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In management literature, gap analysis involves the comparison of actual performance with potential or desired performance. If an organization does not make the best use of current resources, or forgoes investment in capital or technology, it may produce or perform below its potential. This concept is similar to an economy's being below the production possibilities frontier.
Gap analysis identifies gaps between the optimized allocation and integration of the inputs (resources), and the current allocation-level. This may reveal areas that can be improved. Gap analysis involves determining, documenting, and approving the difference between business requirements and current capabilities. Gap analysis naturally flows from benchmarking and from other assessments. Once the general expectation of performance in an industry is understood, it is possible to compare that expectation with the company's current level of performance. This comparison becomes the gap analysis. Such analysis can be performed at the strategic or at the operational level of an organization.
Gap analysis is a formal study of what a business is doing currently and where it wants to go in the future. It can be conducted, in different perspectives, as follows:
Gap analysis provides a foundation for measuring investment of time, money and human resources required to achieve a particular outcome (e.g. to turn the salary payment process from paper-based to paperless with the use of a system). Note that "GAP analysis" has also been used as a means of classifying how well a product or solution meets a targeted need or set of requirements. In this case, "GAP" can be used as a ranking of "Good", "Average" or "Poor". (This terminology appears in the PRINCE2 project management publication from the OGC (Office of Government Commerce).)
The need for new products or additions to existing lines may emerge from portfolio analysis, in particular from the use of the Boston Consulting Group Growth-share matrix—or the need may emerge from the regular process of following trends in the requirements of consumers. At some point, a gap emerges between what existing products offer and what the consumer demands. The organization must fill that gap to survive and grow.
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