The first step of the annual planning process is to establish a project intake process.
Part one of a series.
It’s typical for project demand to exceed an organization’s capacity to execute. From the project management office perspective, sounds like a good problem to have, doesn’t it? Not necessarily.
According to “ESI, The Global State of the PMO, 2015” executives continue to challenge PMOs. The survey found that “72 percent of respondents claimed the PMO continues to be called into question mostly by senior management.”
The number one reason was given: the lack of perceived value. So, it’s not just the volume of projects in the portfolio that matter.
Above all else, the PMO should be pursuing high-impact projects that create sustainable value. How? It all starts with an effective project intake process.
Below are some best practices we recommend to successfully manage project demand and prepare your PMO to be a valued partner in the project selection process:
Coach the Business
Some organizations have permanent “relationship manager” roles that focus on coaching their business partner through the process. For organizations without that role, the PMO can assign a temporary resource to work one-on-one with requesters during the annual planning season.
Putting this in place is important because it helps the PMO gain a better understanding of the business needs and strategic priorities. This also ensures all necessary details are gathered correctly while giving senior managers the comfort of knowing their requests are being taken seriously.
Another way a PMO can add value beyond ensuring process compliance is to facilitate ideation workshops. In these sessions, the PMO can help the business identify and articulate pain points and performance gaps.
PMOs can also guide senior managers by helping them prioritize what is most important, as well as helping them align those priorities with the organization’s annual goals.
Involve key stakeholders to design the process and decision-making criteria in advance. Formalizing the intake and project selection process may be new for the organization.
As with any change, being upfront with the people impacted by the change and collecting feedback will reduce the resistance of adhering to the new process.
Gather the Facts
Identify vital information to ensure a well-informed, decision-making process. The most helpful elements to investigate include: strategy alignment, cost, scope, impact, risks, and benefits (hard and soft dollar).
Two powerful, yet rarely asked questions are:
- What happens if this project is not done?
- What business problem will be solved?
Forcing requesters to answer those questions can weed out projects that won’t add value to the organization. Those questions also expose the real business need and level of urgency.
Keep in mind that the data collected as part of the project intake process will be shared across the organization. So, make sure to gather information in a consistent format so projects can be easily compared against each other.
We recommend Excel-based templates with drop-down options so that the requester can easily provide information using consistent language. This will also allow the PMO to easily aggregate the data in preparation for the evaluation phase.
Manage the Process
Build a Process
Create a process for your organization to submit project requests. Focus on finding the right balance of formality and simplicity to capture the details for the project selection process – without over-complicating it. Don’t be afraid to evolve.
Understand that your project intake process will grow and mature as your organization does and may change from year to year. And, foster continuous improvement by being flexible and open to new ideas.
Select the Right Tool
Ensure you have the right PPM (project portfolio management) tool in place to support your project intake process. There are many different tools are on the market.
You will need to consider the nature of your business, the types of projects you deliver and the culture of your organization to select the right one. That will lead to healthy decision-making. Be prepared: Selecting and implementing a PPM tool is a project within itself!
Communicate your project intake process across the organization. Make it easy for your business owners to follow without compromising the quality of their inputs.
Here are some ideas to help you share the process:
- Prior to kicking off the planning cycle, establish a timeline with key dates and deliverables and communicate it broadly.
- Hold lunch-and-learn sessions prior to annual planning to ensure requesters are familiar with the process.
- Use the “Relationship Manager” role to check in regularly with business partners.
Taking those steps will ensure the process is understood – and appreciated. With a smart project intake process, you are well on your way to helping your organization make well-informed, impactful decisions.
A PMO can demonstrate their value by being consultative, gathering the right information and establishing a comprehensive intake process designed to ensure an effective evaluation and selection process.