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The gap analysis is an effective and simple tool that allows you to see where you are, where you want to be, and graphically illustrates the gap between the two. Sometimes referred to as a needs assessment, you use it to organize, plan and market your products. It helps you set a time line for the changes to be implemented. A gap analysis finds ways to improve your company's performance. In order to do that, you must know where you are in the moment and where you want to be.
To begin, collect all the information you can from the various departments that interact for your project or event. For example, if this is an analysis to promote your business and provide better service, then customer service, reception and marketing should participate. Often, answering the questions what, how, why and when will help to give you enough specifics for a thorough analysis.
As part of the data collection process, identify the components of your needs assessment and create an outline. Identify the following areas:
What are your current procedures and practices? Are the current policies being followed or are they being set aside, and by whom?
Conduct a survey for feedback from customers that asks for expectations of service and how you met them.
Hold a meeting to determine the organization's managerial perceptions of service and products.
Now compare the above identifying information. Contrast the differences between your company's current practices and policies with consumer feedback and managerial opinions. If you want to remain competitive in the current market trends, you need to compare your results with those markets in which you compete.
It is easier to understand the translation of accumulated data through a graphic illustration by using a simple table document that contains fields with headings such as the following:
Current practices Market Trends Goal practices Gap Between Outcome
See References for a link to some samples of other types graphs and applications.
The applications for a gap analysis are are virtually endless. As already mentioned, it can be used for evaluating the needs of any business department and organizational goals. People can use it to assess career or educational paths. A family or couple can use it to help identify communications problems in relationships. The gap analysis is particularly helpful when setting financial goals.
Whatever the purpose of using it, once you've completed your chart, set your goals and outline the changes and practices that will now be put into effect.
A gap analysis, while effective in quickly identifying your company's needs, and goals for obtaining them, will be a futile exercise if you don't follow up with the outcomes assessment. If you've made progress but not met your goals, begin the process again to find out what, why, when and how to change your perceptions and make corrections in order to obtain your goals.
Kim Kesmetis is a Human Resources professional with a bachelor's degree in human communication. Kesmetis currently works for the State of Utah Department of Workforce Services where she helps dislocated workers and veterans to obtain new skills and find a career path that will have longevity and is focused on their aspirations for long-term success.