Mind the Gap: What is an ITILŪ Gap Analysis?
Organizations adopting ITIL best practices almost always ask, "Where do I begin?" The answer is a gap analysis. ITIL describes a gap analysis as a means of identifying areas where an organization falls short of its long-term vision. This white paper describes what a gap analysis is, what it entails, and the methodology behind it. There is also a discussion of the benefits of conducting a gap analysis.
What Is a Gap Analysis?
ITIL describes a gap analysis in the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) Book:
"A gap analysis is a business assessment tool enabling an organization to compare where it is currently and where it wants to go in the future."
According to the ITIL CSI Book, a gap analysis identifies where an organization is falling short of its intended vision.
Figure 1 shows several aspects of a gap analysis, including how gaps are identified at different levels throughout the organization and within each of the different lifecycle stages that ITIL describes.
Dependent upon clear identification of vision
Before a gap analysis can be undertaken, an organization must clearly understand its long-term vision with respect to the subject of the gap analysis. In other words, the organization must know what the desired state is that they want to compare their current state to.
When conducting a gap analysis, many organizations will choose to compare themselves to the full set of ITIL best practices, implying that their desired vision is to operate as closely to best practice guidance as possible.
Affected by scope
The scope of a gap analysis should be clearly defined. According to ITIL, the scope of a gap analysis is situational in nature. An organization might conduct a gap analysis on their overall organizational processes and IT capabilities, or they might focus a gap analysis on some aspects of their business operations and processes. Additionally, a gap analysis could be focused on overall information technology or some aspect of information technology, such as a tool implementation.
Conducted using a standard set of questions
A gap analysis is typically conducted using a standard set of questions that the organization will use when conducting future gap analysis activities. A gap analysis asks several questions at each level of the scale chosen for each process area. The following gives examples of some of the questions that are commonly part of a gap analysis for the service level management process:
Level 1.0 - Have you identified customers for your IT services?
Level 1.5 - Has the appropriate data on which to base your service levels been identified?
Level 2.0 - Does an underpinning catalog of technical services exist?
Level 2.5 - Do you compare actual service achievements against agreed service level targets?
Level 3.0 - Are standard service reports produced and regularly reviewed?
Level 3.5 - Does the organization set and review either targets or objectives for service level management?
Level 4.0 - Do you provide management with information concerning trends in service-level requests?
Level 4.5 - Is service level management consulted by change management concerning the potential impact of changes to agreed service levels?
Level 5.0 - Are you actively monitoring trends in customer satisfaction?
Compares evidence and responses to a scale
ITIL does not come pre-packaged with a scale to help identify the extent to which an organization adheres to the best practice. Many different scales have been used. Most commonly, a scale that resembles a CMMI scale is used that shows levels from 1 to 5, with level 1 being low maturity and level 5 representing high maturity.
An item commonly seen in a gap analysis is a graph specific to a process area that shows the conformance of the organization at each level of the assessment. Figure 2 below shows a simple version of sample graph used in a gap analysis.
Conclusions are important
The conclusions of a gap analysis are intended to describe how much effort is required in terms of time, money, and human resources to achieve the vision. Although not explicitly stated by ITIL, this implies three significant things.
First, a gap analysis not only identifies where an organization is falling short of its desired vision, it also describes what an organization is doing that is already in agreement with best practice guidance.
Second, a gap analysis, as described by ITIL, requires the introduction and use of a scale. This scale helps the organization identify where they stand with respect to the best practice guidance.
Third, a gap analysis describes specific actions that can be taken to "close the gaps," which will move an organization closer to its vision. An effective gap analysis provides some means to prioritize these recommendations such that the organization knows the most effective starting point.
ITILŪ for Executives
ITILŪ Service Capability: Operational Support and Analysis
ITILŪ Service Capability: Release, Control, and Validation
ITILŪ Service Capability: Service Offerings and Agreements
ITILŪ Service Capability: Planning, Protection, and Optimization
ITILŪ Service Lifecycle: Service Strategy
ITILŪ Service Lifecycle: Service Design
ITILŪ Service Lifecycle: Service Transition
ITILŪ Service Lifecycle: Service Operation
ITILŪ Service Lifecycle: Continual Service Improvement