Is it what you want or what you need?

Malcolm Knott, managing director of Industrial Technology Systems (ITS), considers a case of Need vs Want…

The team at ITS has recently been involved in three projects for which the customers were trying to write their user requirement specifications [URS].

Sounds easy, but it’s probably the hardest thing to do in business. You wouldn’t buy a car without saying what you wanted, but how many would start that list with something like: “Blue, two-litre engine, five seats” or perhaps “Less than £10,000”? Of course, in fact what you need is safety for the passengers (probably your family), an engine capable of maintaining 70mph at 2,500rpm or less whilst causing the least environmental damage possible.

Some might even start that list with: “The same as the old one, but newer.”

However, these three projects are not ‘the norm’. Surprisingly, many new systems are bought with no properly considered URS – or are based on a badly formed URS.

Too many aren’t given the right level of Want vs Need consideration.

When you are buying a car, of course, you might be looking at a cost between £5,000 and £40,000 and expect it to last five or six years before you sell it for 10% of the purchase price, and you look again.

A control or management information system might cost £200,000 to £500,000, but you might have it for 10 to 15 years – or more – and you expect a significant return on investment. You might reasonably expect to get RoI within 8-12 months and every 8-12 months thereafter it’ll pay for itself again – if you get it right.

Too many URS are created with the existing system in mind – “The same as the old one, but newer” view – when doing so stops you enjoying 15 years or more of technical advancement.

In the projects above, the customer saw the benefit of getting away from “The same, but newer” by inviting ‘outsiders’ in to challenge their requirements – looking at the Need vs Want and opening up to new technical advancements.

To find out more about how ITS deal with Need vs Want, visit


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