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How to build a best-in-class project intake process

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeil
February 6th, 2024
8 min read
How to build a best-in-class project intake process
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A project intake process is a standardized workflow to help teams capture, prioritize, and follow through on new requests. Learn the components of an effective intake process, and how to build one for your team.

Swamped by project requests? Overloaded with last-minute asks? If so, you’re not alone—and we have a solution for you. 

Enter: the project intake process, a tried-and-true method to prioritize the right work at the right time. Here’s everything you need to know to build a best-in-class intake workflow for your team. 

What is a project intake process? 

A project intake process is a standardized workflow to help teams capture, prioritize, and follow through on new requests. At its most basic, the process includes these three components: 

  1. A form to capture new project requests, including all the details teams need to get started. 

  2. A prioritization method to identify and schedule the most important work. 

  3. Clear next steps to kick off work for each request. 

Together, this workflow makes it easy for teams to quickly follow through on work requests and tackle the high-priority projects first. 

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

Watch a live demo and Q&A session to help you streamline goal-setting, accelerate annual planning, and automate how teams intake strategic work.

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3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

Why is an intake process important for project management? 

In project management, standardization is the key to help initiatives flow smoothly. A work intake process is no different. It transforms the process of prioritizing requests (which is often time consuming and confusing) into a clear workflow with predefined steps. Instead of wasting time on back-and-forth, teams can quickly go through each step of the process. This not only speeds up completion times, it also ensures work is prioritized and tackled consistently across your entire organization. 

The challenges of managing project requests

Request management is tricky. Teams ask for things at the last minute, requests come from many different places, and everyone seems to think their project is the highest priority. Here are some common challenges when it comes to request management—all of which can be solved with an effective intake process. 

High request volume

A common challenge for enterprise companies, too many requests can make teams feel like they’re drowning in work, leading to burnout and slow completion times. An intake process solves this with a clear prioritization method—so teams can focus on tasks with the most business impact. 

Requests are scattered in different places

When requests come in via email, instant messages, and meetings, teams have to spend extra time documenting new projects. That’s the best case scenario. At worst, requests fall through the cracks and never get completed at all. A clear intake process solves this by centralizing all requests in one place. 

Requests don’t include enough context

It’s hard for teams to start working when they only have the bare minimum of information. This often happens when companies don’t have a standardized request form, which specifies all the details required for each proposed project

Ad hoc requests delay your timelines

We’ve all been there. Projects are chugging along smoothly until a last-minute, high-priority request comes in, monopolizing resources and requiring teams to push their timelines back. While ad hoc requests will always happen, an effective project intake process can prevent them by clarifying up-front how long it takes to complete a request. And if needed, it includes a predefined method to prioritize and reschedule project work. 

Features of an effective project intake process

Project intake processes vary depending on the unique needs of your organization. That said, here are three core features every process should include:  

1. A project intake form

Forms are the gold standard of work intake. They give stakeholders one centralized method to submit requests, so you can collect new work in one place—not across scattered communication tools. Forms also standardize the information stakeholders include when submitting a request. This helps teams act on requests quickly, because they have all the context they need to get started right away. 

What should your project intake form include? 

As a starting point, a basic project intake form should include the following components. From there, you can customize your form with additional questions depending on the needs of your organization. 

  • Requester: Who is proposing the project? 

  • Requesting team: What team will this work support? Is this an external or internal project? 

  • Type of project: What kind of work is this? For example, it could be a new image, copy for a web page, or a video. 

  • Request summary: In a few sentences, what do you want done? 

  • Timing: When does this intake request need to be completed? 

  • Priority: Is this business-critical, or nice to have? It’s often helpful to include a numerical priority ranking, like P1, P2, P3, and so on. 

  • Associated business goal: What company priority does this request align to, if any? 

  • Contextual information: What screenshots, documents, or other attachments can you provide for additional context? For example, a bug request form could require a screenshot or video of the bug. 

Revenue operations request form example

2. A prioritization method

Thanks to your form you have a batch of clean, standardized requests. Now you need a way to prioritize and schedule those tasks so you’re getting the most important work done first. 

Here’s how to establish an effective prioritization method: 

  • Ask requesters to provide prioritization information via the form. You need data to assess how important each request is, and your form is the best way to get that data. Instead of just asking requesters to pick a priority (and have them pick P0 every time), you can also ask for the business goal the request supports. That way you can clearly see which tasks clearly support business priorities, and which ones don’t.

  • Create a prioritization score: Use information from the form to create a numerical score that weighs task priority, associated strategic goals, requesting team, and so on. This helps reduce any subjectivity in the prioritization process. 

  • Collect requests in one central hub. To effectively prioritize, you need to see all requests at a glance—including details like their prioritization score and timing. This helps you quickly spot which requests are the most pressing, so you can triage them to your team right away. 

  • Track your team’s workload. Document the requests your team is currently working on, so you can clearly see what’s on everyone’s plate. This lets you assign priority tasks without overloading anyone. Work management software can come in handy here, especially if it has features that let you see and adjust team workloads in real time. 

  • Schedule work according to the prioritization score. Now that you have the full picture of each task’s priority—plus an understanding of your team’s bandwidth—you can schedule out work. When scheduling, it’s helpful to use work management software that lets you visualize tasks on a timeline or calendar

3. Clear next steps

To kick off work quickly, teams need a clear plan of action. That’s why predefined next steps are an essential part of any project intake process. They give employees a standardized approach to tackle any type of request, from blog posts to product features. 

