What is Gap Analysis in Project Management?

Project managers are constantly grappling with understanding the best course of action to undertake to drive project success. This is where Gap Analysis comes in handy. If you're wondering about the role of Gap Analysis in project management, you've come to the right place. This in-depth guide to Gap Analysis should be a good starting point to learn. Let's start with the basics and understand:

"What is a Gap Analysis?"

A gap analysis is a process that:

  • Enables businesses to understand and analyze how best can they achieve their goals by assessing various factors that impact project performance, such as technological systems and process, resource planning, financial investment, among others
  • Empowers organizations to examine and compare the actual current performance (current state) with the desired future goals/vision (future state)
  • Highlights the various shortcomings and opportunities for improvement and boosting performance
  • Acts as a service quality measuring tool, which helps to identify key gaps such as: customer expectations vs. managerial perceptions, manager’s expectations of quality vs. quality specs, communication with the customer at the point of service or sale, service delivery vs. communication, and perceived services vs. expected services.

Note that Gap Analysis finds application in numerous areas–from Sales and?Financial Performance to Human Resource Management and Quality Assurance, the list is as diverse as they come.

The learning: Gap Analysis deploys a set of techniques to identify what needs to be done, and prioritize the business' needs with respect to time, money, and human resources in a project to achieve the stated business goals (as well as project objectives).

Next, let's look at the different types of 'gaps' that can plague projects.

A Look at the Three Different Types of 'Gaps'

Here's a quick run-through of the types of gaps your project may come head to head with:

  • Current Gap Vision: Also known as C delta-V, this signifies the difference between the current operational activity and the activity vision (think: logistics, product development, customer engagement, etc.). Note that the vision statement should cater to the business objectives on the whole and, at the same time, be as specific as possible in relation to targets and measures. This method is extremely useful in summarizing the results of a gap analysis.
  • Actual Gap Target: Also referred to as A delta-T, it represents the difference between the actual and theoretical targets. This method comes in handy when you want to summarize the results of a benchmarking study or of an activity simulation where the actuals can be compared to various targets.?
  • Benchmarking: It represents the difference between the actual performance measures and the world-class benchmarks.

The learning: Remember that you can analyze gaps for numerous project outcomes–from identifying gaps within the product and figuring out gaps in the market to analyzing planning gaps w.r.t profits and identifying gaps in user usage. At the end of the day, it helps organizations to identify the bottlenecks and pivot their strategies accordingly.

So the real question then becomes: "How do you identify the gaps in project management?"?Keep reading.

How do You do Gap Analysis? A Four-Step Process

Understanding how to do Gap Analysis forms the basis of successful project management. It acts as a roadmap to improve performance. Here are the four steps you should undertake to kickoff Gap Analysis in the right direction:

Step 1: Correctly Identify the Current State
This step requires you to understand where the project currently stands in terms of performance and progress by collecting contextual and qualitative information (think: team processes and methodologies) as well as quantitative information. You also need to confirm the activities that need to be analyzed.
Accurately identifying the current state can help eliminate scope creep and keep your analysis (as well as a project) headed in the right direction. The more data you gather, the better it is for getting a more accurate picture of your current state.

Step 2: Identify Where You Want to Go
Once you have identified the current state, you need to understand where you need to go and narrow down on the desired state/future goals. Make sure to factor in a reasonable timeframe to achieve the desired goal and understand the roadblocks that might prevent you from achieving the end goal.

Step 3: Identify the Degree of Gap
Next, you will need to identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be to reach your target, and why this gap exists. Make sure to confirm the scope of the gap analysis. Also, remember that the more specific you are about the gap, the more accurate your analysis will be. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself while identifying the gap:

  • What critical decisions have driven the project performance until now?
  • What kind of strategies could you have done differently?
  • What kind of resources and activities will you need to accomplish your target?
  • Will you need to set new goals/objectives to bridge the gap?

Step 4: Bridge the Gap
The last step requires you to undertake improvements/measures to close the gaps that were identified in the previous step. Make sure to factor in cost as an important element while bridging the gap and set a deadline to ensure that there are no delays. Finally, ensure that you engage in regular follow-ups to stay on track and summarize the results in real-time.

Pro tip: Remember that there are various Gap Analysis tools that you can use to identify the gap between the current state and the desired goals and objectives, and work towards closing the gap effectively. These tools include SWOT Analysis, Fishbone Diagram, PEST Analysis, etc.

Closing Thoughts: The Increasing Role of Gap Analysis in Project Risk Management

Gap Analysis is an all-powerful method that empowers organizations to assess whether they're successfully meeting the project requirements and objectives (or not). It allows them to understand whether the project is on track and take the necessary steps required to course-correct as needed. By offering clarity on the current state of affairs and the desired goals, project managers can move ahead with greater confidence, and in a data-informed capacity, adding real value to the organization at every step of the way.