November 14, 2023
min read
Last updated:
November 17, 2023

Project intake: workflow, processes and best practice

November 14, 2023
min read
Last updated:
November 17, 2023

Project intake: workflow, processes and best practice

In the fast-paced realm of project management, mastering the details of project intake is vital in driving success. To hit your strategic goals, it's crucial to have a strategic approach to project intake. This involves capturing, evaluating, and prioritising project requests in a well-defined, process-driven manner. Without a robust intake strategy, organisations risk misaligned priorities, resource bottlenecks, and project failure.   

Understanding project intake  

Project intake is the process of capturing, evaluating, and prioritising project requests to decide whether they align with your organisation's strategic objectives and capacity for execution. It should serve as the entry point for new projects into your project management pipeline, setting the stage for their successful delivery. Understanding the detail of project intake is important for setting up a structured approach to project initiation and ensuring that your resources are allocated in the best way.    

Effective project intake involves defining clear criteria for project evaluation, aligning requests with business goals, and assessing their feasibility within your existing project portfolio. By understanding the process of project intake, you can make informed decisions about which projects to pursue and how to allocate the right resources for their execution.  

The importance of efficient project intake  

First things first, the most important part of project intake is to ensure you triage a pipeline that ensures maximum business benefit. Being able to do this efficiently is important to maintain organisational agility and responsiveness for evolving business needs. It enables your project managers to evaluate the potential impact of new projects on existing operations, resource availability, and strategic objectives. It also provides your stakeholders with a transparent process for submitting project requests, ensuring that all proposals are reviewed and assessed.  

By prioritising efficient project intake, you can avoid project bottlenecks, reduce the risk of project failure, and optimise your resource utilisation. It also establishes a structured framework for aligning projects with the overarching business strategy, fostering a culture of accountability and strategic alignment within the project management process.  

Common challenges in project intake  

Despite its significance, project intake often presents challenges that can slow down the seamless flow of project requests and evaluations.  

Some of the common challenges that we’re sure you’ll relate to are:  

  • Inconsistent project request formats (email, spreadsheets, Teams channels etc.)  
  • Ambiguous evaluation criteria  
  • Lack of visibility into the project pipeline  
  • Ineffective project prioritisation  
  • Missed opportunities  
  • Misallocation of resources  

To address these challenges, you need to take a holistic approach that includes standardising project request formats, defining clear evaluation criteria, and implementing robust mechanisms for tracking and managing project requests.  

Overcoming these challenges is essential for establishing a streamlined project intake process that fosters efficiency and strategic alignment.  

Best practices for project intake workflows  

Putting best practices in place for your project intake workflows is important to ensure you’re prioritising projects aligned with your business strategy, that will provide the biggest benefit. An effective project intake process includes several key elements that collectively contribute to its success. These elements include:  

  • Standardised project request templates: this is essential to capture information consistently, such as project objectives, anticipated benefits, and resource requirements.   
  • Predefined criteria for evaluating project viability: defining clear evaluation criteria based on strategic alignment, feasibility, and resource impact enables a systematic approach to project prioritisation.  
  • Creating a structured governance framework for decision-making: involving key stakeholders in the evaluation process helps to keep the entire project team involved.   
  • Aligning project requests with your overarching organisational strategy: this is vital for organisational success.   

By sticking to best practices, you can establish a structured and repeatable approach to project intake that minimises ambiguity, accelerates decision-making, and enhances overall project management effectiveness.    

Streamlining project intake processes  

Streamlining your project intake processes involves identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and redundancies that slow down the seamless flow of project requests. This includes conducting regular reviews of the intake process to identify areas for improvement, leveraging data and analytics to gain insights into intake performance. You should also continuously refine intake workflows based on feedback and lessons learned.   

Fostering collaboration between your project intake stakeholders, such as project managers, resource managers, and business unit leaders, is essential for aligning intake processes with your organisation’s strategic priorities and available resources.    

By streamlining your project intake processes, you can ensure projects are well aligned to business strategy, enhance agility, responsiveness, and the overall effectiveness of you project initiation and delivery.  

Tools and technologies for project intake management  

Most organisations are still using a combination of spreadsheets, email, slides, Teams channels etc to manage their project intake process. This usually results in lots of overlapping information in different places, and a thick layer of fog over decision making. The adoption of the right tools for project intake management is essential to optimise your intake processes, enhance efficiency and of course, most importantly, co-ordinate and prioritise project intake that will achieve your business objectives. The right tech can also significantly elevate the effectiveness and agility of your project initiation and execution.  

Most PM tools will enable you to adopt some level of project intake management, but few provide a centralised solution for submitting, reviewing, and tracking project requests. Even less enable you to manage the complete project lifecycle from Idea to Value in a single workspace. The right platforms can also help facilitate standardisation, visibility, and accountability throughout the intake process, enabling your stakeholders to collaborate seamlessly and make informed decisions.   

There are also other options which can incorporate your project intake process, as well as provide additional value to an organisation. Great PPM software solutions such as Fluid may have capabilities which can facilitate effective project intake. The additional value platforms like this can bring is the ability to manage business cases, project ideas and submissions, from ideation and planning, all the way to execution and benefits realisation. All-in-one platforms encompass capabilities that provide great value to project managers including advanced analytics and reporting, resourcing, financial and more.   

Equipping your project managers and stakeholders with the necessary training and resources is essential for mastering project intake. This involves providing comprehensive training on intake processes, best practices, and the utilisation of intake management tools.   

Aside from your organisation and PMO offering this support to project teams, it’s also something to consider for your software vendor too. Customer support is a key element which should be considered to choose the right software solution for your business. Being able to utilise a PPM software to the best of its capabilities with the help of a provider that offers great training and customer support is invaluable for project teams.    

Choosing a project intake software provider: 5 key steps and considerations  

1. Assess your organisation’s needs:  

Begin by understanding the unique needs and objectives of your organisation. Identify the specific challenges in your project intake process that the software needs to address. Whether it's streamlining request submissions, improving collaboration, or enhancing data analysis, a tailored solution starts with a clear understanding of your internal requirements.  

2. Scalability and integration:  

Ensure the chosen software for project intake is scalable to accommodate your organisation's growth. It should ideally enable you to manage initiatives from idea to value, ensuring a cohesive and interconnected workflow. Compatibility with other tools in your tech stack is crucial for a streamlined and efficient project management ecosystem.  

3. User-friendly interface:  

Opt for a solution with an intuitive and user-friendly interface. The success of the software implementation hinges on user adoption, and a complex or cumbersome interface can impede efficiency and make managing the change a challenge. A user-friendly design encourages widespread acceptance and effective utilisation across the project team.  

4. Customisation capabilities:  

Recognise the importance of customisation in aligning the software with your unique processes. The ability to tailor workflows, forms, and data fields ensures that the software adapts to your specific project intake requirements. A customisable solution accommodates diverse project types and organisational structures.  

5. Analytical and reporting features:  

Evaluate the analytics and reporting features offered by the software. A robust solution with project intake should provide insightful data on request trends, resource allocation, and project success metrics. Advanced reporting capabilities empower decision-makers with the information needed to optimise project portfolios and enhance strategic planning.  

Selecting a software provide for project intake involves a meticulous consideration of your organisational needs, scalability, user experience, customisation options, and analytical features. By prioritising these aspects, you can make informed choices that align with your unique requirements and set the foundation for successful project delivery and value creation.  

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