6 Principles of Needs Analysis
- The opinion of end users is essential to unify a diverse, opinionated design team, and their opinion should transcend the desires of your design team.
- Market research is essential to unify end user opinions, and to use quantitative and qualitative research to find the best direction for product or service designs.
- Appeal to the lowest common denominator in end user needs. Marketing to the lowest skill levels results in the largest potential market. In other words, follow the KISS principle - "keep it simple, stupid".
- Do comprehensive beta tests of your products over a long period of time to allow adequate adjustments before "freezing" your product for the final manufacturing stage.
- Continue to monitor user feedback after the product launch, and address defects quickly and keep an accurate record to apply to future releases, if they cannot be addressed immediately in the current product.
- Elegant designs are the end product of successful needs analysis, and will put your product head and shoulders above industry peers.
5 Areas to Apply Gap Analysis
Workforce organizationThe overall efficiency of your company must be examined, from top to bottom. Redundant positions should be cut or combined, and poorly performing business segments should be eliminated or merged into existing ones. If you company has shifted in direction from one industry to another - for example, from personal computers to cloud computing - then your workforce must be restructured to reflect this, and to shed the extra weight.
Business directionEveryone must be on the same page in the pursuit of your company's goals. A poorly timed chang in business direction can alienate your existing customers and make it difficult to gain new ones. If your company's industry is becoming crowded, then a change in direction may be inevitable - but you have to make sure that your employees, shareholders, stakeholders and debtholders are all in agreement.
Production capabilitiesIf your company is still relying on domestic production plants, then you may have to consider outsourcing your labor to close the gap with larger competitors. Keeping all your production plants within the United States could cripple your margins and affect your ability to price products competitively.
Customer baseHas your company reached the full breadth of its potential customer base, or is it dwindling in a corner, marginalized by larger companies? If there are still a large number of unreached potential customers, it may be time to invest in expensive advertising and PR campaigns to thrust your product into the public eye.
Market PotentialIs the current market saturated? If it's too saturated, then you should only produce products that have fewer competitors but broader appeal. A vigorous needs analysis can help you craft better products that appeal to more consumers.
A well crafted combination of thoughtful, repeated needs analysis and expansive gap analysis can transform your company and its products for the better. By using both, you can toss out the old and renew your company, allowing you to see avenues of growth that were previously obscured by daily habits, routines and mediocre expectations.