Work intake isn’t working. Here’s why—and what to do about it

Whitney Vige headshotWhitney Vige
February 22nd, 2024
8 min read
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Summary

We know what an effective work intake process should look like in theory—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve in practice. Dive into the six common snags teams run into during the work intake process, and discover how to tackle them head-on.

In theory, a smooth work intake process shouldn’t be complicated: set clear guidelines, standardize requests, and use it all to effectively prioritize projects. But in practice, it can get messy quickly, with blockers like inconsistent processes, time-consuming manual tasks, and resource allocation challenges making it difficult to effectively collect information and kick off projects. 

What’s behind these persistent challenges—and more importantly, how can you tackle them effectively? Let’s dive into the common pitfalls of the work intake process and their solutions.

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1. Your work intake processes are inconsistent 

Companies need standardized processes to manage new work requests. Without a solid system, teams end up juggling requests from all over—like emails, direct messages, or impromptu casual conversations—turning intake and task prioritization into something that resembles more guesswork than strategy. 

This inconsistency in work intake processes not only slows down workflows but also breeds confusion. Team members are left wondering which tasks should take precedence, who's responsible for what, and what the next steps should be. Without a standardized intake process, every request is a surprise—and teams spend more time figuring out what to do next rather than actually doing it.

The solution

  • Establish clear work intake guidelines. Make work intake easy by creating straightforward guidelines that outline how new work should be introduced and processed. This ensures everyone is on the same page about what information is needed, who should be involved, and the steps to follow. For example, create a standardized intake workflow that teams can rely on when kicking off new projects—reducing errors and jumpstarting work.

  • Take advantage of standardized work intake forms. Simplify starting new projects by using standardized intake forms that ask for all the right details from the get-go. This approach makes sure your teams have all the information they need—like the type of project, important deadlines, and specific resource requirements—before work even starts. 

2. You struggle to collect project details and prioritize requests

Without a clear process for collecting project information, teams often find themselves digging through a jumble of emails, notes, and requests just to kick off work. Vital information can slip through the cracks and prioritizing requests becomes a challenge, especially when every task seems urgent. 

This lack of clarity isn't just frustrating—it's a big blocker. It hinders decision-making and throws projects off track before they even get going. This struggle is compounded when teams try to align work to the organization's broader objectives. Without the right information—or when information is missing—projects might start off on shaky grounds, with teams unsure if their efforts are directed towards the most impactful work.

The solution

  • Host regular intake meetings. Keep your project pipeline following smoothly by setting up regular intake meetings. Use this time to talk about new projects, clarify details, and discuss priorities. These meetings keep stakeholders on the same page throughout the intake process, so everyone understands what's coming up and what’s important. As a result, your team can make informed decisions on where to focus efforts and quickly shift priorities as new opportunities or challenges come up.

  • Add priority details to your intake form. Build off the standardized intake form you created to smooth out your intake processes by capturing additional details like project priority, estimated effort, and the objectives or strategic goals the project aligns with. This predefined criteria makes it easier to prioritize, organize, and sequence projects—and helps your team focus on work that delivers the most value. 

3. Your team wastes time on manual tasks

With so much involved in everyday operations, it's no wonder teams often find themselves bogged down by manual, time-consuming tasks. Whether it's the endless cycle of assigning work, following up on requests, or updating project statuses, these repetitive tasks take up a lot of time without providing much value.

The challenge here isn't just about lost time; it's about missed opportunities for strategic work. When teams are stuck in the cycle of repetitive, manual work, they struggle to find time and focus for more impactful projects—and that means the organization as a whole isn't reaching its full potential.

The solution

  • Conduct a process audit. Start the journey of cutting down on manual tasks by deep diving into your current workflows with a process audit. This is all about looking at how your team gets things done, identifying tasks that are unnecessarily time-consuming, and figuring out where you can reduce manual effort. By pinpointing where your team loses time, you can map out a plan to streamline and automate processes, freeing them up to focus on more strategic work. 

  • Leverage automation tools to handle manual tasks. Often, tasks that take the most time are also the most mundane. Take the monotony out of your team’s day-to-day and their boost productivity by taking advantage of technology like artificial intelligence. Use this technology to automate tedious tasks like assigning work, moving tasks to the next stage of the workflow, and updating the status of projects. If you use a work management platform, you can take this one step further by integrating rules into your workflows. This allows you to automate actions (like sending out a reminder message) based on predefined triggers (like when a task’s due date is approaching). Both of these strategies allow your team to spend less time on low-value work and more time on strategic initiatives. 

  • Integrate other tools with your software. Make your tech toolkit work for you by integrating the apps you already use within a work management platform. By connecting the tools your team uses every day in one place, you make it easy for them to access information and project details—no matter what tool they’re working from. This reduces the need for teams to manually switch between apps and update information across multiple platforms, keeping everyone informed in real time without the extra effort. 

Standardize work intake requests

Get all the information you need to complete work requests, right from the start. Spend less time hunting down details and more time getting high-impact work done.

