Project Intake: Guidance for Building a Strong Project Management Culture from the Ground Up

By Andrew Graf, Chief Product Strategist, TeamDynamix

IT shops in the public sector often find themselves spinning their proverbial wheels when it comes to advancing their most strategic and important priorities. Resources are extremely tight, requests regularly exceed these limits, and leaders seldom have the luxury of dedicating specific resources full time to critical modernization initiatives. Teams are tasked with “keeping the lights on”—often a nearly full-time job in public sector organizations riddled with high-maintenance legacy systems—while juggling a constant parade of one-off projects that come their way. This highly fractured approach is a recipe for stagnation, waste, and even failure.

The global cost of inadequate project governance is astronomical. Approximately $1 million is wasted every 20 seconds collectively by organizations around the globe due to the ineffective implementation of business strategy through poor project management practices, according to the 2018 Pulse of the Profession Survey, the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) annual global survey. The global impact: approximately $2 trillion dollars are wasted per year. In addition, the study revealed that:

Andrew Graf, Chief Product Strategist for TeamDynamix
  • On average, organizations waste nearly 10 percent of every dollar due to poor project performance
  • Nearly one-third of projects do not meet their goals
  • 43 percent are not completed within budget
  • Almost half are not completed on time

How can public sector organizations turn the tide and gain more traction in achieving their IT modernization priorities and ensuring highly successful outcomes? It all starts with project intake.

Does this scenario sound at all familiar? As an IT leader, you bump into someone in the hallway, have a quick conversation about a “new need,” and suddenly have a new project (perhaps not at all strategic or critical) to add to your already burgeoning list. How many times is this interpreted as a project review process? Often.

The fact is that IT leaders cannot be strategic until they can gain some level of control or governance over project intake. While the formality and complexity of the intake process can vary depending on organizational needs, it requires three core components:

  1. Project proposal – IT leaders should create and develop a proposal template, which any team or manager proposing a project must complete before an initiative would be considered. In its simplest form, the proposal should include an outline of the project, the business drivers behind the request, strategic or operational importance, projected return on investment/impact on the organization if implemented, ideal timeframe for implementation, and defined funding sources (where applicable).
  2. Review board – As part of the intake process, the organization should create a dedicated project review board, which should consist of organizational and IT leaders. The goal of this group is to ensure that projects are vetted and carefully analyzed as to their short-and long-term value to the organization.
  3. Prioritization scheme – To properly assess each proposal, the review board needs a prioritization scheme to determine whether to move forward with a project—is it mission critical, strategic, or simply “nice to have?” The prioritization scheme should also provide a paradigm for where to place each project, what to expect from each project, and how to plan for resource allocation, budgeting, and timelines. In addition, the review process must consider the organization’s broader project portfolio. It is not simply about just choosing between two or more projects, but making the right choice when prioritizing between a specific project and other responsibilities.

An organization will only succeed in implementing or augmenting a project management framework if it first spends time formally reviewing and evaluating each new project request. In establishing the intake and governance processes, it is important to accommodate an organizational and cultural learning curve—in other words, setting the expectation that you’ll walk before you run.

Start with a set of small to medium projects and take them through the gates. Once the projects are prioritized, they should go through a staging process where resources and timelines are assigned. During this process, it is important that an appropriate methodology is selected so that the team is not overwhelmed. A solid project plan includes milestones to educate, inform, and celebrate with stakeholders every step of the way.

It’s also common for projects to generate support tickets and service requests along the way. And conversely, tickets and requests may ultimately become projects. An integrated platform that includes both Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) is essential for providing seamless work management across all three of these areas—projects, project portfolios, and tickets—ensuring visibility and resource optimization throughout the organization.

Every journey starts with a single step, and often these initial steps set the tone, cadence, and direction for an entire voyage. This is especially true with project management, where a formal project intake process is fundamental in setting a course for more successful (and timely) outcomes.

Andrew is the Chief Product Strategist for TeamDynamix. His passion lies in helping organizations thrive in an ever-changing environment. As a co-founder of TeamDynamix, Andrew is well versed in the common issues facing IT leaders in Education, Government, and Healthcare. As tech spend rises and the needs for improved IT maturity increase, he is able to help map out a way forward. Andrew believes that success comes when customers, team members, and the company are all aligned.

No Comments