Managing your Project Intake Process is a Cornerstone of Your Success!

How do you decide the projects that your Project Management Office (PMO) engages on, and takes delivery responsibility for?  Do you intentionally manage a formal Project Intake and Governance Process?  I am a firm believer that how you manage your project Intake and Governance process is a cornerstone to a successful PMO, and is also an additional value proposition to the functions of a successful PMO.  In this article, I will walk you through the steps that I have used in multiple PMO’s to structure a formal and effective Project Intake and Governance Process.

A well-defined Project Intake process is a planning methodology designed to improve the strategic value of your organization by capturing, evaluating and prioritizing all proposed ideas for projects, products, and services as well as routine operational activities.  This process strives to ensure that any requested project and/or enhancement work is aligned to your departmental and organizational strategies and that estimated costs as well as the ROI of approved project investments are well understood.

The image below is a quick review of the work-flow associated to a successful Intake and Governance process, and can be modified for a variety of situations and organization sizes.  This is currently in use in a medium-sized IT Organization that runs an active project portfolio of less than 50 projects and about a dozen Project Managers.  As we review the individual steps of the work-flow, consider how they might work in your environment.

Steps in the Project Intake Process:

  1. Business Owner
    1. This is the start of the process.  The first contact with your Business Owner on this idea.  Ensuring that they know WHY they need to contact you, is just as important as HOW they should contact you.  Make sure you have taken the time and effort to educate your organization on the value of engaging the PMO.
  2. Ideation
    1. Your Business Owner develops a request by creating a business case with an Opportunity, Problem, and Goal Statement that articulates the request.  They must consider how this request will save time, make money, mitigate risk, add value, and how it will align with your company’s annual strategy.  Having your Business Owner intentionally focus on the Business Need, Problem Statement, and Business Value, allows for a formal evaluation of the solution, alignment to the corporate systems or technology in place, and for the appropriate leaders to determine the proper solution for the business need.
  3. Solidify Request
    1. The Business Owner then should solidify their request by working with their departmental leadership to build the necessary support and sponsorship for the project idea.  In our methodology, we request VP level or above as an active sponsor to ensure full engagement and awareness of the intent of their request before they submit a formal Intake Request.
  4. Request Submission
    1. Upon solidifying their request, the Business Owner partners with an Intake representative of the PMO who will work with them to submit the request via a standardized Project Intake Form in either a manual or system-based process.
  5. Request Review
    1. This is the first opportunity for a member of the Governance Committee to review the request to validate its alignment to the department / corporate strategy.  This approval cycle allows for intentional focus and the ability to accept / decline / defer requests at a very early stage to reduce the investment of effort for requests that would not be approved by the larger governance committee in a later stage.
  6. Solution Assessment
    1. Depending on your process needs, this is the formal solutions assessment effort.  The Solutions Assessment Team is expected to assess and propose a high-level solution that meets the intent of the original request, while aligning the business needs to the organizational strategy and existing technology.  The team will also provide an estimated level of effort required to deliver the solution, following an agreed-upon contingency level (+/- 50%).
  7. IT Security Assessment
    1. Depending on your process needs, and the project type, a formal IT Security Assessment may be necessary.  This early assessment by your IT Security team should help reduce downstream impacts and surprises, as well as drive early engagement for your security needs.
  8. Assess Proposed Solution
    1. This is your formal presentation to your governing body for a decision to proceed.  At this step, the governing body has the authority to accept / decline / defer requests, as well as return to the intake team for more information.  Governing bodies should be working from a defined agenda, with the necessary knowledge of the overall organizational strategy to ensure the approved projects deliver a value proposition in alignment to that strategy.
  9. Approval Decision
    1. This step defines the appropriate Intake Team actions as a result of your governance decision.  If approved, it continues to move forward.  Business Owners are notified of the decision and the PMO begins the effort of engaging resources and PM Assignment.
  10. Develop Effort and Priority
    1. Once a request is approved, the next important step for the governing body is to define the projects priority within the greater portfolio, as well as agree to any other key fields or metrics that may be assigned to the projects for reporting efforts by the PMO.
  11. Creation of a Unique Identification Number
    1. Every project in your portfolio needs a unique identifying number associated to it.  This allows for the identification of the project in other systems and processes such as finance, time tracking and resource capacity planning.  Without the use of a unique identifying number, you risk misidentification when limited to a project name.
  12. Move into your formal PMO Activity Process
    1. Once all approvals and decisions are made, the project moves into your approved PMO Processes for assignment to a Project Manager, and engagement in your Project Delivery Life-Cycle process to manage the project to successful completion.

While this may seem like a lot of effort to make a decision on the project request, in a normalized effort, this should take on average 8-10 business days.  The effort up front pays dividends in the future by providing a governing body multiple opportunities to review project efforts prior to approval, allowing for alignment of the project portfolio to the organizational strategy, and reducing man hour investment of projects that may be rejected at a later date.

How do you manage the request for service engagement within your Project Management Office?  Do you have a formal process?  How would you improve the process outlined above?  Open a dialog in the comments below and let’s start a discussion.


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Don Clarke

Don Clarke

Co-Founder: Project Management for Today

As a Co-Founder of the website, Don Clarke has over 20  years of experience in the Project Management / Program Management space.  Having worked for a variety of companies over the last 20 years, he brings a strong base of knowledge in the industry.  Establishing or helping redefine multiple PMO's during this time, there is a unique perspective to his approach to developing the value of a Project Management Office (PMO), as well as his approach to leadership development within the organization.  Having been privileged to have multiple career defining mentoring experiences, Don realizes the importance of sharing that experience and giving back to the organizations where he is engaged.


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