Have you ever spent unnecessary time on a request, all because you & your colleagues weren’t on the same page? *raises hand*
It’s not a great feeling! But that’s what happens when you don’t organize requests early on. If you write content for your org, create reports, build lists, or do anything that requires even the slightest bit of niche expertise….let’s chat.
It’s fine to keep these requests casual at first. Maybe someone sends you an email, or catches you on the way to the kitchen, or calls/messenger-pigeons you with their needs. That can work, for a while.
But as your org grows, so do those asks. And pretty soon, that system you thought you had becomes this:
That’s why we’re putting a process in place. We already considered the types of requests we get and the major perspectives involved. We also built a framework that outlines everything that needs to happen before a request is completed.
Now it’s time to turn our attention the beginning – the moment we collect those requirements.
Your intake system is key to a productive process.
When we talk about juggling things effectively, our intake process is part of the puzzle! Without one, we risk:
- not getting all the info we need the first time around,
- getting the wrong info the first time around without knowing it, OR…
- getting the right info, but it becomes the wrong info when someone forgets a detail.
This wastes time, causing us to either go back and forth with our colleagues or produce work that falls short.
No more wasted time and bad outputs. Let’s get that intake process in order!
I. Figure out what you need to work on a request.
Your requestors aren’t the only ones with requirements! As the person doing the work, you get to decide what you need from others.
Some details will depend on the ask. But at minimum, you’ll definitely need to know:
- when your colleague needs to have this ready
- how they’ll use it
- any wonky or super specific requirements
Keep adding to this list. In the example from our last post, I created a framework for email list requests. In my case, I’d need the criteria for the recipients, and any special exclusions (i.e., if we’re sending a fundraising email to former donors, we’d exclude the ones who gave this year already!)
II. Set the terms for how peeps communicate their asks.
This will depend on a few factors: how complex this ‘thing’ is that you’re producing, how often you’re asked for it, the size of your staff, and your own preference.
Consider which of these 4 options is best for organizing & collecting those requirements from your staff.
1. Collect requirements verbally.
Sure, conversations & meetings don’t exactly scream ‘formal process’. But it’s one of the more common ways we get input from our colleagues, and for that reason , it makes the list!
That’s isn’t to say a verbal process is always wrong. You should still supplement it with some sort of record – like a recap email or audio recording – so that those decision points aren’t lost when someone inevitably asks about them again.
2. Collect requirements via email.
If written requests in your inbox work, so be it! This is a common, valid way of collecting your staff requirements. No need to fix what isn’t broken.
But keep in mind this works best with smaller teams. If you’re getting 50 requests a week, or you need to delegate tasks across a big department, then a higher-tech option may be more sustainable.
3. Use a form (preferably online).
You may find yourself outgrowing the swing-by-my-desk-and-tell-me-what-you-need approach. That’s where forms come in.
Direct your staff to submit a form with their needs. As the person setting the fields, forms empower you to guide staff in providing what’s necessary, without them cutting corners. (If you’re wondering how to do this, tools like Google Forms are easy and free. But you can also build one in Microsoft Word.)
This is great for requests that are a bit more technical, or where the requirement options are more specific.
4. Invest in a tool or ticketing system.
If your org’s needs are great and you have the capacity, then new technology may be just the thing you need!
A ticketing system is ideal for larger organizations with a lot of staff and support needs. But it is very much a tech implementation that deserves careful planning (not something you’ll get up and running overnight!).
And if you’re wondering “well, what systems are out there?”, move on to part 3 of this series.