How to Execute a Needs Assessment

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What does your project need? It’s not a simple question. It is a springboard that launches the planning of any successful project. You can have all your resources lined up and ready to go, but the plan is the rule by which everything else is measured and ordered. But a plan is empty of value if it’s not directed towards the needs of the organization.

How can one know what the needs of an organization are? This also is not a simple question. It must be answered thoroughly. Being that this is project management, you can bet that there’s a process for it. It’s called a needs assessment.

What Is a Needs Assessment?

As noted above, a needs assessment is a process to figure out the needs of an organization or project. It is basically a three-step process with the following phases:

  1. Initiation
  2. Data collection and analysis
  3. Final production

In project management, the needs assessment can address the organization and if the project is aligned with its needs. It can also be used as a systemic process within a project that seeks to discover how far apart the current conditions of the project are in comparison to the needed condition for successful completion.

Gap analysis then determines how to close the gap between where the organization is at present and where it needs to be at a later date.

Why Is a Needs Assessment Important?

As we expressed earlier, it can be difficult to discern the needs of a project, especially when you’re in the midst of one. With a systemic process that carefully goes through the project piece by piece, it is more likely that any issues that are not being met will become evident. Then the gap between the need and the current condition can be closed.

A needs assessment can uncover a variety of gaps; it can address a gap in knowledge, practices, skills or tools. The needs assessment helps to show what is and isn’t working in the project. Then, what isn’t working can be fixed. This helps an organization, or a project, in that it makes it more efficient.

The needs assessment is a powerful tool because it not only assesses needs from one level of the project or organization, but all levels. You get a holistic approach that both sees needs from a high level to a granular one. This helps to inform your plan and provide specific actions to take in order to make improvements.

How to Plan and Execute a Needs Assessment

For a fully-fledged needs assessment that can identify gaps and best serve the needs of your projects, we’ve identified seven steps. These steps are relevant in almost any discipline or technique you may prefer.

1. Identify Sponsor of the Project

The project sponsor is not simply a stakeholder, but an executive sponsor, who is a senior leader in the organization. This person will help guide the needs assessment and keep it aligned with the goals of the larger organization.

The sponsor can also garner support for the needs assessment. They are in a high enough position within the organization to get department leaders in line with the process, which can clear hurdles that may block progress. The sponsor gets buy-in from all those involved by offering direction and, importantly, funding for the project. They make sure that everyone has a stake in the success of the process.

2. Create ROI Model

By defining the return on investment (ROI) and how the project will benefit the organization, a needs assessment justifies financial commitment.

It will also, in a larger sense, show that the project itself is of value. The project is worth the effort, time and costs that it requires as it will bring a significant return on its investment. Part of this ROI model should therefore include a cost schedule, capital investment and what the staffing requirements are for the project.

3. Identify Necessary Workstreams

This is when every department is analyzed, including the worksteams and team members therein. There must be transparency for this step to work.

There are workstreams that are outside of the organization as well, such as when projects work with vendors, contractors and other organizations. Therefore, all silos in the project must be removed for this step to work.

4. Interview Workstream Leaders

Once you’ve identified the workstreams that are related to the project, it’s time to speak with the leaders of each of these workstreams in order to understand their process. You’ll want to discover any pain points they’re experiencing. Also, see how this needs assessment will impact their work. That latter data will help when you resolve any gaps in needs.

By opening up the channels of communications between all the workstreams that are part of the larger project, you foster better communications throughout the execution of the project. This helps managers, but also the teams working on the project.

5. Meet with Teams

You’ve met with workstream leaders, now it’s time to set up meetings with their teams. You want to speak with every team member, no matter where in the organization they work. The teams are your troops on the front lines and have experience and perspective that is often not reflected in management.

Teams can give you a ground view of the project, which is where the issues first show up. They can provide information that is key to resolving these issues.

Related: 8 Steps for Better Issue Management

Your job is to make clear the project’s goals and objectives. Leave time for the team members to ask questions and engage them in a conversation. Let the team members be honest and hear their complaints in a safe space, without judgement or penalty. They will show you areas in the project that must be fixed. Build their trust, and resolutions are more effective.

6. Generate a Team and Schedule

With all the data you’ve compiled, it’s now time to assemble a team to respond to the issues raised and schedule the information in a way that allocates all the different parts and provides accountability that is based on the project needs.

This schedule is shared, stored digitally so all can access it, as well as physically posted in public places the teams gather. The improvements must be effectively communicated across all departments and teams.

7. Pre-Executive Report-Out

This last step is when the data and schedule get executive approval. Without approval at the executive level, the gaps exposed during a needs assessment will not be closed. Once everyone has agreed on the way forward, and only then, can it be implemented.

How ProjectManager.com Helps with a Needs Assessment

Once you have a plan to respond to the gaps you’ve discovered in your needs assessment, that plan can be set up in ProjectManager.com. Map out your tasks and schedule work on our online Gantt chart. Here tasks are represented by start and end points on a project timeline, a bar between them indicating the duration of the task. Dependent tasks can be linked and team members assigned tasks.

Gantt chart screenshot ProjectManager.com
Gantt charts are online and update in real time.

To manage your team’s workflow, our software has multiple project views so everyone can work the way they want to. Collaboration occurs at the task level, where team members can comment and attach relevant files. Managers can track their progress as it happens. Our software is cloud-based, which means the moment a team member updates their status it shows up on the software.

task management screenshot
Powerful task management features improves everyone’s productivity.

Our dashboard collects six project metrics, from variance to task progress. You can track project status with more accuracy than any desktop application can provide. One-click reporting gives you even deeper data for tracking or more general information when presenting to your stakeholders. ProjectManager.com is the tool to assess your projects needs and then close whatever gaps you find.

ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that helps managers plan, track and report on project. It gives teams the tools they need to work together, more productively, with collaborative communication tools. Learn how we can help your next needs assessment and gap analysis, and overall project, by taking this free 30-day trial today.

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