7 Steps to Perform an Effective Needs Assessment


A needs assessment is a process of bridging the gaps between the current state with the target conditions established in an organization. It is a systematic procedure to determine and address the needs to improve the performance as well as fixing any defects that may occur in an organization. The needs assessment is an important stage that should be done before starting a project or implementing a strategy on it. Without needs assessment, it would be quite challenging to see the desired objectives anticipated from that project in a clearer perspective.

Needs assessment may be in terms of your current management, expectations from stakeholders, technology utilization, motivation, and so forth as long as it entails what the project is built on. Once a need has been determined, further planning needs to be done to determine how to address the need mentioned.

In conducting a needs assessment, the process of analyzing the current condition of a business is done. It will then be followed by coming up with an optimal solution in coming up with the best decision.

This article will look into seven steps in performing a needs assessment.

1. Pinpointing Problem or Opportunity

This is the starting stage in performing needs assessment; you need to first identify the problem or opportunity to address. This step will aid in providing an evident and clear understanding of the condition that needs to be solved. Failure in performing this stage well might hinder the process of problem-solving. You may not be able to properly address the issue well because you have no understanding of what the issue entails. There are three main components under this stage which are inputs, techniques, and outputs.

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In pinpointing the problem or opportunity, you may first refer to the input. The example of input that you may look at is assessing business value. Aside from that, eliciting results either confirmed or unconfirmed, and enterprise environmental factors are another example of input from this step.

There are multiple examples of tools or techniques that you may use in identifying a problem or opportunity. The examples are benchmarking, competitive and document analysis, interviews, market analysis, and prototyping.

2. Evaluate Current Condition

This step is fundamental as it outlines the current environment conditions where the business is operating in. This step aids you in fully understanding of the current state of your organization and provide the necessary context where further improvement could be anticipated. A thorough analysis may help your team to identify room for opportunity aside from possible problems that should be solved.

In evaluating the current condition, it involves analyzing a wide range of organization information. This includes project portfolio, department division in the organization, competitive environment, and previous products. Apart from that, current capabilities, policies, architecture, capacities, culture, and organization structure should be looked into as well.

Some of the inputs that could be looked into when assessing the current state of an organization are the architectures. Is there any outdated technology or model that should be replaced to maximize the business operation? The other example of input is the goals and objectives of the organization. Current goals that are established may be reviewed to assist in the needs assessment. The last example of input from this second step is the situation statement. This statement provides information on the objectives of the issue that is currently faced by the organization and the impact it has.



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Next, let’s look at some of the tools or techniques that could be utilized in assessing the current state of an organization. The examples include SWOT analysis, glossary, process flows, business architecture techniques, capability framework, root cause and opportunity analysis, and elicitation techniques.

3. Establishing Future State

This step involves a further analysis in determining any changes that are deemed necessary for a business. Is the existing state of the business or organization able to secure its spot in the market? Is there any improvement that could be done to boost up the level compared to its current condition? The changes could be in form of technology, operation system, management, team board, staff, capabilities, and so forth, depending on the needs of the organization.

The team in charge of the needs assessment will first thoroughly examine the current condition of the business. After the analysis has been done, they will map out the desired future state that should be established in the business. The comparison done will provide a clear gap where the opportunity for improvement could be performed. The business objectives established should be aligned with the needs of the organization. Sidetracking may hinder the approval for changes intended for that business.

Some of the future states of a business may include the new work that will be performed by the organization, sub-contracting to unlock new capabilities that may not be acquired from within the organization, experimenting with existing resources, and trying out upgraded skills that have been achieved.

The inputs that could be used in this step are business needs and current state assessment. The other examples are enterprise and business architectures and situation statement.

In establishing a future state for a need assessment, the examples of tools or techniques that could be used are solution capability matrix, gap analysis, Kano analysis, benchmarking, affinity diagram, feature model, elicitation techniques, and process flows. You may perform the analysis by studying records or gaining insights from relevant people such as the stakeholders.

4. Establishing Options and Recommendations

After the current condition and the future state has been identified, it is time to start working on achieving the goals for the future state. Many possible solutions may be expressed to meet future goals. However, how does one decide which is the best solution that is effective for the goals established?

In this stage, after analysis and discussions have been done, more specific techniques will be performed to decide on which proposed solutions to be pursued in achieving the objectives established. Considerations on the current and future state of the business will be taken to find out the most feasible and viable options to be approached. When one particular option is deemed to be feasible and appropriate after a level of analysis, that solution will be recommended to be pursued.

