Business Analyst Interview Question: how do you conduct a gap analysis?
First, it’s important to understand what the “gap” in a gap analysis is. A gap is a deficiency existing between what a business would like to do, and what the business actually does. There is some kind of impediment in the way. Because of this impediment, the business can’t do what it wants. It may run less efficiently, may not be able to offer a product or service, or may not compete effectively.
Sometimes a business isn’t aware that a gap exists. Or it may know that something isn’t working right, but isn’t really sure what it is. A gap analysis is the process–which a Business Analyst often leads–to figure out what’s wrong and begin coming up with a plan to fix it. The gap analysis can also serve as justification for executing projects and expending resources.
Can you tell me more about possible things that could cause a gap?
One of the most common causes a gap analysis identifies is the improper use of resources. Those resources could be people, processes, or technology. For example, a team might lack the proper tools or knowledge to do what the business wants. Or users of a system may have to create process workarounds that the system can’t accommodate. Or maybe the system itself was not built properly to suit the business need.
Another common cause of a gap is lack of investment. Systems and processes may become old and outdated, with no effort to modernize them. Or the business may not spend money on the changes it needs to make for it to truly deploy the capability it’s looking for.
There are many other sources of gaps, ranging from lack of strategic planning to sudden shifts in the marketplace. But use of resources and lack of investment are among the most common causes.
Is a gap analysis the same as requirements gathering?
No, it’s not. A gap analysis identifies the source of a problem. Requirements are a series of statements that describe a solution to a problem.
Sometimes the business knows exactly what’s wrong. In such cases it may proceed directly to requirements gathering. However, often the business doesn’t know. Or the problem may have multiple causes, all of which the Business Analyst must identify. In those cases, a gap analysis is necessary to ensure that future requirements truly account for all of the problems. Otherwise, the business will spend money on implementing new requirements without truly solving the problem.
How do you actually conduct the gap analysis?
A good way to start a gap analysis is by conducting a SWOT analysis first. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The weaknesses and threats you identify should be the result of gaps existing in whatever you’re analyzing. However, this is only a high level analysis, good for getting a start but it cannot be the end of the inquiry.
Once you know your weaknesses and threats, you conduct the gap analysis in a very similar fashion to eliciting requirements. You may interview people, review documentation. conduct surveys, and more. When you do, there is one “magic” question to ask that almost guarantees you will identify existing gaps:
“What do you wish you could do with X right now, but can’t–and why?”
(X can be a system, user interface, business process, whatever.)
You may need to ask this question of multiple people to get different perspectives. For example, if there is a serious bug deep inside an application, someone familiar with the user interface may answer from the perspective of what she sees on a screen. But someone on the Operations (software maintenance) team may tell you what happens when the user enters certain values and causes the bug to happen, or may identify the software module that’s the culprit.
Once you gain all of the necessary perspectives you will be well-equipped to write requirements to resolve the gap.
How do you present the results of a gap analysis?
This depends on your business and your audience. It’s a good idea to document the result of your work as something separate from your requirements. That way, you can provide requirements traceability (that is, proof to justify the requirements as you wrote them.)
You can report your results in a written document, but that takes time and may not be as useful for people like executives that quickly want the gist of the matter. Another way to represent gaps in a gap analysis is visually. For example, if a gap exists in a business process, then you might draw a business process model with call out boxes that point to where the gaps and deficiencies arise. Or you may simply provide a list. Check with your stakeholders for the best way to present the information.
How would you answer a Business Analyst interview question about a gap analysis? Leave your thoughts in the comments!