Choosing the right approach is crucial if you're seeking an effective project intake process. Understanding project intake methods can determine whether a project succeeds or sinks and is key to ensuring your organisation invests its resources in the right projects that align with your strategic objectives – so it’s fair to say it’s really important to choose the right one!
The project intake process
The project intake process serves as the gateway to project initiation, encompassing the steps and procedures through which potential projects are evaluated, selected, and prioritised. By understanding the project intake process, your business can ensure it pursues the right projects that align with overarching strategic goals. A well-defined project intake process also facilitates effective resource allocation, risk management, and stakeholder engagement, setting the stage for project success from the outset.
An effective project intake process is the foundation for successful project execution, enabling you to identify and prioritise initiatives that align with their overarching business objectives. At a basic level, the process looks something like this:
- The submission of project proposals
- Their evaluation against predefined criteria
- The selection of projects that offer the greatest business benefit vs effort
By establishing clear guidelines and protocols for project intake, you can streamline decision-making to ensure the projects chosen give the biggest bang for their buck. The project intake process acts as a filtering mechanism, allowing you to assess the viability and strategic fit of project proposals before committing resources to their execution.
By conducting a structured evaluation of proposed projects, you can identify potential roadblocks, assess resource requirements, and gauge the anticipated impact on existing operations. This proactive approach to project intake empowers you to make well-informed decisions, maximising the likelihood of project success and delivering value against strategic objectives.
The importance of a structured project intake process
A well-defined project intake process is crucial to ensure that your organisation pursues initiatives that align with your strategic goals, are feasible, and can deliver real value. By establishing clear criteria for evaluating project proposals, you can focus your resources on initiatives that offer the greatest potential for positive impact while minimising the risks of pursuing projects that are misaligned with their objectives. A structured project intake process also promotes transparency and accountability, ensuring that project selection decisions are based on objective criteria rather than personal preferences that can be subjective.
On top of that, a structured project intake process enables you to optimise resource allocation and capacity planning. By evaluating what resources are required for proposed projects and comparing them against what’s available, you can make informed decisions regarding project prioritisation, staffing, and budget allocation. This proactive approach to resource management minimises the risk of overcommitment, ensures efficient utilisation of available resources, and enhances the overall agility and responsiveness of your organisation.
Key components of an effective project intake process
An effective project intake process consists of several important elements that collectively contribute to its success. These components include:
- Well-defined project selection criteria
- Robust stakeholder engagement mechanisms
- Transparent decision-making protocols
- A systematic approach to resource allocation and capacity planning
By incorporating these components into the project intake process, you can enhance your ability to identify, prioritise, and execute projects that deliver maximum strategic value.
Different project intake methodologies and their pros and cons
You have a variety of project intake methodologies to choose from, each with their own pros and cons.
The waterfall model, known for its sequential and linear approach to project execution, is ideal for projects with stable requirements, well-defined deliverables, and minimal room for change. This method offers clarity and predictability, allowing you to plan and execute projects with confidence in outcomes and timelines. However, the waterfall model may lack flexibility when faced with changing requirements, market dynamics, or technological advancements, making it less suitable for projects that require adaptability and responsiveness to evolving circumstances.
Agile project intake methodologies are designed to embrace change, uncertainty, and rapid iteration. Agile methods like Scrum and Kanban prioritise iterative development, close collaboration with stakeholders, and a flexible approach to project planning and execution. These methodologies work well for your projects that involve a high level of uncertainty, evolving requirements, and a need for quick adaptation to market feedback. However, agile methodologies can present challenges in terms of predictability, resource planning, and stakeholder coordination, especially in environments that value stability and standardisation.
Hybrid project intake methodologies combine elements of both waterfall and agile approaches, providing you with the flexibility to tailor your project intake process to the specific requirements of each initiative. By blending the structured planning and clarity of the waterfall model with the adaptability and responsiveness of agile methods, hybrid methodologies aim to strike a balance between predictability and flexibility. They enable you to manage change while maintaining a degree of control and stability.
Project intake process overview
The project intake process is a crucial stage in strategic portfolio management and ensures all incoming projects are thoroughly examined, well-defined, and aligned with your organisational goals. Below is a template you can use and customise for project intake moving forward:
1. Project proposal submission:
- Objective: Stakeholders or sponsors submit project proposals outlining objectives, scope, resource requirements, and anticipated business impact.
- Accompanying documentation: Business cases, feasibility studies, risk assessments, providing a comprehensive understanding of the proposed initiative.
- Ideally this process is centralised and not over email, Teams, Slack, notepads etc
2. Initial screening and evaluation:
- Objective: Assess alignment with your strategic objectives, feasibility, and value creation potential.
- Review proposals against predefined selection criteria
- Identify red flags or inconsistencies
- Determine whether proposed projects warrant further consideration
3. Stakeholder review and approval:
- Objective: Engage relevant stakeholders, such as department heads, executive sponsors, or SMEs (subject matter experts).
- Gather diverse perspectives
- Assess potential implications
- Ensure alignment with project selection decisions
- Enhance credibility, relevance, ownership, and accountability
4. Resource assessment and allocation:
- Objective: Evaluate resource requirements, compare them against available resources, and make informed allocation decisions.
- Staffing needs, budgetary requirements, technical expertise, and operational capacity
- Ensure feasibility, sustainability, and optimisation within resource constraints
5. Project Prioritisation and Selection:
- Objective: Make final decisions on which projects to pursue and in what sequence.
- Weigh strategic alignment, value creation potential, resource implications, and risk factors
- Determine relative priority and suitability
- Ensure transparent decision-making protocols and clear selection criteria
By following these steps, you can establish a robust project intake process that not only evaluates project proposals but also ensures strategic alignment, feasibility, and optimised resource allocation. The emphasis on stakeholder engagement, transparent decision-making, and systematic evaluation enhances the overall quality of the project portfolio, fostering successful project outcomes.
Streamline with project intake software
There are a wide range of tools and software platforms available to streamline and enhance your project intake process, ensuring you prioritise the projects with the biggest business benefits. PPM tools with project intake management capabilities like Fluid provide you with the ability to centralise project proposals, automate evaluation workflows, and track the status of proposed initiatives throughout the intake process. Fluid goes even further by providing an all-in-one PPM solution that allows you to track and manage projects from ideation to execution and benefits realisation. These tools offer visibility, accountability, and collaboration, enabling your stakeholders to engage in a structured and transparent evaluation of project proposals, facilitating seamless communication and decision-making.
By software like Fluid, you can enhance the efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness of your project intake process, ultimately driving better project outcomes and delivering value against your strategic objectives.