Whether you receive your project requests in the form of last-minute phone calls, IMs, hallway conversations, emails, meeting shout-outs, or some other form of interruption, they make pretty much everyone absolutely cringe.
Especially when they come with very few details and very little thought (and at 4:50 p.m.). That's usually due to a complete lack of process, something you can easily fix. It all begins with a great request form.
See our post, "A Tale of Two Creatives—And The Importance of Process," to learn why processes are so important and how you can make them more effective.
Every request form should be tailored to the kind of work you're doing—from help desks to web design and everything in between—and the processes in your company. Following are a few tips to get you started on your project request form(s).
1. Apply the Goldilocks Principle
When you build your request form or creative brief, stick with the Goldilocks principle—not too long, not too short, just the necessary information. If you ask too much, your requestors won't take the form seriously, and if you ask too little, the request form won't do its job for you.
2. Focus on the Facts
When you build your request form, focus on the standard information: what, where, when, and how.
A. What is being requested?
Depending on the type of deliverable you create, you'll want to ask details about the project itself. For example, if you're being asked to build a brochure, you'll want to ask about copy length, brochure design, etc., to help you in the creation of the piece.
B. Where will it be used?
This is where you'll get information about the usage of what you create. For example, if you're asked to create a new shared folder, you'll want to know who should have access, how large it should be, and whether it requires outside access.
C. When is it due?
This is obvious—you're asking for a date. Too often, however, this question is answered with "ASAP." That's not a useful answer ("possible" is very fluid). Insist that you get actual calendar dates, and work with your teams to make sure they don't pad the dates unnecessarily and create a rush for you.
D. How will it benefit the business?
This is the hardest question to answer, but it's the most important when you're assessing your work requests. If your requestors can't answer this question—and answer it well—then they haven't thought through the request enough and may need to go back to the drawing board.
It's particularly helpful to have the business benefits roll up to team/department/company KPIs so that you work on the most strategic work first.
3. Make the Request Form Useful to You
Request forms have a two-fold purpose: first, to give you and your team the information you need to kick off a project, and second, to give the requestor an opportunity to define the project.
Ensure that your request form gives you the information you'll need to get a project started without a lot of additional detail from the requestor.
For more complex projects, you'll likely need a kick-off meeting to get all of the team members aligned around project details and deadlines.
However, for more basic requests, the request form should give you enough information that your team could execute with no additional meetings, emails, or IMs needed—the very things you're trying to replace by creating your request process!
4. Create the Minimum Necessary Variables
Not all work is created equal, so all request forms should be different too, right? Wrong.
If you have certain request types that are wildly different from others, definitely create separate request forms (see number three). However, the more variations you have, the more confusing and complicated the process will become for your requestors.
The last thing you want is for your request forms to exacerbate your request problem. Keep variations to a minimum and make it easy for your requestors to tell one from another.
5. Establish a Submission Process
Now that you have a request form/creative brief, you need a set way to submit that information to your team or project manager. There are several ways you can go about this, but make sure that the process you set up can't be ignored or overlooked.
For example, asking people to add request forms into a shared folder won't work unless the project manager will receive an alert that it was uploaded, or if they have a process to routinely check the folder for request forms.
By following these five simple steps to set up a clear work request process, you'll be able to document and define the work in your queue and cut back on the unnecessary requests that weren't thought out to begin with. It's a step in the right direction to a more sane work experience.
- Download our free creative brief template.
- Consult our free ebook, The Complete Guide to Request Management.
- Read five simple tips for killing request chaos.
See our SlideShare, "Project Management 101: Project Request Intake," for more ways to set up a winning request intake process.
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