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Best Practices for Overcoming Challenges of Project Intake

Published by Rachelle Sanders

March 11th, 2021

in Project Portfolio Management

Who comes up with new ideas in your organization? Maybe it’s board members or members of a certain committee. It could be department heads, project managers or individual team members. If there are more than a few people who propose new ideas in your organization, you will need a process to collect, manage and develop these new ideas into successful projects. For large organizations or organizations with a lot of new project ideas, this process can become complicated and convoluted, but it doesn’t have to be. By understanding the challenges inherent in the project intake process and using a few best practices, organizations can create a simple and effective project intake process.

Common Challenges in Project Intake

From the inception of an idea to its completion as a project, a lot of things happen. Taking an idea and turning it into a project will take many steps and require input and approval from many people. With a mix of many steps and many people, things can get complicated quickly. In our experience, there are a few challenges that are the most common for organizations in the project intake process.

  • Lack of process - There just isn’t a process for handling new ideas or people in your organization aren’t sure of what the process is. When there isn’t a clear process, people might not submit new ideas because they don’t know how, or ideas can fall through the cracks and be forgotten.
  • No central location for new ideas - New project ideas have to be collected in one place. While there can be multiple ways to submit an idea, all ideas needed to funnel into one place. If new ideas are spread across different spreadsheets or email inboxes, it will be difficult to keep things organized and progressing.
  • Too many ad hoc projects - There are always going to be projects that come up spontaneously, but if this occurs too often, it can put a real strain on your organization. Ad hoc projects take resources and budgets away from other planned projects, so it’s important to limit ad hoc projects to only those that are absolutely necessary.
  • No way to compare new project ideas to currently planned projects - New project ideas do not exist in a vacuum. You need to consider how a new project idea would impact currently planned projects.
  • No alignment to the organization’s overall strategy - When organizations don’t adequately communicate their goals, new ideas for projects might not be relevant. When everyone knows what’s important to your company, they can propose ideas to support your goals.

Overcoming Challenges of Project Intake with Best Practices

With so many challenges to the project intake process, it may seem daunting to even try to create a process, but a few best practices can help organizations overcome these challenges.

Project Intake Best Practices

#1 – Consider the Needs of Your Organization

It would be easy to take someone else’s project intake process and use it in your organization, but it just wouldn’t be an ideal fit. A project intake process will be unique to your organization. Ask yourself what your organization needs in the process. How many approvals does a new idea need before it can become a project? How often should you collect new ideas? When you tailor the intake process to the demands and limitations in your organization, you create a better process.

#2 – Involve the Right People at the Right Time

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen.” According to our Senior Customer Success Manager, Achim Gnan, you also need to make sure, “you have the right cooks in the kitchen.” At each stage in the process, ask yourself who really needs to be involved at that stage and assign ownership. Appoint a head chef and make sure they have the right cooks to get the job done.

#3 – Continuously Communicate the Organization’s Priorities

A new idea is only helpful if it’s relevant. Make sure anyone submitting a new idea knows what your organization’s priorities are. This will allow them to evaluate their new idea and make any changes if necessary.

#4 – Use the Same Evaluation Criteria for Every Idea

There needs to be a standard by which all new project ideas are evaluated against. If some projects are evaluated by Criteria A while others are evaluated by Criteria B, you won’t be able to compare projects overall. To avoid comparing apples to oranges, develop one criteria that include things important to your business. Some evaluation criteria can include project payback period, risk level and required resources among others.

#5 – Evaluate New Ideas in the Context of Your Current Project Portfolio

New project ideas should be put into context. When you consider new project ideas with your current projects in mind, you make better decisions. Maybe a new project idea would have too high of a resource demand to fit in your portfolio right now or maybe there’s a current project that is similar to a new project idea. A project intake process shouldn’t just answer the question, “Is this a good project?” but also answer, “Is this project good right now?”

#6 – Have a Clear Fast-Track Process for Urgent Projects

Ad hoc projects will always come up and that’s okay. Sometimes regulations change or new demands arise that require immediate action. Have a specific process in place for these projects that need to move more quickly through the process. By outlining a fast-track for urgent projects, you ensure your organization won’t be too slow to take critical action.

#7 – Regularly Review Your Intake Process

Your organization will continually evolve, and your project intake process will too. Make it a regular activity to review the process and adapt it where necessary. Maybe certain steps won’t be necessary in the future or maybe you need to add one more approval. Let your intake process adapt with your business.

Simplify the Project Intake Process with a Tool

Meisterplan's Board View

Meisterplan is a project portfolio management software that makes it easy to manage your project intake process. With a Kanban-style board view, you can collect, develop and manage all your new ideas as they progress through the process. Once a new idea becomes a project, you can manage the project and all of your other projects in an intuitive dashboard. To see how Meisterplan supports a successful project intake process, watch our free on-demand webinar today.

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