5 Ways to Write Better Needs Statement documents
How do you write a Needs Statement
document so that it covers all aspects? Before we start, this document
is also known as a Problem Needs Statement and a Operation Statement document.
Let's divide the needs problem statement into five sections:
1. What's the Main Problem with the
Introduce the problem that your
company, community, group is facing by giving some background
The idea here is to place the problem in context and
show why there this need must be addressed, preferably as soon as
[The problem] is defined as [define problem] and is found in [identify
region, business unit or other type of location]. On the business level,
[the problem] affects [# of people] each year, while the incidence of
[the problem] on the department level is _____ and _____ respectively.
Over the past [X] month/years, [the problem] has [improved, worsened]
and the reason for this is [explain why things have changed, for
example, lack of resources, cutbacks, budget etc]
Needs Statement Template - MS Word
To make the introduction as compelling
as possible, try to include its frequency of occurrence [e.g. failing to
meet service level agreement deadlines] and the characteristics of those
Other examples may include:
- Age, gender, income level,
- Decrease in sales
- Geographic location
- Number of complaints received
- Number of customers affected by
Keep this section brief. 2 pages are
Template - MS Word
You can drill down into more detail
later or cross-reference other supporting documents.
2. What Caused the Problem?
Next up are where we explore the causes
of the problem.
The causes of [the problem] are
[identify the three main reasons, if possible. The major causes of this
problem on a department, business, or operational level appear to be [
]. The Finance department problem is different from or is unique from
the IT Dept as [explain how these differ.]
The challenge here is to:
- Connect to the reader on an
emotion level; finances some later.
- Help the reader understand the
- Introduce your solution and
demonstrate how it is a ‘best fit’.
One of the mistakes that grant/proposal
writers often make is to discuss the need [i.e. for a service] as if
this is the reason for the current problem.
Tip: What you need to do is step
back and look at the symptoms that caused this problem.
What are the symptoms of the problem?
Once you have identified these, expand on each point and use this to
build your case.
Try to avoid circular reasoning when writing the Needs Statement.
3. How much will it cost to fix the problem?
The project stakeholders [i.e. those
who will be finding the project] often look at these figures first
before reading your document.
So, you need to keep this section as
clear as possible and avoid ‘concealing’ figures. You will lose the
trust of the stakeholders if you try to bury hidden costs in the
terms and condition.
In addition to the impact that the
problem has on the [company, customers, employees], the problem costs
[$] in services, consultancy and other efforts. Others that may be
affected by this problem are [identify who and in what way]. The
consequences of not addressing this problem may be [discuss here], while
the benefits of addressing the problem are [discuss here.]
As well as showing the total cost for
this undertaking, you can soften the blow by separating the costs in
different ways, for example:
- Costs of addressing/ not
addressing the problem, e.g. increase in number of complaints, brand
damage, increase product returns, staff turnover
- Costs to others in terms of how
the problem affects them, e.g. attrition, increased training, staff
- Cost effectiveness of intervening
in the problem, e.g. reduction in staff numbers, less training,
improvements in quality etc.
For example, if you can demonstrate
that for “every $1 spent in quality control, $10 is generated in
increases sales” you will have made a compelling case to fund your
Risks, Issues, Constraints, and Dependencies
4. Strategies to resolve the problem
One way to approach this is to discuss
the current level of response to the problem.
In other words, what are
customers/employees currently doing to resolve/tolerate this problem; is
it working, where are the gaps, what is being done already? This
section should start to introduce your proposed solution.
We have undertaking several strategies
to address [the problem]. [Discuss the approach you have taken for each
strategy in relation to each specific dept, business unit, customer
segment etc you are targeting.]
Research into [the problem] by [Name of
researcher and Date of research] has revealed that the most effective
strategies address [discuss how they will be addressed.]
Needs Statement Approval Page
Based on our research, the most
promising approach is to [discuss and cross-reference support materials]
Use the following factors to strengthen
- Aligns with the Funder /
- Can be replicated across the
community, dept, or functions
- Cost effectiveness can be
- Promotes cooperation between
- Uses existing resources, software,
5. Barriers to achieving your goals
Finally, you need to discuss each
potential barrier to your proposed service/solution.
You can discuss barriers to service is
terms of their:
- Acceptability — does it meet
- Accessibility — what are the
costs, hours of operation, eligibility criteria etc
- Appropriateness — does the
solution address the problem in full or only one part of the problem
- Availability — is the proposed
solution ready [e.g. packaged software] or must it be developed from
scratch. Are there reference sites or projects that demonstrate its
The major barriers for clients to
utilize services are [discuss]. Barriers in the community that impact
change in the problem area or keep clients from service are [discuss].
Those are some of the ideas I have for
developing a Needs Statement.
What have I missed?
For example, are there barriers to
service based on other factors, such as logistics, transport, cultural
Is the structure of a Needs Statement different in the business world
than, for example, in local government or in the academic world?