Intake Process

Team using a project intake process

In many departments, project requests are coming in consistently via email, Slack, meetings, or even while sitting at your desk. A project intake process determines how you receive those project requests, which project details are required, as well as any supporting documentation that goes along with it.

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What does an intake process typically look like?

More often than not, an intake process for a project begins when someone sends an email and says, “I need you to do this.” It’s important to walk through the project intake process steps because managing everything out of your inbox doesn’t scale, and it’s not effective or efficient. Using project management tools and methodologies can help you manage project requests and your intake process more effectively.

The biggest problem most departments have with intake processes today is they don’t have consistency through all workflows. Whether it’s internal projects or working with outside vendors, often there’s little consistency in how they take in information to begin the project initiation process.

Creating an intake process that actually works

If your organization is like the above, then there’s lots of ways that work gets to you right now. The first step in managing these project requests is to create an intake process that actually works.

Develop a project request form

Work with your team to determine what information is needed when submitting a project request into your intake system. Common questions include:

Read more about creating a project request form

Designate a request submission location

The next step in creating an intake process is to designate a central location for all project requests that come to your team. The biggest benefit of doing this is visibility. You’ll be able to see clearly the requests submitted and due dates alongside the current work in progress.

It can be as simple as just creating an intake email address for all project requests received so all the project requests that come into your organization go to one spot. For example, [email protected], and all the email requests will be available there.

Or, you can choose to use a shared document through Google or Dropbox.

However, the best solution is to leverage a project management software to keep all work centralized, ensure project request fields are being filled out, and easily move requests into tasks.

Designate who’s in charge of intake

Next, you need to pick the individual within your organization who’s going to check the centralized intake location. Simple enough. Then, set up your preferred intake location so that the people who need to be notified when a project request is submitted is notified.

Formalize the process

You can have all the processes in place, but if no one knows about them, it’s just like having no intake process at all.

If you formalize not just the technology of the intake process but also the actual framework of how each project is going to start and be moved through the organization, then you have much better accountability and eventually, everybody learns the intake system.

To do this, you may need to find a “buck stopper” in your organization to evangelize the intake process. This is the person who is going to hold every single person on the team accountable, from the top to the bottom, and from the right to the left; everyone is going to be held accountable for using the intake system. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be an executive or a higher-up. It can be an account executive, a project manager, a traffic manager, or the team as a whole.

The process buck stopper in your organization will be the person that will physically get up and walk into every single person’s office, hold their hand and show them how to use the intake process correctly, and then insist they do it that way every single time.

If you can find that one person in your organization, or if you can actually go out and hire that one person in your organization, you’re going to find that your project management works much more efficiently.

Holding firm is a key component to a successful intake process. If people are emailing you requests and not using the intake system, it becomes necessary to tell them, “I can’t work on this because I don’t see it. It’s not in the project management system.”