Matching user needs with tech capabilities

Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash

Something that I have found helps an awful lot is having a simple way to match identified user needs with the technology capabilities needed to meet them.

It helps in two main ways:

  • by encouraging people to consider the user needs they are trying to meet before thinking about technology solutions (always tempting, but dangerous!)
  • by reinforcing the message about capability-based technology delivery, as opposed to always thinking in terms of single monolithic systems

By considering user needs first, then identifying individual capabilities to meet them, it’s possible to come up with solutions that are more likely to succeed and can often be cheaper and quicker to implement.

A good example of when I used this was when I was advising on a new intranet project. The initial requirements list had all sorts of stuff in it – HR policies, telephone directory, social networking, better collaboration (whatever that means!), and loads of others.

I was able to break it down into the needs we were trying to meet, and then come up with the technology capavilities to meet those needs. I found that adding an extra translation layer betwene the teo – tasks – helped with doing this. Here’s an example below:

  • User need: I need to know if my pay will increase this April
  • Task: quickly and easily access details of pay grades and scales, via search or navigation
  • Technology capability: publish pages of content

Pretty obvious perhaps. But let’s look at another need:

  • User need: I would like to understand the organisation’s policy on remote working
  • Task: find and read a policy document
  • Technology capability: share and manage versions of documents

Now, traditionally both of these things are requirements for an intranet. But broken down in this way, we can understand that we need an intranet to publish pages of content, but perhaps for the sharing of formal documents, a more specific capability is needed?

I then add a fourth column, which outlines the potential technology to deliver the capability. In the latter case, this could be a system such as Sharepoint or Google Drive, which may already exist in the organisation.

By following this process through with all the identified user needs, you’ll end up with a list of what technology you’ll need, along with a map of what you already have that can do those things, and where you have gaps.

To make it super easy, here’s a Google Doc template, with a worked example for the intranet, that you can copy and make use of.

Hope that’s useful!