Gap Analysis Explained: What Is And How To Use It?


Gap analysis is a crucial process that helps companies evaluate their current performance against their desired goals. This article explores the concept of gap analysis, its various types, the steps involved, and the tools used for this assessment. It also delves into real-world examples and the benefits of conducting a gap analysis in different business scenarios. Understanding gap analysis is essential for organizations looking to optimize their operations, bridge performance gaps, and stay competitive in a dynamic business environment.

What is a gap analysis?

Gap analysis is a strategic management process that enables organizations to assess their current performance and compare it to their desired future state. This evaluation helps identify the gaps or disparities between where a company stands and where it aims to be. By recognizing these gaps, businesses can develop actionable plans to improve their performance and achieve their objectives effectively.

Understanding gap analysis

Gap analysis is often referred to as a “needs analysis” because it helps organizations recognize what they lack in terms of resources, capabilities, or strategies. This process is critical for all types of businesses and industries as it assists in evaluating whether a company is on the right path to achieving its goals.

Historically, gap analysis gained prominence in the 1980s, typically used alongside duration analysis. While it may be considered more challenging than duration analysis, it remains a valuable tool for assessing exposure to various term structure movements.

The six steps of gap analysis

Gap analysis involves a systematic approach with six essential steps:

Step 1: Identify your current state

The initial step is to focus on where your organization currently operates. This includes evaluating products, customer demographics, geographical reach, and employee benefits. Whether through quantitative data like financial records or qualitative insights from surveys, understanding the current state is crucial.

Companies often embark on gap analysis when they’re aware of existing issues, such as poor customer feedback. This step helps uncover the root causes and pinpoint areas that require improvement.

Step 2: Identify your future state

This stage is the crux of gap analysis, where a company defines its desired future state. It’s essential to set specific, measurable goals that align with long-term success. Instead of vague objectives like “improving customer service,” companies should establish measurable metrics like “achieving a 90% customer satisfaction rate within 12 months.”

Competitor analysis can also aid in identifying the desired outcome. By emulating successful practices from other companies, businesses can make informed decisions about their goals.

Step 3: Identify the gaps

With the current and future states defined, it’s time to bridge the gap and determine the most significant disparities. This step reveals critical differences between the two states. For example, a company may find it’s understaffed, lacks employee training, or faces technical limitations in handling customer inquiries.

Step 4: Evaluate solutions

After identifying deficiencies, companies must formulate plans to reach their target state. Solutions should be quantifiable, allowing for measurement of progress. For instance, improving customer service can be assessed through metrics like customer satisfaction percentages.

Implementing changes should be carefully managed to avoid unintended consequences. The monitoring of progress ensures that adjustments can be made as needed.

Step 5: Implement change

Once the best solutions are chosen, it’s time to put them into action. Implementation involves following detailed processes while considering potential side effects. For example, improving employee proficiency should not lead to decreased morale or reduced productivity.

Step 6: Monitor changes

Monitoring is crucial to ensure that the implemented changes are effective. Sometimes, the gap may be wider than initially thought, or the company’s current position may be misjudged. Gap analysis is often an iterative process, allowing for ongoing assessment and adjustment.

It’s worth noting that gap analysis often involves sensitive information, which is why companies tend to keep their gap analysis models confidential to avoid disclosing strategic insights to competitors.

Types of gap analysis

Gap analysis can be applied in various business contexts, leading to several types of gap analysis:

Market gap analysis

Market gap analysis, also known as product gap analysis, focuses on identifying areas where product supply does not meet consumer demand. Companies use this analysis to understand unmet market needs and opportunities for expansion.

Strategic gap analysis

Strategic gap analysis assesses how a company is performing concerning its long-term goals and benchmarks. It helps businesses evaluate their competitive positioning and discover strategies employed by competitors.

Financial/profit gap analysis

Financial gap analysis involves a direct comparison of a company’s financial metrics with those of competitors. It examines factors like pricing, margins, overhead costs, and revenue per labor to identify areas where competitors may be more financially efficient.

Skill gap analysis

Skill gap analysis shifts the focus to the workforce, evaluating whether employees possess the necessary knowledge and expertise to achieve the company’s goals. This analysis guides decisions on training and hiring to address skill deficiencies.