Some of the activities that could be done when deciding viable options and providing recommendations are determining viable options, conducting feasibility analysis, identifying product scope, determining transition requirements, and recommending the most practical option.

The inputs could be obtained from business goals and objectives, enterprise and business architectures, required capabilities and features, and situation statement.

These are the few examples of tools and techniques that you may consider to determine viable options and giving recommendations; benchmarking, cost-benefit analysis, elicitation techniques, feature injection, group decision-making techniques, real options, valuation techniques, and weighted ranking.

5. Develop Product Roadmap

A product roadmap is a document that gives information about a product. Some information includes the vision of the product as well as the strategy that will be used to meet the goals, usually in a timeframe format. Within a set of periods, the goals that are expected to be achieved will be presented in the product roadmap. This will serve as the guide for all the stakeholders involved, especially the team that is responsible for the process of developing this product. It connects the business resources with the development team so that both have a mutual understanding of the details of the product as well as the milestones established for the said product.

Some of the criteria to be included in a product roadmap are the strategies, portfolio, program, initiatives, vision, success criteria, market forces, features, and timelines.

The product roadmap is often shared within stakeholders either internal or external. The information provided for different recipients may differ depending on what their position is. Customers may not need to know the business operations utilized in developing the product. Such is an example of irrelevant information that is not needed to be shared with some stakeholders. Your organization may consider utilizing a product roadmap software to ease the accessibility of information from product roadmap to different parties.

Some of the examples of input in this stage are business goals and objectives, and required capabilities and features.

In facilitating the development of product roadmap, these tools and techniques could be utilized; facilitated workshops, feature model, product visioning, and story mapping.

6. Gather Business Case

Assembling a business case is beneficial in helping the organization to inspect projects consistently. This will ease the decision making whether the current project needs any investment to be done. That aside, it helps the organization in determining the projects that could address the meet of the business and investing in the project. It may be documented formally or informally depending on the preferences of the organization.

The process under this stage is by evaluating information to carry the selected projects in meeting the objectives of a business. The business case is an important document that will be constantly referred by the team involved throughout the whole process of developing and executing a project. The content may be updated from time to time to adjust to the constantly changing needs of the project that may arise during the process. In most cases, organizations have their set of templates that could be used in developing a business case. Some may even utilize business case software to standardize the documents within the company.

A business case may include the following components; problem or opportunity to be addressed, situation analysis, recommendation, and evaluation. The factors that may influence the making of business case on the other hand are as follow; market demand, organizational needs, requests from customers, strategic opportunities, technological development, regulatory requirements, ecological impacts, and social needs.

Some of the inputs from assembling business cases are business goals and objectives, study results, product roadmap, options on the recommended solution, required capabilities and features, and situation statement.

The tools or techniques that could be used are document analysis, facilitated workshops, glossary, product visioning, and story mapping.

7. Charter Construction

This stage involves collaborating with sponsors and stakeholders in developing charters. Make full use of the knowledge on business analysis, experience, and information on products that are elicited when assessing needs. This process is crucial as it could smoothen the process from business case to charter development. Apart from that, it provides substantial information on the portfolio program, objectives, scope, and requirements of the product to the stakeholders.

The examples of important charter commonly known are a portfolio, program, and project charter. Charters function in setting limitations of scope as well as documenting the records of the program beginning.

Charter is used to create partnerships or collaboration between the development team and the business. Internal agreements would be established to officially initiate the project. This is fundamental to assure the proper delivery of the solution. The development of charters should be two-sided, where both parties involved should be present since it is a shared understanding of the project or product.

Some of the key components included in a charter are description and purposes, goals and objectives of the business, scopes, risks, budget, success criteria, and the summary of the schedule.

A charter could be developed prior to a decision in determining scopes that could be established for a project or program. Doing so will help identify the content for further planning.

The examples of inputs are business case and product scope. The tools and techniques that could be utilized are document analysis, facilitated workshops, glossary, and interviews.

Conclusion

We cannot deny that the operations happening in a business or organization is complex. Some businesses may not be as successful as others. Some departments may not be operating as good as others. Sometimes, the gaps or causes for these are not quite visible. This is where needs assessment comes in. Needs assessment aids team members in pinpointing the gaps that hold back a business’s success. It helps notify any shortcomings that exist in the current processes. That aside, it also identifies any opportunity that could be taken in improving the business.

Performing an effective needs assessment is fundamental to boost the progress of a business, securing its success in achieving the desired goals. Hence, an organization needs to initiate a needs assessment to bridge the gap that exists in the business or organization as a whole.

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