Project Management: How to Determine Project Needs
5 of 5 in Series: The Essentials of Defining Your Project
As a project manager you should have a full understanding of your project’s needs. The needs that your project addresses may not always be obvious. Suppose, for example, that your organization decides to sponsor a blood drive. Is the real reason for your project to address the shortage of blood in the local hospital or to improve your organization’s image in the local community?
When you clearly understand your project’s requirements, you can
Choose project activities that enable you to accomplish the true desired
Monitor performance during and at the end of the project to ensure that you’re meeting the real needs
Realize when the project isn’t meeting the real needs so that you can suggest modifying or canceling it.
When you’re initially assigned a project, you hope you’re told the products you’re supposed to produce and the needs you’re supposed to address. However, often you’re told what to produce (the outcomes), but you have to figure out the needs yourself.
Consider the following questions as you work to define your project’s requirements:
What needs do people want your project to address? Don’t worry at this point whether your project actually can address these needs or whether it’s the best way to address the needs. You’re just trying to identify the hopes and expectations that led to this project in the first place.
How do you know that the needs you identify are the real hopes and expectations that people have for your project? Determining people’s real thoughts and feelings can be difficult. Sometimes they don’t want to share them; sometimes they don’t know how to express them clearly.
When speaking with people to determine the needs your project should address, try the following techniques:
Encourage them to speak at length about their needs and expectations.
Listen carefully for any contradictions.
Encourage them to clarify vague ideas.
Try to confirm your information from two or more independent sources.
Ask them to indicate the relative importance of addressing each of their needs.
The following scheme is useful for prioritizing a person’s needs:
Must: The project must address these needs, at the very least.
Should: The project should address these needs, if at all possible.
Nice to: It would be nice for the project to address these needs, if doing so doesn’t affect anything else.
See if your organization performed a formal cost-benefit analysis for your project. A cost-benefit analysis is a formal identification and assessment of the following:
The benefits anticipated from your project
The costs of performing your project and using and supporting the products or services produced by your project
The cost-benefit analysis documents the results that people were counting on when they decided to proceed with your project. Therefore, the analysis is an important source for the real needs that your project should address.