Compliance gap analysis

Compliance gap analysis ensures that a company meets external regulatory requirements. It evaluates processes, reporting, and adherence to regulations, helping organizations avoid fines and ensure successful external audits.

Product development gap analysis

Product development gap analysis assesses which aspects of a product or service align with market demand and where they fall short. It is often used in the development of long-term projects or complex products with changing market dynamics.

Gap analysis tools

Several tools are available to facilitate the gap analysis process:

SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis assesses a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Companies can redirect resources from strengths to areas needing improvement and evaluate external factors that may impact their performance.

Fishbone diagram

A fishbone diagram, also known as a cause-and-effect diagram, helps identify the root causes of problems. It breaks down complex issues into manageable categories, encouraging creative problem-solving.

McKinsey 7S

The McKinsey 7S framework evaluates seven elements that influence a company’s performance, including strategy, structure, systems, shared values, skills, style, and staff. This model helps align these elements with long-term objectives.

Nadler-Tushman model

The Nad

ler-Tushman model emphasizes the alignment of components within an organization, including culture, work, structure, and people. It assesses how these components work together to influence the company’s performance.

PEST analysis

PEST analysis evaluates external factors—political, economic, social, and technological—that may impact a company’s profitability. This analysis helps businesses anticipate external changes that could affect their performance.

Companies often use a combination of these tools, as findings from one tool may complement the analysis conducted using another tool.

When to use a gap analysis

Gap analysis is a valuable tool that organizations should use in various scenarios:

  • During Project Management: Gap analysis is useful during long-term projects to ensure they have sufficient resources and adapt to changing external circumstances.
  • Planning for Strategic Endeavors: When making strategic decisions such as budgeting, restructuring, or acquisitions, gap analysis helps allocate resources effectively.
  • Understanding Performance Deficiencies: Companies can use gap analysis to investigate operational issues or budget overruns, enabling proactive problem-solving.
  • Marketing to External Parties: Gap analysis results can be shared with external investors to gain their trust and secure funding by demonstrating transparency and strategic planning.

Benefits of gap analysis

Conducting a gap analysis offers several advantages to organizations:

  • Improved Profitability: Gap analysis helps optimize spending, resource allocation, and efficiency, leading to increased profitability.
  • Better Manufacturing Processes: Identifying and addressing gaps in the manufacturing process leads to smoother production, efficient logistics, and reduced bottlenecks.
  • Increased Market Share: By closing performance gaps, companies can boost sales, revenue, and market share.
  • Happier Employees and Customers: Proactive gap analysis prevents issues from straining employee and customer relationships, fostering satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Operational Efficiency: Analyzing and improving daily operations enhances overall efficiency.
  • Decreased Risk for Long-Term Endeavors: Gap analysis identifies potential risks and resource shortfalls, allowing companies to mitigate risks associated with long-term projects or strategic initiatives.

Gap analysis in finance/asset management

Gap analysis is a vital asset liability management method used to assess interest rate risk (IRR) and liquidity risk in finance and asset management. It focuses on comparing rate-sensitive assets and liabilities over a specified timeframe. This analysis helps companies ensure they have sufficient capital to cover potential contingencies, making it especially valuable for long-term or high-risk projects sensitive to external forces.

Example of gap analysis

One notable example of gap analysis is the case of GameStop Corp. The company, traditionally operating physical stores for video game products, recognized the need for a transformation due to changing market dynamics, especially the rise of digital gaming and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

GameStop likely performed a gap analysis, considering the following:

  • Assessing its current position in the market.
  • Recognizing the potential impact of digital transformation on its business model.
  • Formulating a strategy to adapt to market changes, including the launch of an NFT marketplace.
  • Executing the plan and establishing partnerships related to digital assets and blockchain.

This example demonstrates how gap analysis can guide companies through significant transformations and help them navigate evolving industries.

Implementing gap analysis in healthcare

Healthcare organizations often use gap analysis to assess their operations and enhance patient care. Here’s an example:

Identifying service quality gaps

Healthcare facility A conducts a gap analysis to evaluate the quality of care it provides compared to its desired standards. Through patient feedback, staff surveys, and clinical data, the organization identifies several gaps:

  • Patients report longer waiting times than the facility’s target.
  • Staff members feel they lack adequate training in handling specific medical procedures.
  • Clinical outcomes fall short of industry benchmarks in certain areas.

