"A Gap Analysis Process to Improve IT Management" by John MurraySummarized by: Sam Farnan
Gap analysis is a straightforward yet practical method for businesses to improve minor functions and set short-term goals. This method is useful also for internal affairs, such as IT. Efforts to further streamline and improve IT departments often become entangled in complexity and lack a concrete set of objectives, ultimately costing much more than they should. Gap analysis provides a quick and inexpensive method for small to medium sized efforts within an IT department to solve problems, acheive goals, increase efficiency.
Gap analysis as a process stipulates that to be utilized correctly:
- Goals must be identified
- Analysis of current methods, processes, and procedures
- A realistic plan to close the gap between the current state and the goal
- Potential hang-ups and obstacles are identified and mitigated
- The plan is followed, and the desired goal is attained
Despite the overall simplicity of the process, it does have limitations. Murray states that the process cannot be substituted for complete re-engineering or a restructuring of an IT organization. The scale of the problem should not encompass a large host of problems, but smaller ones instead. Unlike an expensive restructuring, a cheaper and quicker gap analysis is best used on less difficult issues. Murray writes that gap analysis is a tiered process. Specifically, when one small goal is met, the next one is immediately set and pursued. This, he states, allows for a continuing string of successes.
He applies this method to incremental goal setting--such as increasing project delivery rates--to phased development within the IT organization. Murray emphasizes that all parties involved must not get ensnared in the critical step of the process: obstacle identification. Whether in a small or large group setting, cooperation and realistic expectations are key to the success of this method. Finally, to keep the process honest, an audit should be conducted to ensure goals were met and identify any improvements for future application.
Murray lays out at a basic level how gap analysis can be utilized in a difficult area: IT. Murray does not discount the reality that restructuring is inevitable and useful when correctly applied, but he highlights the low cost to high benefit ratio of a well-utilized gap analysis. However, his optimism as it relates to IT merging with other departments of an organization to set achievable goals is slightly unrealistic. Technology doesn't always work when it should--hence the need for IT--but more importantly, the bureaucratic process often is the elephant in the room that no one wants to address. However, Murray emphasizes at numerous points in his piece that gap analysis is best applied to small to medium sized problems, not overarching organizational flaws. This methodology is simple in both theory and practice, but it does not allow for cognitive bias, as misreading or completely ignoring the reality of an obstacle will likely hinder any real goal a team wishes to achieve.