3 Solutions for Conquering the Request Avalanche
Have you ever felt like requests for work are coming at you so fast that it seems you’ll never catch up? Between email requests, action items from meetings, hallway conversations, sticky notes, phone calls, chats, and people stopping by your desk, keeping up with work requests can seem almost impossible.
And, when you are switching between tools just to stay organized, spending so much time processing requests, you are wasting a lot of time you could be spending on actual work.
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In our 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report, we found that after email, meetings, and administrative tasks, workers have less than half of their workweek left for their primary job duties.
If teams could more effectively manage the request avalanche they face on a daily basis, workers would spend less time doing these tasks and more time getting work done.
Here are three ways you can stay on top of work requests so you can focus on doing your job.
1. Centralize Request Management
In a recent webinar, Chris O’Neal, product evangelist at Workfront, explained that the reason many workers are overwhelmed with work requests coming from different sources is that they don’t have a standardized process in place. This makes it hard to prioritize work and actually be effective at your job.
He said, “It’s hard to get the accurate picture of what you and your team are actually spending your time on, therefore it’s difficult to actually prioritize your work when there’s always more work that lives in the shadows.”
J. Alan Goddard, director of operations transformation services at Leappoint, recently discussed his experience helping a client implement Workfront as a centralized request management system. He highlighted the idea that this one step can save companies hours of valuable time:
“As we closed out our implementation, the manager who was in charge of that entire process did some math, and she realized that she and her team were saving four and a half hours per day just by standardizing the request process and using technology.”
Without a request process in place, it’s nearly impossible to see exactly what is going on with your team and even what you have on your own plate. This lack of visibility makes it impossible to manage a workload and often means that projects that aren’t on your radar get in the way, keeping you from being productive.
However, if you choose one system to accept and manage requests—and stick to it— you’ll have increased visibility and be able to manage your time and resources effectively. You’ll be able to stop wasting time digging through your inbox, tracking down files, and sitting in time-consuming meetings.
2. Capture all Necessary Information
With a centralized request management system in place, you can capture all necessary information for each request, cutting down on drafts and approval time, so you can power through your to-do list and get more done.
“You might waste time communicating back and forth over email to get all that relevant info that maybe, or hopefully, they could have given to you at the very beginning if you had a standardized process with a form for them to enter that request, whether it be things as simple as due dates or requirements you know you’re going to have or the priority on it.”
When information capturing is part of your request process, you won’t have to wonder if you are moving in the right direction or if you’re missing something important.
In many cases, requesters don’t fully understand the scope of what they are asking. O’Neal compared this problem to the “tip of the iceberg” cliché:
“What the requester, the person asking for something, always sees is the tip of the ice that sticks up above the water. They think it’s simple: I sent in a request, I should get a response back.
"They don’t see the massive amount of stuff that you, as a project manager, have to do that lies beneath the water.”
But, when you include these details in your request process, you give stakeholders insight into what it will take to fill the request and you ensure your team is aware of the entire “iceberg” and all that will be required to be successful from the moment the request is received.
3. Empower Each Worker
In Goddard’s experience, mentioned in solution number one, helping a client transform its request process empowered employees and saved hours of time each week, instead of holding them back in a black hole of confusion and overwhelming work requests.
Once the new system was in place, everyone had more visibility into projects: “The requester who represented the business was able to see the progress of that request all the way through to its completion. It was the first time that this black hole was lit up,” Goddard said.
When an official process with rules for accepting and prioritizing work is in place, workers are empowered to more effectively manage their time and do better work. They understand requests and what’s involved with them and they have what they need to succeed. This means teams are happier and requesters are satisfied.
The way you use a centralized system to survive the daily avalanche of work requests will depend on your team’s unique needs, but when everyone is using the same system, all necessary information is captured, and employees feel empowered to manage their workload, the entire company will benefit.
To see the full webinar that these insights came from, watch "I Can’t See What My Team is Doing! How to Get Total Project Visibility," featuring J. Alan Goddard and Chris O’Neal.