Gap Analysis

Identifying What Needs to be Done in a Project

Filling the gap for project success.

© iStockphoto/barsik

Imagine that you've just been asked to improve call-handling in your organization's contact center.

You already have some possible solutions in mind. However, before you choose a best solution, you need to identify what needs to be done to meet this project's objectives.

This is where Gap Analysis is useful. This simple tool helps you identify the gap between your current situation and the future state that you want to reach, along with the tasks that you need to complete to close this gap.

Gap Analysis is useful at the beginning of a project when developing a Business Case  , and it's essential when you're identifying the tasks that you need to complete to deliver your project.

Note:

Gap Analysis is not specifically mentioned as a technique in PMBOK   or in PRINCE2  . However, it's a useful tool that you can apply when working with both of these project management methodologies.

Using Gap Analysis

To conduct a Gap Analysis for your project, follow these three steps:

1. Identify Your Future State

First, identify the objectives that you need to achieve. This gives you your future state – the "place" where you want to be once you've completed your project.

Simple example:

Future State Current Situation Next Actions/Proposals
Answer 90 per cent of calls within 2 minutes.    

2. Analyze Your Current Situation

For each of your objectives, analyze your current situation. To do this, consider the following questions:

  • Who has the knowledge that you need? Who will you need to speak with to get a good picture of your current situation?
  • Is the information in people's heads, or is it documented somewhere?
  • What's the best way to get this information? By using brainstorming workshops? Through one-to-one interviews? By reviewing documents? By observing project activities such as design workshops? Or in some other way?

Simple example:

Future State Current Situation Next Actions/Proposals
Answer 90 per cent of calls within 2 minutes. Approximately 50 per cent of calls are answered within 2 minutes.  

3. Identify How You'll Bridge the Gap

Once you know your future state and your current situation, you can think about what you need to do to bridge the gap and reach your project's objectives.

Simple example:

Future State Current Situation Next Actions/Proposals
Answer 90 per cent of calls within 2 minutes. Approximately 50 per cent of calls are answered within 2 minutes.
  1. Develop a call volume reporting/queue modeling system to ensure that there are enough staff during busy periods.
  2. Recruit any additional people needed.
  3. Develop a system that allows callers to book a call back during busy periods.

Tips

Pitch your Gap Analysis to provide an appropriate amount of detail. If you present too much detail, people will be overwhelmed, but if you don't give enough detail, you won't tell them what they need to know to sign the project off.

When you analyze your future situation and current state, use metrics where information can be quantified (such as "Salary costs account for 50 percent of the cost of the product."), and general statements when metrics aren't available (such as "Creativity is valued within the organization.")

Also remember that your assessment of the current situation and the desired future state can be both quantitative and qualitative.

For instance:

Assessment Type Current Situation Future State
Quantitative Total costs are $100 per unit. Total costs will be $80 per unit.
Qualitative Team members work in isolation. Team members will work collaboratively.

Note:

While this article illustrates a very simple use of Gap Analysis, this approach can be very extensive and complex, for example, when it is used to identify software modifications needed as part of IT projects. Don't underestimate how much work your Gap Analysis may involve!

Key Points

Gap Analysis compares your current situation with the future state that you want to achieve once your project is complete. By conducting a Gap Analysis, you can identify what you need to do to "bridge the gap" and make your project a success. You can use Gap Analysis at any stage of a project to analyze your progress, but it's most useful at the beginning.

To carry out a Gap Analysis, first identify your project's objectives – this is your "future state." Then analyze your current situation, making sure that you gather information from the right sources.

Finally, identify how you'll bridge the gap between your current situation and the desired future state.

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Comments (6)
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Sounds like a simple and powerful technique. Looking forward to the update!!

    Cheers!
    Dianna
  • manishsharma wrote Over a month ago
    After going thru the topic I learnt to use the technique in a proactive manner like identifying targets, compare with present performance and concluding GAPS.

    In my organisation, I have been very fortunate to work under Mr. Manish Sharma - Managing Director, JUSCO-A TATA Concern who has been a guide throughout and he has taught us a technique which might be useful to some of you. Its a simple excel sheet where one can capture KPI's, Action Plans, Actual status, GAPs, Proposed Action plan, Resource requirements in broadly 3 categories-Skill / Material / Equipment.

    In a hurry. Will update more.

    See you
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Great tip about using a visual/diagram tool in conjunction with gap analysis. Certainly it will make things much easier to "see" and understand when presented visually.

    It's interesting that tools don't need to be complex to be effective - sometimes the simplest are the most powerful. And when a tool is simple it is more likely to be used!

    Dianna
  • rtab wrote Over a month ago
    Hi,

    Good simple tool. I found it work in a group environment as well. Coupling it with a diagramming tool makes it even more effective.

    One of many toolkits for a BA.
  • Yolande wrote Over a month ago
    I quite like analysing things and I've used gap analysis quite often. What I love about it, is the clarity it brings about where you are and where you want to be. Sometimes we have an idea of what it is we want to attain, but unless you put it down on paper as with a gap analysis, it can remain pretty vague. Reducing the 'gap' to action steps will see the gap being closed. Just thinking about closing it will not get the job done.

    Any examples from other members on how, where and when you've used gap analysis?

    Regards
    Yolandé
  • zuni wrote Over a month ago
    A gap analysis has many uses. I was first introduced to gap analysis when I was trained in change management. Of course, change management is an integral part of project management.

    I also use gap analysis as part of a needs assessment process. Gap analysis is helpful in identifying the actions a business unit or company needs to take to achieve business objectives and as part of assessing the develop needs for an individual, team or business unit.

    Michele

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