Customers’ needs and project requirements


Series on increasing project management contributions to helping achieve broader ends
Article 2 of 4

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



In the project management world, all too often the project is viewed as an end in itself. The focus is usually on delivering planned project outputs. However, this viewpoint loses sight of the bigger picture. It is virtually always the case that projects are really only part of a means to help achieve broader ends. If we focus more on the latter, opportunities can emerge to increase the contributions project managers can make towards the achievement of such ends. I believe it is important for the project management industry to understand and embrace this broader context, because it provides a platform for project managers to add more value to customers.

This series looks at how project managers can add value via three mechanisms.

  • Helping convert project outputs to actual realisation of customers’ planned business (or equivalent) outcomes;
  • Helping customers determine their business needs, plan for appropriate outcomes, and establish requirements of projects to help realise these outcomes;
  • Helping organizations determine their strategic objectives, plan for achieving them, and develop an appropriate portfolio of projects to help such achievement.

The first article of the series (Stretton 2016b) addressed the first bullet point. This article is concerned with the second bullet point.


The processes which conclude with customers achieving their desired outcomes start with planning processes – i.e. with customers establishing their business (or equivalent) needs, and deciding just what future outcomes they do wish to achieve.

It is strikingly obvious that, if the customers’ business needs have not been accurately determined and captured, then any subsequent project designed to help satisfy such needs will almost certainly be ineffective. Yet, the project management literature rarely discusses the necessity for doing this, let alone ways and means.

This article is first concerned with what I have called capturing customers’ business (or equivalent) needs, and possibilities for project management to contribute thereto.

We then discuss planning processes for converting these needs into outcomes, which generally involve projects. We go on to discuss the meagre material in the literature on establishing requirements for projects which will best facilitate the achievement of customers’ outcomes, and the potential for project management to contribute here. But first, two notes on organisational types, and terminologies.


As will be noted in all four articles of this series, there are two quite different types of organizations that plan and execute projects. I follow Cooke-Davies 2002 in describing them as project-based and production-based organizations, and borrow from Archibald et al 2012 (who use different descriptors) in defining them:


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About the Author

Alan 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 160 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.