needs assessment

What is a needs assessment?

A needs assessment is a systematic process that examines what criteria must be met in order to reach a desired outcome. For example, a marketing needs assessment might be used to build a business case for replacing software the company uses to conduct direct email campaigns.

The first step in a needs assessment is to conduct a gap analysis that identifies the differences between the current state and the desired state. Once gaps have been identified, changes can be made to improve performance or fix a deficiency.

How to conduct a needs assessment

Methodologies for conducting a needs assessment include the following:

  • Conduct market intelligence research.
  • Solicit feedback from customers and non-customers though surveys and focus groups.
  • Use customer data to analyze and predict customer behavior.
  • Conduct a competitive analysis of similar products/services.
  • Implement a mystery shopping program.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Why is a needs assessment important?

A needs assessment allows an organization to understand how they can improve their products and services for customers and potential customers. The more comprehensive the assessment, the more tactical an organization can become in developing action plans to close specific gaps.

Steps that can be taken to close gaps include the following:

  • Improvements to products/services.
  • Enhanced communications to better set customer expectations.
  • Analysis of competitive offerings to better understand the current marketplace.
  • Changes to policies/procedures.

It is important that organizations refrain from attempting to close all gaps at once by boiling the ocean and increasing the scope of a project or task until it is practically impossible to accomplish. Instead, needs assessment initiatives should be prioritized to support key business initiatives (KPIs) and be carried out when it is economically feasible.

Editor's note: This article was written in 2019. TechTarget editors revised it in 2023 to improve the reader experience.

This was last updated in March 2023

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