Developing an improvement plan

After recognizing these gaps, healthcare facility A develops an improvement plan:

  • Investing in staff training programs and certifications to bridge the skills gap.
  • Implementing a patient scheduling system to reduce waiting times.
  • Introducing evidence-based clinical protocols to improve outcomes in targeted areas.

Utilizing gap analysis in educational institutions

Educational institutions frequently use gap analysis to enhance teaching methods and student performance. Here’s an example:

Identifying curriculum gaps

A high school conducts a gap analysis to assess its science curriculum compared to national standards. The analysis reveals several gaps:

  • The curriculum lacks coverage of certain advanced topics recommended by national guidelines.
  • Student performance in standardized science tests falls below the state average.

Developing an improvement strategy

After recognizing these curriculum gaps, the high school develops an improvement strategy:

  • Revise the curriculum to include the missing topics in alignment with national standards.
  • Implement additional teacher training to improve instructional methods.
  • Provide students with supplemental resources and tutoring opportunities to boost test scores.


Gap analysis is an indispensable tool for organizations seeking to improve their performance, adapt to changing market conditions, and achieve their long-term objectives. By identifying performance gaps, businesses can develop strategic plans, allocate resources effectively, and enhance their competitive edge. The wide range of gap analysis types and tools ensures its applicability across various business scenarios, making it a valuable asset in the arsenal of strategic management.

Conducting gap analysis is not only a proactive approach to addressing challenges but also a means to stay ahead in today’s dynamic and competitive business landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is gap analysis and why is it important for businesses?

Gap analysis is a strategic management process that helps businesses assess their current performance compared to their desired goals. It’s essential because it identifies disparities and areas for improvement, enabling organizations to develop actionable plans for success.

How does gap analysis benefit different industries?

Gap analysis benefits various industries by optimizing operations, enhancing competitiveness, and aligning strategies with objectives. For instance, in finance, it helps assess interest rate and liquidity risks, while in healthcare, it improves patient care and service quality.

What are the key steps involved in conducting gap analysis?

The key steps in gap analysis include:

  • Identifying your current state.
  • Defining your future state and desired goals.
  • Identifying the gaps between the two states.
  • Formulating solutions and implementing changes.
  • Monitoring progress and making adjustments as needed.

What are the different types of gap analysis?

There are several types of gap analysis, including:

  • Market Gap Analysis
  • Strategic Gap Analysis
  • Financial/Profit Gap Analysis
  • Skill Gap Analysis
  • Compliance Gap Analysis
  • Product Development Gap Analysis

Each type focuses on specific aspects of business performance.

What tools and models are commonly used in gap analysis?

Commonly used tools and models for gap analysis include:

  • SWOT Analysis
  • Fishbone Diagram
  • McKinsey 7S Framework
  • Nadler-Tushman Model
  • PEST Analysis

These tools help organizations assess various facets of their performance and identify gaps.

When should organizations use gap analysis?

Organizations should use gap analysis in various scenarios, such as during project management, for strategic decision-making, understanding performance deficiencies, and when seeking external investments. It provides insights for proactive problem-solving and resource allocation.

Can you provide examples of gap analysis in action?

Sure, examples of gap analysis include GameStop’s transformation in response to market changes and healthcare facilities improving patient care. Educational institutions also use gap analysis to enhance teaching methods and student performance.

What are the key benefits of conducting a gap analysis?

Conducting a gap analysis offers several benefits, including improved profitability, better manufacturing processes, increased market share, happier employees and customers, enhanced operational efficiency, and decreased risk for long-term endeavors.

Key takeaways

  • Gap analysis involves assessing an organization’s current performance compared to its target performance.
  • It helps identify areas where resources, capital, or technology are underutilized.
  • By defining performance gaps, businesses can create strategies to bridge them and enhance overall performance.
View Article Sources
  1. Gap Analysis Project – U.S. Geological Survey
  2. Gap analysis –
  3. Competency Gap Analysis –