Sweeping Business Needs Analysis

There may never in the history of the US American business sector been a more compelling time for a business of any size or type to conduct a thorough needs assessment than Q3 2022. During this more or less finally-back-to-normal period of doing business following the 2-year partial economic shutdown, it just makes sense to take stock for planning. Below is a checklist of items, with descriptions, to assess in your pavement sweeping business in an overall evaluation of the health of your current operations in all departments / functional areas.

What is a Business Needs Analysis and How Does It Work?

A needs assessment is a thorough examination of a business’s operations and a set of conclusions about priorities for short-, medium-, and long-term corrections that must be addressed in order for the organization to viably pursue its mission and vision.

The particular line items of a needs assessment are meant to break down every area of operations for individual examination of performance, processes, procedures, physical facilities, employees, metrics, and other factors for analysis of the business’s needs in particular functional areas and overall.

You can set up a Need Analysis worksheet however you find it convenient to work in it. For a simple approach, you may just choose to use a spreadsheet with a list of all the points of examination you want to include for each department. Here’s how that works:

Build Your Custom Needs Analysis Sheet

If you do a thorough assessment, when you’re finished you can expect the sheet to be quite long. So, you don’t have to complete your entire process of departmental examinations in one day. To stay as committed to it in the last department as in the first, it may help to devote increments of precious time to it over a week or more. Here’s a nuts and bolts set of suggestions for designing your own business needs assessment worksheet:

● Function: Start by creating a Column A dedicated to redundant entries of each department name. For example, for every line item pertaining to a given department / functional area, copy the name of that department in Column A. That way, you can filter your sheet to display or print just the highlighted items for each functional area.
● Matters: (Matters column) Add a column for listing all the particular matters you will fill in in the corresponding rows for each department, such as. Matters for which you may create individual rows for each department may include training, time management, communications, equipment, organization, and so on.
● Positives: Use a column for entering your observations of things that stand out as very positive recent accomplishment in the functional area, such as goals met, training completed, percentages of improvement in key performance areas, organization, alignment with the company’s goals and objectives, morale, team skills, registered complaints, turnover rates, relevant customer feedback, cost savings, metrics status, rules enforcement, leadership vision.
● Needs: Add another column for Needs that you identify in each functional area. Place everything in this column on its corresponding row for the functional area. From names of employees who need training, to cleaning issues, to necessary capital purchases to replace worn out sweeper trucks.
● Notes: Use one column for entering a few reminder notes in the cells of rows for functional areas that might include things to evaluate that might get overlooked or that involve more complex considerations.
● Costs: Use an adjacent column to enter estimated costs to correct problems identified. You may opt to use the Notes column to label expense items as a need or a want.
● Other: Add a column for Miscellaneous or Other information that you want to include about each functional area for consideration as part of the needs analysis.
● Matters: (Matters rows) Add a row for each matter of interest in each functional area to be examined. For example, for the Maintenance Shop, you may have many line items, such as Parts Inventory, Organization, Training, Equipment, etc.
● Equipment: Add rows for each department for assessment of anything operationally that appears to need improvement, such as Equipment, Building, or Facilities issues that impact safety, productivity, morale, or efficiency/convenience in that particular department.
● Processes: Add more rows for comments about things that need improvement in the functional area such as processes, procedures, operating forms, software systems, communications systems.
● Staff: Use another row to enter your comments about individual employees that need improvements such as more training in process A, B, C, etc., more coaching for skills advancement in responsibility A, B, C, etc. need transfer, replacement, advancement.

So, your assessment worksheet could take the shape of this basic example:

Note that after you complete your examination of each matter of interest in each functional area of your business, you can sort your worksheet by filtering for items like Training, Organization, etc. from each area to create sub-reports for Training needs across your entire company.

In other words, when you sort the sheet by “Training,” all the Training line items will shift to the top of the worksheet for review or printing a report of Training Needs that includes training needs in all departments.
Departments, Programs, and Processes to Include In Needs Analysis

All of your business’s functional areas of operations should be included in your general evaluation, including Marketing, Sales, Route Service, Equipment Maintenance, Quality Control, Accounting, Office, Shop, Yard, etc. But, there’s more, much more, to consider and document in your overview to develop a full picture of the health of your business through the use of a needs assessment.

