Granular Breakdown 

Imagine the project intake process as a funnel; it starts with a multitude of ideas and initiatives and ultimately funnels down to the select few that merit full-fledged project status. Each stage of the funnel is critical, and a systematic approach is vital to navigating through without having to deal with unnecessary bottlenecks. This section dials into the granular stages of the project intake funnel and emphasizes just how vital each step is in the broader scheme of managing multiple projects.   

The project intake funnel is not linear, either; it should allow for flexibility and iteration as new information or shifts in strategic direction might warrant revisiting earlier stages. By breaking down the stages of the project intake process and ensuring each contributes value, project managers can create a pipeline that flows seamlessly. 

Project Intake and Prioritization: The Art of Choosing Wisely 

Many projects present their merits, yet limited resources require a nuanced approach to selection. This section tackles project prioritization at the intake stage—a decision-making process that determines which projects will be further invested in, and with what level of priority and resources will be required to get it done 

At its core, project prioritization is an exercise in aligning the projects that stand to offer the most value with the strategic objectives of the organization. It involves a mix of quantitative and qualitative criteria, considering the potential return on investment, strategic fit, risk factors, and resources available. The dialogue here focuses on the tools and techniques needed to prioritize projects efficiently and align such decisions with the overarching mission of the organization.    

Developing a Project Intake Questionnaire: Cutting Through the Chaos 

First, find out if the project is desirable, viable or at all feasible.    

Gathering initial project details from here is akin to assembling a jigsaw puzzle; without a structured approach, it is an exercise in futility. Enter the project intake questionnaire, a comprehensive tool that cuts through the chaos, and extracts the core details crucial for the evaluation process.    

That’s why the questions you ask matter; they should be designed to elicit not just the 'what' of the project but also the 'why,' 'how,' and 'when.' Crafting a project intake questionnaire needs to strike the right balance between being exhaustive in its approach and efficient in its execution. Learn how to create questions that are specific yet open-ended, encouraging stakeholders to provide contextual and thoughtful responses.  

Implementation of Project Intake Software: Digitizing the Gatekeeper 

The digital age has ushered in a new era of project management, where manual processes are often the first casualty in the name of efficiency. Project intake is no exception. This section addresses the transition from paper-based or ad-hoc digital project intake systems to dedicated project intake software.   

The advantages of digitizing the project intake process are substantial—enhanced speed, accuracy, and the ability to analyze and report on data become the new norm. Yet, this transition isn't without its challenges. It demands a thoughtful approach to software selection, user training, and change management. Uncover the optimal path to selecting, integrating, and harnessing the power of digital project intake solutions. 

Best Practices for Project Intake Processes: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Success   

Even the most sophisticated systems will falter without the glue that holds it all together—best practices. Unpack the tools, techniques, and tips needed to make sure your project intake process runs like a well-oiled machine.    

From stakeholder engagement strategies to optimizing the workflow, this part covers a spectrum of actionable steps to take that, when applied, can radically transform the efficiency and effectiveness of your project intake process. Additionally, strategies for maintaining consistency in decision-making and for handling a high volume of project submissions are explored.   

  1. Make it a rule that only projects submitted through the agreed-upon project intake process are considered. This should significantly reduce the number of project requests reviewed and can weed out any spam or less serious requests. 
  2. Make sure everyone is on the same page before submitting your project intake form. Once it’s submitted the information you provided will be considered as is, so make sure you included a realistic deadline and a team strategy that you have the resources to follow through on.  
  3. To piggyback on number two, it may be helpful to formally present the work project request to your team before it’s submitted so any questions or concerns can be addressed all together and everyone in attendance is privy to what is being sent out for review. 
  4. AUTOMATE! From the initial request to the project approval process, invest in standardized intake forms. It may take more work upfront, but it will be worth it ensuring you don’t need to go back and forth collecting information that was missed up front.  
  5. Project requests aren’t a one-and-done process. Whether your project is accepted or denied, there are learnings to be had for the next time you submit a request. Keep note of what worked and what didn’t and keep improving the process. The better you get at submitting project intake requests, the more projects you should see come to fruition.  

Conclusion: Why Your Project Intake Matters More Than You May Think   

Project intake is where your ideas evolve into plans. By fine-tuning your project management strategy during the intake phase, you can set a much more solid foundation for efficiency to be a part of every stage of your project. Smoother processes, clearer paths, and setting up your entire project management lifecycle for success.   

The process concludes with a rallying cry to businesses—don’t neglect the project intake processes! Adopt or refine your project intake processes with the strategies and techniques shared in this blog. Actually, it’s more than a blog, it’s an invitation to undergo an introspective exploration. One that will hopefully end with more efficiency, clarity, and success in your project management methodologies.      

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