Gap Analysis

How To Build A Roadmap – Gap Analysis

An article on the Gap Analysis process by James Parnitzke in our “How To Build A Roadmap” series

An earlier post in this series, How to Build a Roadmap, discussed the specific steps required to develop a well thought out roadmap. The roadmap identifies specific actions using an overall pattern ALL roadmaps should follow. The steps required to complete this work are:

  1. Develop a clear and unambiguous understanding of the current state
  2. Define the desired end state
  3. Conduct a Gap Analysis exercise
  4. Prioritize the findings from the Gap Analysis exercise into a series of gap closure strategies
  5. Discover the optimum sequence of actions (recognizing predecessor – successor relationships)
  6. Develop and publish the roadmap

This post will discuss how to develop a robust Gap Analysis to identify any significant shortcomings between the current and desired end states.  We use these findings to begin developing strategy alternatives (and related initiatives) to address what’s been uncovered. Our intent is to identify the difference (delta) from where we are to what we aspire to become. This exercise is critical to identify what needs to be accomplished.

The gap analysis leads to a well-organized set of alternatives and viable strategies we can use to complete the remaining work.

Gap Analysis

We’re seeking a quick and structured way to define actionable steps to be reviewed and approved by all stakeholders. This includes identifying a set of related organizational, functional, process, and technology initiatives needed (I’ll address the architectural imperatives in later post). The gap closure recommendations provide a clear line of sight back to what needs to be accomplished to close the “delta” or gaps uncovered in the analysis.

Addressing the gaps discovered can be grouped across three broad categories to include specific actionable activities and management initiatives related to:

  • Building organizational capability,
  • Driving organizational commitment, and
  • Right-fitting the solution, to ensure we don’t try to build a system whose complexity exceeds the organization’s capability to deliver

While every organization’s “reach should always exceed its grasp”, we also should understand the need to introduce this new discipline in a measured and orderly manner.  There are many good books and writers (a little too academic for me) who have addressed this topic well. What’s different about this approach is the need to identify specific actionable activities we can undertake in a consistent way to change into what we aspire to be.

Gap Analysis

There are a couple of ways to do this. Remember, all three dimensions referred to above should be considered in this analysis. A helpful outline should include questions related to each of the three aspects in our work.  Note: this is a generalized example, and represents three distinct entry points to evaluate.  Further exploration into any of these three is usually needed for developing the detailed planning products in later phases. Using this approach, we can attempt to reveal quickly where significant gaps exist and explore further as needed. So let us focus on the key themes early to guide our work moving forward.

Organizational Capability

Is the organization is ready to embrace the initiative?

  • Have we identified baseline adoption of fundamental management capability across both business and technical communities that can be leveraged to drive the effort?
  • Is there executive consensus?
  • Do plans exist to execute immediate actions to address missing operational capability (gaps)?

Is there evidence of detailed planning to stage and execute the transformation?

  • Have we consciously chosen maturity jumps in a measured and controlled manner?
  • Do we understand the expected change in process consistency, discipline, and complexity may require some deep cultural shifts to occur?
  • Have we clearly articulated the associated operational impacts to the stakeholders?

Are capability-based plans included or needed at this time?

  • Have we accounted for internal and external bandwidth in capability and core competency?
  • Have we factored in enough time to stabilize the management foundation and professional community?
  • Are there critical dependencies with other ongoing programs?
  • Is there an effort underway to secure the participation of critical roles and key personnel?

Organizational Commitment

Is there evidence that marketing the compelling vision is occurring in an organized manner?

  • Is there an effort to quantify and repeatedly communicate the value to the organization?
  • Has the “what’s in it for me” messaging for critical stakeholders been developed?
  • Are goals and objectives communicated in a consistent, repeatable manner?

Is there a need to proactively manage stakeholder buy-in?

  • Have we created opportunities for stakeholder involvement?
  • Do we need to design quantitative usage metrics?
  • Are there incentives to align and reward desired behavior?

Do we need to develop and enhance change leadership?

  • Develop manager’s communication,
  • Develop expectation and capacity management skills,
  • Assign dedicated transition management resources to the effort.

Strong Governance and Oversight roles accepted and adopted as a critical success factor?

  • Is there active executive sponsor involvement?
  • Have we defined performance outcomes to direct and track success?
  • Are line and staff managers accountable for progress to plan?

Are goals and objectives communicated in a consistent, repeatable manner?

  • Do we need to institute a comprehensive and open communication plan that publishes program information to the organization in a consistent manner?

Right-Fitting the Technical Solution

Has the operating model been defined?

  • Ensure that introducing and adopting new processes are aligned to business intent.
  • Balance the trade-offs between structure and process,
  • Formally assign decision rights,
  • Have the new roles been defined where needed?
  • Can we leverage reuse of existing assets where possible?

What about developing necessary management and business user skills? 