Such a full picture extends to using your needs analysis as a data resource for identifying issues impacting cash flow, income forecasts, spending controls, contingency preparations, P&L projections, team morale, training and coaching activities, culture building activities, customer relations, equipment maintenance, QC activities, marketing activities, growth strategies, communications, and others.

The most convenient approach is to use a 360 folding laptop or a tablet to walk through your business and record your notes for each point of assessment. As you examine each matter of potential need in each department, use the highlighter tool to call out priority points of need that you identify in each department. It creates a visual overview of your assessment sheet that is useful for various purposes, like seeing at-a-glance which functional areas have the greatest density of priorities, and multiple other uses.

Crystalizing the Worksheet Data for Analysis

The overall business needs assessment is meant to highlight areas of needed focus. For efficiency, include notes about areas of accomplishment to celebrate. Even add a column to the right of the sheet labeled Good. That will enable you to sort the sheet later by filtering for Good things you observed, enabling you to take advantage of a bonus use for your worksheet in staff meetings, performance reviews, meetings with lenders, etc.

So far, you have been using a highlighter tool to add colors to key information entries in your worksheet. But, those highlights are meant only to make it easy to visually scan and review the most glaring needs you identified along the way. It serves as a virtual recap of your assessment tour that may help you better visualize the stand-out points in your collective body of research for your analysis than just running a priority report alone. It places the priorities visually in the departments, a form of spreadsheet data mapping.

To make the most use of your volume of notes from your spot assessments throughout the process, you’ll need a searchable entry along with each of those highlighted items. It will enable you to filter your spreadsheet to print a sub-report of the priority needs without doing that manually.

So, create a narrow column at the right-hand side of the sheet, and use it to simply enter a 1 or some other digit that you can use to sort the sheet by just the rows containing highlighted items. You’ll also need to have those items sorted by each department, i.e., each functional area of your business.

Functional areas to include in your needs assessment might include: Office, Maintenance Shop, Yard, Sweeper Trucks, Field Vehicles, Drivers, Quality Control, Marketing, Sales, Brand Promotion, Accounting, Training, Safety, Break Room, Building Maintenance, and others.

Big Picture Analysis

After you complete your point-by-point examination of individual departments and employees, it’s time to evaluate the overall condition of your business in terms of the collective condition of its individual functional areas. As you can see, the worksheet has grown to a pretty wide and very long one. That happens with a thorough assessment effort. The number of line items indicates the extent of granularity you chose for your assessment effort. You may have chosen to do a much more detailed evaluation of some functional areas than others.

Just start with a quick perusal of all the highlighted items across all the departments. Surveying this visual map of priorities and clusters of priorities can offer an additional perspective and organizational tool for addressing the general array of priority needs.

Needs Priority Clusters Example:

Findings From Your Needs Assessment

The process may seem too burdensome or like a gross over-kill to some sweeping business owners faced with the task of performing a detailed business needs analysis. They may reason that what their business needs is just intuitively obvious and that no such formal process is necessary. But, if your business is underperforming, or is growing and taking on layers of management, a more systematic analysis will become a necessity for drilling down to the what, where and why of problems that may cause a drag on growth or profitability.

In any case, the assessment can be very handy in communicating your perspective on the business’s needs to other interested parties, such as new department managers, your company staff as a whole, lenders, prospective large contract customers like municipal, federal, and state government bid collectors, corporate project partnering prospects, consultants, prospective investors, business brokers or buyers, venture capital partner prospects, family members with current and/or future interests toward generational transitions, among other stakeholders.
Above all, a thorough business needs assessment can serve as a quick-view priorities project list for you and your C-Suite team and department heads for strategic planning purposes, collaborations, and delegation of quarterly and yearly improvement projects, among other uses, for years to come.

More Resources for Business Needs Analysis

Here are some additional approaches to coverage of the business needs analysis topic and some links to downloadable templates you can use for your assessment:

https://www.td.org/atd-blog/the-what-why-and-how-of-needs-assessments
https://www.ies.ncsu.edu/blog/how-to-conduct-needs-assessment-part-1-what-is-it-and-why-do-it/
https://www.nichq.org/insight/seven-steps-conducting-successful-needs-assessment
https://www.process.st/checklist/business-needs-assessment-template/
https://www.process.st/checklist/business-needs-assessment-template/
https://www.template.net/editable/business-analysis
https://www.template.net/business/business-needs-analysis-template/