7 Steps to Execute a Project Needs Analysis
As project management experts, one of the most common (and wasteful!) mistakes we see is when businesses fail to conduct a project needs analysis. Although new initiatives require innovation and creativity, it is crucial to steer your projects using proven methodology.
Don’t believe us? According to this report by SaaSList, companies who use proper project management practices save 28 times more money than those who don’t!
Do you have plans to implement a new system or kick-off a major project within your business? From the start, it’s exciting to think how great this effort will positively impact the business. But hold-up on the congratulatory high-fives! If you don’t set things up right on the front end of the initiative, you’ll exceed your budget and schedule, and deflate team morale.
Who’s got time – and money – for that?
Ensure success in your project and perform a Project Needs Analysis. It is also often referred to as a Needs Assessment. This proven approach will maximize efficiency throughout your organization.
The steps involved in a Project Needs Analysis is not fluff nor a “nice to do” strategy. The 7 steps of the Project Needs Analysis are critical to the success of any project and business.
The concept of a Project Needs Analysis originates in the Learning and Development field. RTG Solutions Group merges Lean practices with L&D strategies to create fool-proof project management formulas. In many cases, the similarities are recognizable in both industries.
The common factor is the development of people as a core principle. The Project Needs Analysis is critical to its success. This phase can take 1-2 weeks, depending on the number of teams and team members involved.
As a reference, consider a business rolling out a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. Before spending company resources on a new piece of software, the business will have to follow each of these 7 steps to ensure the project is a win:
- Identify an executive sponsor of the project
- Generate a return on investment (ROI) model
- Identify necessary workstreams
- Interview each of the workstream leaders
- Meet with the teams
- Create a master schedule of the gathered information
- Schedule and perform a pre-executive report-out
If these steps sound like gibberish to you, no need to panic! Below, we detail the ins and outs of each step of the Project Needs Analysis. In addition, we’ll explain the benefits and purposes of each step. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a needs assessment guru.
Step 1 – Identify an Executive Sponsor of the Project
An executive sponsor is a senior leader in the organization who ensures that the project aligns with the organization’s strategic goals and initiatives.
The executive sponsor must gather support from department leaders and overcomes resistance or hurdles with departments involved with the project.
In addition, the executive sponsor offers “buy in” to the initiative. This is because they provide direction, support, and the ability to fund the project. With “stake in the game,” the project’s success is their success.
With the ERP example, this effort will impact all departments, workstreams and communication channels in production, planning, inventory, business analytics, marketing, supply chain, and HR, among others.
In other words, the tentacles of the ERP system impact the entire business. Realistically, without the full support of an executive sponsor, the opportunity for success is slim to none. Identify an executive sponsor before moving to Step 2 of the Project Needs Analysis.
Step 2 – Generate a Return on Investment (ROI) Model
It’s important to outline the financial specifics for the impending project. The ROI model “makes the case” for the project by accomplishing two things:
First, it provides clear justification to your executive sponsor and the organization’s leadership about why the funding for the initiative is needed. It also substantiates how the funding for this project will benefit the organization.
Second, it validates whether the initiative or project is worth the effort. This is because it specifies how the costs associated with your project will achieve a specific return. Cost schedule, capital investment, and staffing requirements are all factored into the ROI model.
Interested in learning more about ROI models? Check out this article on the 3 Ways to Measure the Impact of Process Improvement Efforts!
Step 3 – Identify the Necessary Workstreams
As part of the Project Needs Analysis, it’s imperative to think through every department and workstream that will have a role in the project’s implementation. It is also critical to identify which teams will be impacted by the project, even if they’re not directly involved in the implementation. This is the stage where organizational silos must come down.
The identification and documentation of affected workstreams ensures transparency and team engagement. Fostering transparency and engagement will ultimately lead to the success of the project.
And don’t forget: workstreams often exist outside the organization with vendors, contractors, and other organizations. Make sure to take these parties into consideration during your Project Needs Analysis.
Unfortunately, all too often, project leaders do not think through every possible scenario of who and what workstreams will have connectivity to the project.
In order to create buy-in, build communication channels, and increase project support, you must thoroughly investigate every workstream. This effort sets you up for the next step – Interview each of the workstream leaders.
Step 4 – Interview each of the Workstream Leaders
Based on the workstreams that are connected to the initiative, schedule individual interviews with the workstream leaders. During the interviews, it is imperative to capture some of the pinch points the individual teams are experiencing and assess how this initiative can and will impact that team.
This communication will make it easier to provide the framework for the project, how it will impact each respective team, and what will be the executable tasks during the actual initiative or project.
In addition, these conversations will help you gain a better understanding of the problem at hand. This knowledge is key because, if you do not thoroughly understand the problem you want to fix, then your solution will fall short. You’d be surprised at how often we see this mistake happen. In fact, this is one of the Top 4 Missteps Leaders Make When Improving Business Processes!
In sum, establishing open communications with the workstream leaders will ensure information flows throughout workstream teams, resulting in informed and engaged team members. It will also clarify your teams’ current needs and challenges.
Step 5 – Meet with the Teams
Schedule and hold formal group meetings with each team to discuss the initiative or project. It is important to engage every individual, at every level of the organization.
No successful project or initiative is done in a vacuum–it takes people who are informed. Why? Employees who are informed about company initiatives understand how the project will impact them. And, most importantly, they get how they can assist in the execution of the project.
During the meeting, explain the project goals and objectives. Allow for questions and healthy dialogue. These meetings are great opportunities to let people “vent” about pain points in their own workflows.
Engagement, communications and encouraging feedback elicits trust. The sooner you can build trust among team members and across workstreams, the easier the implementation.
Communication is a powerful tool, particularly during times of organizational change. Interested in learning more about how to use communication to manage change and lead initiatives?
Check out this article: Lead Through Change By Harnessing the Power of Communication!
Step 6 – Create a Master Schedule of the Gathered Information
Once all information for the project has been gathered, it is critical to compile it in a manner that allocates all components in a schedule and distributes accountability across involves parties.
This document should be held in a central location, electronically. It should also be plotted and visible in the main meeting areas of the team.
This is not just for the sake of maintaining effective document management. This step also builds an internal communications campaign around the initiative. It fosters synergy and curiosity around the improvement opportunity.
Step 7 – Schedule and Perform a Pre-executive Report-out
The pre-executive report-out is the last stage of the Project Needs Analysis. It is critical to ensure complete executive approval before moving forward.
This is the opportunity for everyone to objectively agree to move forward with the initiative. Not only do they have to agree with the initiative as a whole, but they must be fully on-board with the designated roles, responsibilities, and accountability measures for involved parties.
Following the report-out, you are now in a good position to move forward in executing the project.
Contact RTG Solutions Group Today!
The 7 steps of the Project Needs Analysis will provide a solid foundation for executing a successful project. Whether you’re rolling out new software, trying to improve process efficiency, or leading a departmental initiative, following these steps will ensure your project is a winner.
Do you have a new project or initiative that you are rolling out in your organization? To learn more about how to conduct a Project Needs Analysis, contact us today!