Undertaking a needs analysis is a process of identifying and evaluating needs within a community or defined population or group. Needs are defined as the gap between what is and what could be. In contrast to program evaluation, which looks at what has been done, needs analysis focuses on the future, or what should be done. Some people use the related term needs assessment. In undertaking a needs analysis for your organization, we would first identify the users and use of the report. Knowing what the report will be used for and who it will be used by, will help determine the formulation of the problem and some of the solutions.
Next, we would describe the target population and the environment in which the program or service is to be provided. Knowing about issues such as transportation, geography, eligibility requirements, service capacity, characteristics of the target population, resources, facilities, etc. again can help the formulation of solutions.
The third step is the needs identification or problem description, where gaps between expected and actual outcomes are portrayed. We would ensure that information is gathered from more than one source, through interviews of representatives of the different groups involved, as we begin to identify possible solutions to the perceived problem.
Once problems and solutions have been identified, we would undertake a needs assessment to evaluate the proposed solutions. By analysis of the interview data, we would seek agreement among responses on suggested directions. Based on this analysis, recommendations would be formed, encapsulated in a report. The last and perhaps most crucial step is to communicate the findings of the needs assessment to the users, decision-makers, and participants in the study.