My project intake process
A standardized intake process helps designers frame a project correctly. If we dive right into implementation, we can miss important contextual clues or problems. These often don’t arise until the project is far into design or even development. The principle of ‘thinking before we act’ helps mitigate obvious risks to the project:
- The risk of not understanding the context of the project
- The risk of not knowing who in the organization is championing this project
- The risk of not having clear objectives
- The risk of not having clear benchmarks and measurements
- The risk of not understanding what basic tasks customers are ‘hiring’ our application to do
Here are the key areas that I need to focus on when I’m brought into a project:
Who are the stakeholders for each business silo
One of the highest-risk of any part of any project is the teamwork between the individuals and business silos. Users typically navigate between business and product silos. We need to make sure that they don’t fall through the cracks by establishing good relationships early in the product development cycle.
What problem are we solving? For customers, for internal users? Organizationally?
This basic problem statement is easy to neglect. “We know what we need to build” is a common sentiment. Even if the underlying assumptions turn out to be correct, assumptions always need to be vetted. When everyone assumes that they’re all on the same page, it creates 2 problems: 1) an environement where it seems unsafe to ask this basic question. And 2) a wide mis-understanding about the basic problem the project is designed to address. Asking this question explicitly will help people speak up, and help everyone get on the same page.
Another important issue to remember is that customers want to ‘hire’ our application to perform various tasks for them. These tasks become the key part of the value that we provide to customers.
How will this be measured?
Clear metrics are key to the success of any project. Even the act of measuring can help steer a project towards achieving those ends. The act of measuring helps cement the outcome in the mind of the team.
What outcomes do we want?
What is our north star for the project? What is the end goal of the project? This helps us project our thoughts into the future so that we’re constantly building against a longer-term plan. It also helps put reactive thinking and acting into perspective. If an issue arises, then we can gauge the importance of solving that issue against the work lost towards our ultimate outcome.
How does this project impact the bottom line? Even non-revenue generating projects can help increase customer satisfaction, decrease customer churn and make it more likely that current customers will become net promoters of our business.
Establishing a hard launch date can help box the work and push people towards launching (and help push decisions to be made rather than deferred). This also establishes a clear boundary for project planning (the next step after intake).