To define next steps, consider each type of request your team handles. For each one, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What tasks need to happen to complete this request? 

  • In what order should these tasks occur? 

  • Are there any dependencies (tasks that can’t be started until another is completed)? 

  • How long will each task take? 

  • Who is the best person to complete each task?

Then build out a workback schedule for each request type, including each task (in order), how long it should take, and who it should be assigned to. You’re essentially building out a predefined project timeline for each request type. For example, here’s what next steps might look like for a marketing ebook. 

  • Day 1: The assigned writer sets a publish date for the ebook, according to how long each process step will take. 

  • Day 2-3: The writer creates an outline. 

  • Day 4: An editor reviews the outline and provides feedback. 

  • Day 5-8: The writer revises the outline and writes a first draft. 

  • Day 9: The editor reviews the first draft and provides feedback. 

  • Day 10: The writer revises the draft. 

  • Day 11: The editor and a PMM partner review the final draft. 

  • Day 11: A project manager submits the final draft to the design team.

  • Day 11-14: The design team creates visual assets for the ebook. 

  • Day 11: The project manager submits a request to the web team to create a gated landing page for the ebook. 

  • Day 15: The writer and editor review the final design. 

  • Day 16: The web team stages and publishes the landing page. 

Many things need to happen to publish this ebook. Some tasks need to happen in a specific order, and some can happen at the same time. By defining the ebook workflow ahead of time, you help your team kick off requests right away—without wasting time figuring out who should do what. This also helps your team follow the same standardized process for each ebook, guaranteeing a high-quality result every time. 

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

Watch a live demo and Q&A session to help you streamline goal-setting, accelerate annual planning, and automate how teams intake strategic work.

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

Project intake process example

Here’s an example to help put these ideas into context. Imagine you’re on an agile team that handles new feature requests. Here’s what your project intake process might look like: 

  1. A project initiator completes a project intake form, detailing what the feature should include, why it needs to be created, and when it needs to be completed. 

  2. A project management office (PMO) reviews the project request form and performs an initial assessment to determine the desirability, viability, and feasibility of creating the new feature. 

  3. Based on their assessment the PMO approves or denies the request, and assigns a prioritization score. 

  4. The PMO adds the request to the engineering team’s product backlog, scheduling it according to the prioritization score. 

  5. A kickoff meeting is called. 

  6. A project manager uses information from the project intake form and kickoff meeting to complete a project proposal. They base this project proposal on a set of predefined basic steps for every new feature launch. 

  7. A senior stakeholder approves the proposal, or sends it back for more work. 

  8. The project manager creates a more detailed project plan from the proposal. 

  9. The project manager allocates resources, assigns tasks, and sets a launch date. 

  10. The project team starts work. 

How to create a project intake process

Creating a successful intake process from scratch—or even optimizing your existing one—can be challenging. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.

1. Determine roles and responsibilities

The first step is to clearly define who is involved in the process and their roles. This includes identifying the process owner, who will oversee the entire intake process; the individuals or teams responsible for submitting requests; the decision-makers who approve these requests; and the project owners and team members tasked with triaging work to ensure it aligns with strategic priorities. Clarifying these roles upfront prevents confusion and ensures accountability throughout the process.

Read: 4 ways to establish roles and responsibilities for team success

2. Define how requests are approved and prioritized

Establish an approval process and decision-making process for how key stakeholders should evaluate incoming project requests. For example, you can consider metrics like project size, impact, amount of work required, available resources, or strategic importance when determining how important each project request is. You can also develop a prioritization framework to rank requests, so resources are allocated to initiatives that offer the greatest value or align most closely with organizational goals.

3. Document and standardize your workflow

Create a standardized workflow that outlines each step of the intake process, from submission to final delivery. This documentation should include roles and responsibilities, criteria for evaluating requests, your submission form, and each step required to prioritize and complete a project. A standard intake process ensures consistency, reduces errors, and streamlines the process.

4. Centralize your process

Next, bring your entire intake process into one centralized system or platform. For example, you could use a work management tool to capture, prioritize, and follow through on requests all in one central location. At larger companies especially, centralization is essential to effectively manage requests, track progress, and maintain visibility across all projects.

5. Identify tools to make things quicker

Leverage technology to automate and expedite parts of the intake process. This can include using templates for project requests, automations to route requests to the appropriate approvers, and forms to standardize submissions. These tools reduce manual work, increase efficiency, and capture all necessary information from the start. 

6. Communicate the process

Finally, ensure that everyone involved understands the intake process, their roles within it, and how to use any tools or platforms associated with it. This might involve training sessions, written guides, or demo videos. Clear communication prevents misunderstandings and ensures that the process runs smoothly.

How Asana uses work management for project intake

Learn how Asana's PMO leaders streamline intake and prioritize the right work for the business.

Take your intake process to the next level

With these tips, you can turn your project intake process into a well-oiled machine. To streamline your workflows even more, learn now experts use Asana to build smarter, scalable enterprise processes. 

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

Watch a live demo and Q&A session to help you streamline goal-setting, accelerate annual planning, and automate how teams intake strategic work.

3 ways to transform your enterprise project management

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