5 Ways to Improve Your Business Needs Statement documents

Here is a suggested outline for writing your next Needs Statement, also known as a Problem Needs Statement or Operation Statement document. What I’m going to do is divide the needs/problem statement into five sections: Problem, Cause, Cost, Strategy, and Barriers…


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1. What is the Problem?

Introduce the problem that your company, community, group is facing by giving some background information. The idea here is to place the problem in context and show why there this need must be addressed, preferably as soon as possible.

Sample text:

[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 most affected.

Other examples may include:

  • Age, gender, income level, educational level
  • Decrease in sales
  • Distribution
  • Geographic location
  • Number of complaints received
  • Number of customers affected by the problem

Keep this section brief. 2 pages are fine.

Introduction to Needs Statement Template – MS Word

You can drill down into more detail later or cross-reference other supporting documents.

2. Causes of the Problem

Next up are where we explore the causes of the problem.

Sample text:

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.]

Needs Statement

The challenge here is to:

  • Connect to the reader on an emotion level; finances some later.
  • Help the reader understand the root causes
  • 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. Costs 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.

Costs Breakdown

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.

Sample text:

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 morale,
  • 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 project.

Risks, Issues, Constraints, and Dependencies

4. Strategies

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.

Sample text:

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 your argument:

  • Aligns with the Funder / Stake-holder’s vision
  • Can be replicated across the community, dept, or functions
  • Cost effectiveness can be demonstrated
  • Promotes cooperation between departments
  • Uses existing resources, software, facilities

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 customer expectations
  • 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 effectiveness?

Sample text:

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 issues?

Is the structure of a Needs Statement different in the business world than, for example, in local government or in the academic world?

PS: You can use this Needs Statement template to:

  • Help Project Stakeholders understands why investment is required to address this business need.
  • Identify an idea that may require an investment depending on the specific business need.
  • Provide sufficient information to justify whether or not your organization should move forward with the development of a Business Case.

Use this Needs Statement template to:

  • Help Project Stakeholders understands why investment is required to address this business need.
  • Identify an idea (for example, training to improve customer service) that may require an investment depending on the specific business need.
  • Provide sufficient information to justify whether or not your organization should move forward with the development of a Business Case.
  • The Needs Statement document is often developed before the Business Case and serves as a fore-runner for this document.

Statements of Needs Statement templates

Use this Needs Statement template to:

  • Help Project Stakeholders understands why investment is required to address this business need.
  • Identify an idea (for example, training to improve customer service) that may require an investment depending on the specific business need.
  • Provide sufficient information to justify whether or not your organization should move forward with the development of a Business Case.
  • The Needs Statement document is often developed before the Business Case and serves as a fore-runner for this document.


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