Performing a Needs Analysis

This is a guest post from Dale Street.


Meeting with a new client for the first time can seem overwhelming. How can you possibly understand enough about their business to create a learning product that has value and a high probability of sticking with their employees?

We’ve learned a lot in working with different clients. Sometimes the easy way, and often the hard way. Here are a few things to consider when performing a needs analysis with a client:

Understand Their Business

The foundation for any learning project should come from the priorities of the business. If something doesn’t relate back to the business being successful, why do it? A few questions you should consider asking are:

  • What are your business’ priorities or goals?
  • What does success look like to your organization?
  • How are you structured?
  • What types of communication do you typically use?
  • How have you delivered training to your employees in the past?

That last one's a doozy! Don’t make the assumption that your client has a Learning Management System (LMS). If they don’t, and more don’t than do, how are you going to deliver your end product to their employees?

Understand The Behaviors

After you have a better understanding of the organization, it’s time to narrow down exactly what behaviors the learning will impact. We like to think of this as the 5 W’s, with a little twist:

  • What would you like your employees to be able to do after they finish this training?
  • Who (which employees) need to change their behavior? And what are they doing currently that is not working?
  • Why are they not already exhibiting those behaviors?
  • How will the change in those employees impact your business priorities?
  • Let’s pretend we are 6 months post-training implementation, what would be happening for you to say “Wow, that learning project that Paper Plane delivered was wildly successful?”

The goal here is to ensure that learning intervention will work, and identify how to measure it’s success.

Understand The Project

Ok, great! Now you know who the business is, and what type of training you need to deliver to their employees. The last piece is making sure you have a full scope of the project. Here are a few questions that may help in fully scoping out your project:

  • What is driving the urgency for this project, and when do you need to deliver it by?
  • What technical requirements are there?
    • Does the LMS require a specific type of file?
    • Do the learners typically access training on a mobile device?
  • What is the ROI of the project, and what is your total budget?
  • Who needs to approve the final product?
  • Are there any legal implications or approvals required?