To me, a needs assessment and feasibility study is required for effective project management. When they come to me, many of my clients have an idea for a project and that is the extent of what they have done. While this is an important first step, you really need to take a step back and establish the need for a project before you begin the planning process. Without conducting a needs assessment, it is possible that your project is doomed to fail even before it begins.
In education and within community-based organizations (CBO’s), we have developed a finely tuned process to conduct a needs assessment and complete a feasibility study within a quick turn-around. We use online survey tools from SurveyMonkey.com to send out confidential surveys to key personnel and the individuals who will be implementing a project within the organization. Those surveys solicit information related to the performance of the current system or program in place and the performance of the targeted population. Within the survey we include a readiness for change survey to determine if the individuals who will be responsible for program delivery will provide resistance to integrating introduced program improvements into their program delivery.
We also collect data related to potential key performance indicators for by process and product outcomes. In education, the community, and businesses, establishing a performance baseline is important before you begin your project — how else would you set your project goals and intended outcomes? If your goal is to create improvements in software for a client or to bring a new product or service to market, this may take the shape of an understanding of what the client wants or the need your new product will meet.
If you want to successfully complete this process, at the end you should be able to answer these questions:
- Is the project viable?
- What are its chance for success?
- What are the issues that may prevent success?
- Does our organization have the capacity to complete this project?
- Will our personnel support the project?
If you complete the needs assessment and feasibility study and are satisfied with the answers to the five questions I have identified, then you should proceed to developing what in the field of project management is called the “Project Charter”. That will be discussed in a later article.