Why You Should Formalize Your Project Intake Process

With so much attention focused on executing projects, some organizations put too little effort into formulating and strengthening their intake processes. This is a mistake that could end up diminishing the performance of your company’s entire project portfolio. You may be expected to push projects through to completion that are poorly crafted or unsupported, or that aren’t likely to deliver a good financial return in the end. Your long-term results will suffer and the other projects in your portfolio could also experience negative effects, from delays to insufficient budgets or resources.


If you’re still on the fence about dedicating the time and expertise necessary to develop and formalize an effective intake process for new projects, consider some of the benefits to your portfolio’s performance and overall health.

Improve consistency. A formal intake process enables your organization to achieve repeatable success because everything about your project review, planning, and execution activities is consistent from one effort to the next. When an initiative first appears on the radar, you can ensure it contains the necessary components to move it from conception to completion successfully. You’ll know you have what you need to properly measure, monitor, and control the project’s progress at each step along the way. Your team will also have better insight into potential risks. It’s a strategy that contributes to more consistency across your full portfolio.

Gain consensus around approval criteria. It’s difficult to maintain a healthy portfolio when the intake criteria change based on the whims of an executive or sponsor, particularly when those changes happen continuously over a long period of time. Shifting benchmarks don’t help you cement a track record of success because you’re likely to be faced with projects that lack critical components—insufficient ROI data, too little sponsor support, outdated cost estimates, or vague objectives. What was approved a year ago may look very different when compared against what’s being approved today. Coming to an agreement on intake criteria allows you to avoid capricious or hasty decisions and helps maintain a list of projects with the right ingredients for success.

Boost efficiency. When your intake practices are subjective or lack structure, it’s easy for low-priority or low-value projects to get into the pipeline. Each will require some time going forward to for review and prioritization, even if they never end up launching. You want to quickly identify and eliminate these types of initiatives from your portfolio so you aren’t spending energy on what is essentially a loser of a project. The best method for doing that is to not allow them entry in the first place. A well-documented intake process provides your team with a highly efficient means of pushing back on inappropriate, ill-considered, or low-worth projects before they consume your resources.

Insulate your project portfolio against unexpected changes. It’s not uncommon for organizations to be confronted with new developments that shift their trajectories—leadership shakeups, failed product launches, dismal market conditions, the loss of a key business collaborator. Unfortunately, these events sometimes lead to poor decisions caused by knee-jerk reactions or unchecked optimism. By having a formal intake process, your project portfolio will be somewhat shielded from spontaneous changes. Rather than watch an influx of hastily crafted project ideas swamp your team, you can ensure that every proposed initiative is subjected to the right level of due diligence review. New executives eager to launch a bevy of new projects won’t leave your company in a bind because resource allocations must suddenly be reworked. Instead, each submittal can be evaluated against an established set of criteria to ensure they suit your organization’s overall strategic direction.


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