Work request tracking in Asana

4. You struggle to effectively allocate resources

Resource allocation can feel like a never-ending challenge, with teams constantly struggling to find the sweet spot between too much and too little work. The root of this struggle often lies in not having a clear picture of your team's workload or what's coming down the pipeline. This lack of visibility stems from a disjoined approach to tracking and managing tasks, and leads to stretched resources, missed deadlines, and a decrease in team morale. And here's the thing: resource allocation isn't just about filling slots in a schedule; it's about matching tasks to talent to drive project success and provide opportunities for growth.

The solution

  • Have a clear view of your team’s workload. Make sure you have an accurate view of your team’s workload, including what they’re currently working on and what they have coming up. Create a system to manage capacity or use a work management platform to monitor workload at-a-glance. This visibility allows you to spread work out evenly and make sure no one is overloaded or underutilized—keeping productivity high and burnout low. 

  • Track how long work takes. Take the guesswork out of project planning by using a time tracking tool to measure how long specific work, like designing a playbook or developing a customer case study, takes. By knowing how long work actually takes—not just how long you think it takes—you can leverage real data to plan out timelines and set deadlines, ensuring resources are allocated in a way that meets project needs without overextending your team. Plus, you can save those insights and reuse them for future planning, making resourcing for each project more efficient than the last.

  • Optimize resource allocation based on skills. Don’t just assign tasks based on availability—get strategic about who does what (and why) by aligning work to your team members’ skills and interests. The result is a win-win: by matching project needs to individual strengths and expertise, you improve project quality while keeping team members engaged.

5. There are consistent delays in kicking off projects

Getting a project off the ground shouldn't feel like a constant struggle, but that's often exactly what it is. The initial rush to get everything lined up—from nailing down the necessary details to making sure everyone's on the same page—can quickly become a bottleneck. And this isn't a minor inconvenience; it can throw off the entire project timeline and create a ripple effect that impacts project momentum and success.

What's the hold-up? It's often a mix of things: the logistical hurdles of organizing and setting up a new project, unclear objectives that lead to second-guessing, and the need for late-stage stakeholder approvals. The bottom line is, without a streamlined approval and project setup process, teams find themselves in a holding pattern, waiting for clarity or the go-ahead to dive into work.

The solution

  • Loop in stakeholders early. Get everyone on board right from the start. By looping in stakeholders early, you can ensure any concerns are addressed before they become roadblocks and put in place the requirements for setting up and kicking off work. This early alignment helps secure buy-in and clarify objectives upfront, cutting down on delays and setting a solid foundation for project initiation. 

  • Automate project initiation workflows. Don’t start from scratch for every project. Take advantage of work management software to automate project initiation workflows. Automating your project initiation process means every necessary step, from creating project timelines to allocating resources, is put into place automatically as soon as a project is green-lit to kick off. From setting up project spaces to assigning initial tasks, automation takes the legwork out of kicking off new projects—so you can speed things up and keep the process consistent across all initiatives.  

  • Use pre-created project templates. Get every project off to a good start by outlining key steps and requirements upfront. Like automation, templates are another secret weapon for getting projects off the ground quickly. With pre-created project templates, you can be certain each project starts with a clear, defined structure and the necessary project components in place, like task assignments, milestones, and deliverables. This approach ensures consistency in project planning, reduces the need from upfront work, and makes sure no important details are overlooked in the rush to get started. 

6. Your team lacks clarity 

When it comes to managing project intake, clarity isn't just a nice-to-have—it's a necessity. Yet with so much critical information scattered across emails, shared drives, and messaging apps, it's no wonder that teams can start to feel like they're stuck playing a game of telephone.

This scattered approach to collecting and handling project information doesn't just slow things down; it leaves team members guessing about what's important and what's due when. This results in missed opportunities, duplicated work, and a team that's more focused on piecing together the puzzle of what they should be doing rather than actually doing it.

The solution

  • Centralize your project information. Say goodbye to digging through emails for status updates or pinging team members for the latest on project progress. By creating a central hub for project information, your team can access all the project’s important details in one spot, from documents to deadlines. Take this one step further by centralizing all project requests, updates, and communications in a work management platform. This makes it easier for everyone to stay on the same page and ensures up-to-date information is easily accessible to project stakeholders. 

  • Use visual project timelines. Transform your project’s schedule from a complex list of tasks to an easy-to-understand visual that shows what’s done, what’s in progress, and what’s coming next. By visualizing your project in a big-picture timeline, your team can quickly see how work fits together and spot blockers before they become big problems. Plus, if you create your project timeline in a work management platform, you can take advantage of features like the ability to shift schedules with a single click, making it easy to adjust deadlines on the fly.  

  • Share regular status updates. Keep your team in the loop with regular status updates. Whether it’s a quick daily check-in or a weekly progress summary, these updates provide a pulse of the project’s progression and make sure no one, from individual contributors to high-level stakeholders, is left guessing at the project’s status or next steps. Enhance your updates with tech that lets you leverage real-time data, sends reminders that updates are due, and standardizes your formatting for consistent communication.

Streamline your work intake process with a work management platform

Setting up a standardized work intake process doesn’t have to be complicated. Learn how Asana can help your teams streamline workflows so they have all the information needed to kick off successful projects, right from the start. 

Standardize work intake requests

Get all the information you need to complete work requests, right from the start. Spend less time hunting down details and more time getting high-impact work done.

Work request tracking in Asana

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