  • Enhance domain specific skills,
  • Improve decision management, and
  • Adopt and refine fundamental technical and business skills related to operations

Are there significant gaps in the current architecture or environment that would prevent successful delivery? 

  • Can our Information, Application, and Technical architecture support the desired end state?
  • Do the required ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) Service and Support practices exist?
  • Are we sure the complexity of the solution will not exceed the organization’s technical ability to deliver?

The gap closure strategy should include specific recommendations for building organizational capability and driving commitment to this effort. In addition, we should be sure to right-fit a technical solution the organization can grow into, as it achieves widespread adoption across the enterprise.  The approach is carefully weighed to align the three perspectives to ensure our gap closure strategy recommendations are not used to build a system whose complexity might overwhelm the organization.

A typical gap analysis sequence starts with an understanding of the strategy as defined. This in turns drives the organizational structure. Processes are based on the organization’s structure. Structure and Processes further refine reward systems and policy. Beginning with strategy, we uncover gaps where a shared set of goals (and related objectives) may not align with the desired end state. This gap analysis can be organized around the following categories:

  • People/Organization considers the human side of Information Management, looking at how people are measured, motivated and supported in related activities.  Those organizations that motivate staff to think about information as a strategic asset tend to extract more value from their systems and overcome shortcomings in other categories.
  • Policy considers the message to staff from leadership.  The assessment considers whether staffs are required to administer and maintain information assets appropriately and whether there consequences for inappropriate behaviours.  Without good policies and executive support it is difficult to promote good practices even with the right supporting tools.
  • Process and Practice considers whether the organization has adopted standardized approaches to Information Management.  Even with the right tools, measurement approaches and policies, information assets cannot be sustained unless processes are consistently implemented.  Poor processes result in inconsistent data and a lack of trust by stakeholders.
  • Technology covers the tools that are provided to staff to properly meet their Information Management duties.  While technology on its own cannot fill gaps in the information resources, a lack of technological support makes it impractical to establish good practices.

How It Works – An Example

The questions in the Quick Scan tool used in a prior post to define our end state were organized around six (6) key groups, including Organization, Policy, Technology, Compliance, Measurement, and Process/Practice.  This is a quick way to summarize our findings and provide valuable clues and direction for further investigation.  We can then focus on specific subject areas using detailed schedules based on the field work to date.  Based on the subject gaps uncovered at the higher level summary (Current vs. Desired End State), further investigation should be performed by a professional with deep subject matter expertise and intimate knowledge of generally accepted best practices.  In fact, it’s best to use prepared schedules in the early field work (if possible) to begin gathering and compiling the facts needed during the interview processes to mitigate “churn” and unnecessary rework.

For example, in the Process/Practice area we can use the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to uncover any significant gaps in the Service and Support delivery functions needed to support the defined end state.  Detailed schedules can be compiled and the organization’s current state evaluated against this Library and other best practices to ensure the necessary process and practices are in place to enable the proposed end state solution.

ITIL Service Delivery

  • Service Level Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Availability Management
  • Service Continuity Management
  • Financial Management

ITIL Service Support

  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Change Management
  • Release Management

The following fragment illustrates an example schedule related to Service Continuity Management.  Using this schedule, we capture our findings, suggested initiatives or projects, expected deliverables, level of effort, and relative priority of the gap identified.  This is a quick way to summarize our findings and prepare for the next step (4- prioritize the findings from the Gap Analysis exercise into a series of gap closure strategies).

Click to enlarge

In another example, this small fragment from a Master Data Management (MDM) related gap schedule addresses specific Data Profiling activities expected within the context of a Party or Customer supporting function. What’s clear from this schedule is that no evidence of profiling has been found. This is a significant gap in the MDM domain. We should have some idea of the relative quality of the data sourced into our platform and be able to keep our customers informed as to what level of confidence they should expect based on this analysis. This represents a clear gap and should be addressed in the roadmap we’ll develop in later stages.

Click to enlarge


I hope you can see this is valuable way to quickly gather and compile field work, and capture a fairly comprehensive view of the gaps uncovered between the current and desired end states of the domain in question. Armed with this information, we can now proceed to step four (4) and begin to prioritize the findings from the Gap Analysis exercise into a series of gap closure strategies.

This is an invaluable way to assemble and discover the optimum sequence of actions (recognizing predecessor – successor relationships) as we move to developing the road map. This difference (delta) between these two (current and desired end state) is the basis for our roadmap.  I hope this answers many of the questions about step three (3) – Conduct a Gap Analysis exercise. This is definitely not the only way to do this, but it’s become the most consistent and repeatable methods I’m aware of to perform a gap analysis quickly.

Jim Parnitzke is a hands-on technology executive, trusted partner, advisor, software publisher, and recognized database management and enterprise architecture thought leader.  He is a sought after technology management advisor and hands-on practitioner, whose customers include many of the Fortune 500 as well as emerging businesses where he is known for taking complex challenges and solving for them across all levels of the customer’s organization delivering distinctive value and lasting relationships. 

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