What is a technology gap analysis?

A technology gap analysis is the process of comparing current tools and technology against the desired state, then building a plan for how you will bridge the gap. A gap analysis goes beyond identifying the "what" and "when" of IT systems, infrastructure, and architecture. You have to be clear on the "why" and "how" — the value of upgrading technology and the steps you will take to get there.

Technology usually changes faster than any other area in the business. So you have the added pressure of continually enhancing existing technology while staying ahead of emerging technology needs. You also need to meet regulatory standards and compliance requirements in order to protect business and customer data. And there are plenty of ad hoc requests to keep you busy too.

For most IT teams, it is challenging to pull back from the day-to-day work to deeply review current tooling and system capabilities and assess future needs. But it is crucial if you want to build a technology roadmap that actually moves the business forward.

What are the benefits of a gap analysis?

Understanding your current state is critical for setting a direction for the future. A successful gap analysis helps you make decisions about which technology to invest in — so you can reduce development time, iterate faster as an organization, and better meet user (and business) needs. The goal is to identify incremental improvements to IT tools and processes. Over time, these improvements can contribute to better company performance, team productivity, and overall customer experience.

A gap analysis also allows you to:

  • Prioritize IT spending: Allocate appropriate budget for new tools as well as maintenance costs.

  • Reduce technology sprawl: Cut down on redundant tools and systems scattered across teams.

  • Prevent shadow IT: Eliminate tools or processes that have been adopted without IT's approval and may expose the organization to security threats.

  • Strengthen collaboration: Identify and address breakdowns in cross-departmental workflows and communication.

  • Improve innovation: Explore new solutions and emerging technologies that will help the organization evolve.

Over time, outdated technology limits productivity and team satisfaction. Team members waste time on workarounds and repetitive, manual tasks. The organization also becomes vulnerable to growing technical debt, data loss, and cybersecurity threats. A gap analysis detects weaknesses so you can prioritize the technology you want to keep, fix, or remove.

How do IT teams perform a gap analysis?

Typically, a department-wide gap analysis is completed annually by the chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), and other IT leaders. It may also be done as part of a larger enterprise transformation. Additionally, some IT teams may perform smaller gap analyses at the beginning of a project, before launching a new initiative, or when evaluating requests for new tools from teams in the organization. Other companies conduct gap analyses retroactively — to measure the impact of a recent change (such as adopting a new tool or changing the IT infrastructure).

No matter the scope, an effective gap analysis tends to follow these steps:

Establish goals

The overall objective of a gap analysis is to evaluate the functional, technical, and performance gaps of existing systems and technology versus the desired state. Doing this well requires you to have strategic IT goals that guide your work — such as increasing productivity by 20 percent or meeting a regulatory standard and compliance requirement. Of course, IT goals should support larger business goals as well.

Let's look at an example. A company-level goal might be to improve the overall customer experience this year — measured in customer retention. Interactions between customers and customer-facing teams, such as sales and support, are influenced by their use of the company's customer relationship management (CRM) software. So it would make sense for IT to conduct a gap analysis for customer retention, focusing on the CRM tool.

Of course, there are many more tools and technologies that impact the customer experience. You would need to perform a wider analysis across applications — for simplicity's sake, however, we will keep our example focused on just the CRM.

Take inventory

The next step is to take inventory of the tools or systems in question. You can create a table or diagram to do this — capturing your use case, business need, current functionality, and supporting technology:

System

Description

Business objective

Current functionality

Supporting technology

CRM software

Our system for managing customer relationships and interactions

To provide a frictionless experience for customers and internal employees — including data management, lead capture, fast communication, and sales automation

  • Contact management

  • Customer interaction tracking

  • Database management

  • Sales management

  • Sales automation

  • Lead capture and follow-up

  • Cloud-based


Depending on your goals, you may also document current performance metrics or other benchmarks to help you analyze how well a tool is meeting current needs. A tool inventory can include other details on resourcing, too — such as how many people on the IT team support the tool or how often the tool requires maintenance.

Define the gaps

Next, define the gaps — where the tool or technology is not meeting current or near-future business needs. This process can be as simple as using a SWOT analysis template to document strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Or it may be more robust, such as applying scores or ratings across tool components to reach an overall score for each tool. Any tools that fall below an agreed-upon threshold would be up for discussion or review.

In our CRM example, we can identify gaps using a basic checklist. The sample list below focuses on features of the CRM. You may also want to add details about security, performance, or costs.

  • Appointment calendar — NO

  • Contact management — YES

  • File sharing - YES

  • Lead capture and routing — YES

  • Marketing campaigns — NO

  • Mobile app — NO

  • Opportunity management — YES

  • Robust reports — NO

  • Sales forecasting — NO

Analyzing tools that you do not use yourself presents a unique challenge. So you may need to crowdsource feedback and ideas from internal teams and assign cross-functional stakeholders to assist with the analysis. Then you can dive into the technical details and better evaluate how other teams are using these tools.

Determine solutions

Figuring out how to close the gaps is arguably the most challenging part of the analysis. You have to clearly understand the business need and make tradeoff decisions about which tools to upgrade or replace. You may have a wishlist of functionality you would like in a given tool or system, as well as baseline capabilities that the business mandates — such as security and compliance requirements.

You also have resource and budgeting constraints. New tools require time and money to roll out across the business and integrate into existing processes. And you have to define the IT team's involvement. Who is in charge of maintaining new tooling? How will you manage training and support?

The key is to review business and technology needs holistically and realign around high-level goals at each phase in the process. Think beyond functionality and focus on the outcomes — such as the impact to productivity, revenue, and the overall customer experience.

Roadmap the future

Your gap analysis culminates in a path forward that shows the "why," "what," and "when" of new software, hardware, and infrastructure. In some cases, you may need a tiered plan that includes near-term versus future upgrades. In our CRM example, a timeline might look like the following:

  • Month 1: Align goals across the business and the sales and support teams. Set benchmarks for success, such as customer retention, internal response times, or customer lifetime value.

  • Month 2: Take inventory and define gaps. Determine "must-have" and "nice-to-have" feature requirements.

  • Month 3: Determine solutions, research vendors, and sign up for CRM trials.

  • Months 4–6: Select new tools, build the implementation plan, migrate customer data, and start the roll-out.

  • Ongoing: Plan for training, maintenance, and goal tracking.

A technology roadmap that visualizes the plan can improve transparency and make it easier to track progress. With a roadmapping tool like Aha! Roadmaps, you can formalize the evaluation process with consistent, repeatable steps for each tool or technology you analyze. Then visualize the timing and progress across tool types, deliverables, and deadlines. Share the roadmap with key stakeholders and the broader organization in monthly or quarterly planning sessions to help everyone understand the goals, milestones, and upcoming improvements.

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