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Guideline: Conducting a Gap Analysis


Quick Summary
Screenshot Whether it's launching a new project or discovering how well the current solution is meeting expectations, you need to know how to get there from here. A gap analysis will help you figure out where there is, where here is, and how best to bridge any gaps between them.


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What this is

Gap analysis can help you understand and prioritize business needs by helping identify any deficiencies or shortcomings that need to be overcome. This guideline includes some best practices in gap analysis. By stepping through the thought processes outlined here, you'll uncover and articulate any differences—gaps—between the way things are today (current state) and the way they should be (desired state or goal state). Once you uncover the gaps, it becomes easier to quantify them and identify the work effort that will be required to address them. From there, you can help prioritize them so that the greatest gaps can be addressed first.


Why it's useful

Very often, business stakeholders have a sense of what they think the goal state of their organization, process, or technology should look like. But they are often harder pressed to talk about how that goal state is different from what they have today. Taking the time to complete a gap analysis—an activity usually facilitated by a business analyst—helps articulate those differences in a meaningful way. Gaps can exist in three primary categories:

Each type of gap requires a different approach, and they may be prioritized very differently. A thorough gap analysis can help identify the gaps, their root cause, and the solutions that can overcome them.


How to use it

  1. Identify the need for a gap analysis. Listen to the way your business stakeholders talk for cues that a gap analysis may be required. Usually, you will hear talk about the way things should be or the way they look in the perfect state or in the future (the "goal state"), and indications that the way things are today (the "current state") just doesn't match that vision.
  2. Walk through the gap analysis checklist. Walk through the checklist to help identify, categorize, and prioritize the gaps between the way things are today and the way they should be in the future. Try to remain impartial and unbiased as you complete this process.
  3. Gather feedback and approvals. Review the gap analysis with your project team, including the business stakeholders, to ensure that you've correctly documented the gaps and prioritized them correctly for the current environment. Sometimes you will make a best guess about priorities and allow the team to provide feedback. Other times, especially when the analyst is less familiar with the business or processes, the business stakeholders or even the project team can help prioritize gaps.
  4. Do something about it. Once the team has prioritized or approved the priority of the gaps, identify the solutions to those gaps, and incorporate that work into the project work. Depending on whether the gaps pertain to people, process, or technology, you may need to tap into different resources to get the work done. If you have technology and people gaps, for example, it's highly likely that you'll be able to address those separately but simultaneously, since they would require different resources to resolve.
  5. Check back from time to time. Don't lose sight of the gap analysis as you go through your project work. Review it regularly to see if things have changed, and to verify that gaps are being addressed.
About the Author

Sinikka L. Waugh, PMP, is the founder and head coach of the project management coaching firm Your Clear Next Step, L.L.C. Sinikka is an actively practicing project management consultant, known for consistently helping teams find innovative ways to leverage effective project strategies across multiple disciplines and technologies. With over 10 years in project roles (primarily program manager, project manager, and business analyst) Sinikka has successfully applied project and leadership expertise to improve project performance in a wide variety of industries, including publishing, education, product fulfillment and distribution, insurance, event and travel management, human resources, and financial services. As a coach, Sinikka's down-to-earth, "try this now" approach blends with her passion for helping others improve. Her energetic and engaging style helps make both the art and science of project management accessible to those she works with.

Sinikka holds a BA from Central College, an MA from the University of Iowa, and is a certified Project Management Professional through the Project Management Institute.


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