By Alan Stretton, PhD

Sydney, Australia


In an earlier paper (Stretton 2009c), I pointed out that customers/clients do not feature nearly as prominently in the program/project literature as stakeholders at large. Indeed, they are often listed as just another set of stakeholders. I put a case for more attention to be given to the importance of customers in the program/project context, and proposed a customer/client classification to hopefully facilitate this.

Parallelling the above, there is little material in the mainstream program/project literature about processes for identifying/verifying the needs of customers in their broader business (or equivalent) contexts, before undertaking the work of specifying the requirements of the products or services (delivered via programs/projects) that will best contribute to satisfying those needs.

In my experience in providing program/project management services to external customers in the building, construction and allied industries, too little attention has generally been paid to what we used to call “Customer Needs Determination”, before then undertaking the work of “Product Requirement Determination”. As a result, we saw far too many cases of the wrong facility being provided, or a facility in the wrong location, or similar misadventures that failed to satisfy the real needs of the customer. I understand that this topic has been seriously addressed in service industries such as IT, finance and marketing, but little of this experience appears to have found its way into the mainstream program/project management literature.

This discussion paper synthesises processes for identifying customers’ needs, based on the little relevant material I have found in the literature, supplemented by materials from the experience of an old employer of mine in this field. The resulting processes appear to be rather ‘thin’ in terms of content, but I am hoping that this paper may elicit responses from researchers and practitioners in relevant fields, including the service industries just mentioned, to help develop more grounded processes for identifying customers’ needs in their broadest contexts.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally published in the PM World Today eJournal in September 2009; it is republished here with the author’s permission.

About the Author

flag-ukalan-strettonAlan 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.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].