Project Management

Customer Needs Analysis

last edited by: Robin Goldsmith on Nov 18, 2006 8:18 AM login/register to edit this page

1 Applications
2 Procedures
3 Instructions
4 Example
5 Reference

The purpose of this analysis technique is to identify the specific customers whose satisfaction is critical to the success of the enterprise and to determine their needs. This technique focuses on eliminating misunderstanding, misinterpretation of customers and needs, understanding the customer viewpoint of the value stream, forming a foundation for reengineering, and identifying customer problems.


  • Identifying the specific customers whose satisfaction is critical to the business' success to determine what their satisfiers are.
  • Assessment of the value stream.
  • Determining what will most satisfy the value stream customer and be acceptable to the customer.
Well-intentioned customer needs (REAL, business requirements) identification often is frustrated by confusing the requirements of a human-defined product/system one intends to create with the REAL, business requirements that exist within the business environment and which the product/system/software must satisfy in order to achieve value.


  1. Conduct interviews or surveys to determine customer needs.
  2. Document results.
  3. Develop list of customer needs.
  4. Remove redundancies and generate final list.


Analysis of customer needs begins with understanding the value stream work activities, as a source of producing customer satisfaction.

Understanding customer needs requires understanding of the interactions the customer has with the value stream work activities. Each of these interactions or events must serve to improve the customers' view of the enterprise. Each interaction also provides the opportunity to exceed their expectations.

It is critical that needs be obtained directly from the customer. Members of the team or management may express that they "know" what the customer needs are; however, too often, this information is filtered, slightly altered, and, unintentionally, misrepresented. The customers should speak for themselves.

Structured interviewing, focus groups, or questionnaires (see Structured Interviewing, Focus Groups, and/or Questionnaires and Customer Surveys) can be used to obtain the information needed. The objectives are to:

  • identify the sources of dissatisfaction or problems
  • gather customer suggestions on improvements
  • increase team awareness of customer expectations
  • provide input for performance measures and employee evaluation
  • increase customer awareness of the enterprise and its services/products
Once the needs have been collected, they must be consolidated to remove redundancies and synthesized to produce a final list of needs for subsequent analysis. A consolidated, non-redundant customer needs list is critical for properly reengineering the value stream.

Regardless of the method used to identify the needs, they should be documented promptly and in detail. The first step is to review the interview documentation and mark the key phrases that identify customer needs. Once all the interviews have been marked, prepare a list of all needs (redundancy is acceptable at this point). Number the list so that the needs can be traced back to the interviewee. Remove redundancy by placing the first need statement in a category. (Categories can be brainstormed by team members.) Read the second need statement. Ask the question: "Is it similar to the first?" If so, place it in the same category and continue. If not, place it in its own category and go to the next need statement. Repeat this process until all statements have been placed in a category.

Review all the statements in a category to insure that they are similar. Extract a list of non-redundant needs, numbering them for traceability back to the original interviewee. This allows the detailed notes on the interview to be located quickly (in case further clarification or an understanding of the context is required by team members). It also insures that the team has complete understanding of the consolidated, summarized list. Develop generalized summary needs statements that reflect all the statements in that category. To check the needs summary statements, ask the person who made the original statement if they would agree that the summary statement encompasses what they meant. If it does not, revise the summary statement to reflect the true meaning of what the customer was trying to communicate. The needs statements can also be recorded in columnar format, referencing the number of interviews that mentioned that particular customer need statement. This will help set the priority of the statements; the ones mentioned the most number of times should be at the top of the list of customer needs. The final product is a list of the top customer needs. The icons in the following figure describe the evolution and possible deliverables, as the interviews are distilled down to a final set of customer needs. This technique provides a systematic method for distilling the customer needs and prioritization of them. This process must be completed before attempting to develop the customer satisfiers.


Customer Needs Analysis


  1. V. Daniel Hunt. Quality in America, How to Implement a Competitive Quality Program. Business One Irwin, 1992.
  2. Robin F. Goldsmith, JD. Discovering REAL Business Requirements for Software Project Success. Artech House, 2004.

last edited by: Robin Goldsmith on Nov 18, 2006 8:18 AM login/register to edit this page


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