A note on identifying needs of multiple internal customers within a client organisation


By Alan Stretton 

Sydney, Australia


A paper I wrote some time ago in the PM World Journal, entitled “Identifying/verifying customers’ needs before specifying product/service requirements in the program/project context” (Stretton 2009e), attracted more feedback than any other of my other fifty-odd contributions to PM World Today and PM World Journal. I also mentioned the importance of effective needs determination in a recent paper in this journal (Stretton 2013b), and this prompted me to offer this further short note on the subject.

The context of Stretton 2009e was a project management organization providing services to a client organisation. In particular, it focused on a specialist needs analyst within the former helping the client organization identify or verify its business needs, before proceeding towards developing an appropriate project to help satisfy these needs. That paper discussed general aspects of identifying client organisation’s needs; client organisation’s strategic plans, or lack thereof; the importance of accurate needs analysis; some consequences of inadequate analysis; and traits of effective needs analysts. The paper went on to discuss processes for identifying client organisation’s needs. These processes were seen as a partnership between the needs analyst and the client organisation, involving the following steps:

Step 1:       Understand the total context of the client organisation’s situation

Step 2:       Help the client organisation identify its business needs

Step 3:       Identify and reconcile needs of internal customers 

The focus of this note is on Step 3.


Typically there are multiple internal customers within a client organization, who commonly have different sets of interests. As Frame 1994:97 says:

The project team often faces the difficult task of sorting through the contending needs of different customers in order to define customer needs and requirements.  Needless to say, this can be a challenging undertaking. Satisfaction of one set of needs may generate hostility from customers with opposing interests. The needs definition process must be filled with compromise and balance.

Some consequences of this situation are now discussed. 

Legitimately conflicting interests of internal customers

In my own experience, two types of differing interests can be identified. One type has to do with ego-centred interests, where personal agendas may tend to be rather more prominent than many would deem desirable. I have little to contribute re this type.

The other type of differing interests derives from legitimately conflicting perceptions of what is best for the organisation. I have developed the following synthesised case study, in this case in the context of a manufacturing facility, to illustrate how such legitimately conflicting perceptions arise rather naturally.


To read entire paper (click here)

About the Author

alan-stretton-bioflag-australiaAlan Stretton, PhD   

Faculty Corps, University of Management

and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)

Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia) 

Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 120 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].