Gap Analysis

by Meenakshi Shivram

Towards the end of an undoubtedly long monday, Rahul switches rooms to find one quiet enough for our conversation today. As he does this, I make quick mental notes on the sounds of a busy team in the background – the familiar music of a workplace: buzzing of phones, casual shout-outs from across a room, the beep-beeps of computers. Rahul pauses for a quick chat with a co-worker, then dons his headphones and flashes me a broad thumbs up. We are ready to begin!

Laughing, Rahul tells me he’s excited to be The Spotlight’s first interviewee! Our conversation flows freely over the next half hour as we chat about biryani and business, before he gets down to spilling the secrets on an effective gap analysis. 

M: So, what has your journey been like before you joined Cappitall Want?

R: It’s a pretty interesting background, honestly. I was born and raised in Mumbai, and I am now settled in Bangalore. I completed my MBA in finance, and have worked in Tesco for over 5 years. I come primarily from a pricing and costing background, largely from an operations-driven perspective.  I moved from this as a TL, and started working around Dashboards and Analytics as well. It was during this that I found Cappitall Want Network, and my journey began here.

M: And what has your experience been like at Cappitall Want Network?

R: I’ve been here almost since the beginning, and have been immersed in product management – understanding how the product works from end-to-end, focusing on life cycle management – it’s all very exciting. Moving from an MNC to a start-up was a big change, but it has been filled with exciting challenges in the past 2.5 years that I’ve been here. My role here is pretty cross-functional – finance, product setup, documentation – I’m also an in-house trainer here! Apart from all this, of course, is the main reason for our discussion today: I conduct gap analyses!

M: That sounds like a full plate! What do you do to unwind?

R: I enjoy travelling, and cooking – especially Biryani. Cooking and eating, both! 

M: We should definitely carve out a separate segment for your cooking! Now, coming to the topic at hand, could you explain to us non-experts what a gap analysis actually is?

R: Absolutely! A Gap analysis should be done in every company, irrespective of size. Through the analysis, we can gauge the current state of the business and what we are trying to achieve. Every company has defined missions, visions, objectives…but to achieve those objectives, we need to be able to understand where we currently are to chart out the steps to fulfill the objective. 

Organisational objectives get further broken down to team- / department-wise objectives, which further break down into various processes. 3 things to keep in mind as a mantra to understand where gaps could be? People, Process and Technology! The goal, obviously, is to resolve the process level gaps, leading to fulfilment of department level objectives. Spotting the gaps here at this granular level can then flow upwards to understanding gaps to achieving the overarching mission and vision.

M: Okay, that makes sense. But why should a business conduct a gap analysis in the first place – why not just go with the flow? 

R: Good question. To explain this, let me take an example of a company X. Company X follows certain processes, and naturally believes that those are the best way of working. But at a team-member level, there is no way to check whether the process is right, because they do not keep track of the direction they are moving in. An external party is the one who can provide a bias-free opinion on the progress towards the end-goal, and whether the actions are going in the right track! 

While MNCs may have resources to have effective roles, processes and delegation, MSMEs largely do not – so this is especially applicable for them! For instance, compliances in the finance department are critical, and it is important to follow-up on a regular basis. PF, ESI needs to be done for an organisation that has 20-25 employees – however, several small businesses and startups do not know this! Regulations and compliance processes need to be regularised. Even maintaining documentation becomes critical, especially when employees leave the organisation resulting in chaos in their absence.

While inputs & processes may be defined, employees may not have time to reflect on the output in today’s fast-paced world. Insights help in understanding what needs to be enhanced. 

These are just a few examples of gaps – there are several more! Our goal here, while conducting the gap analysis, is to see how to streamline & simplify the processes for the business. Technology, reporting, integrated dashboards – they all help with this.

M: As you rightly mentioned, MSMEs can tend to be overstretched with time & resources. With these constraints, how do you – as the service-provider – gather accurate & sufficient data to be able to conduct the gap analysis? 

R: Once I get the request to conduct a gap analysis, I begin with some pre-work. I go through the website & publicly available information to understand what the organisation does. I, then, initiate the conversation with the business’s key decision makers – typically a CFO – to gather more information surrounding my initial discoveries.

We then send them a carefully curated Gap Analysis questionnaire for them to go through and fill out. In fact, many MSMEs don’t even have time to fill out the questionnaire – they ask me to come to their site and fill it out with them! 

Once I go on-site, I start interacting with various internal stakeholders, and departments, to understand the processes and pain-points in depth. These pain-points are always running in the back of my mind as I conduct the gap analysis: the why must always be solved.

I cover the Finance, HR, Marketing, Sales and Operations teams by discussing with them and their SMEs (Subject Matter Experts!) and conduct my analysis through a combination of interviews and data analysis on important documentation. Of course, confidentiality is guaranteed through this process, and we make sure our client views them as a trusted partner.

These are all broadly the various data sources I use to gather information.

M: What do you do after this?

R: Once the data collection process is completed to my satisfaction, I come back and begin my analysis with our team. Our analysis is comprehensive and in-depth and stems from decades of experience and expertise in the various domains – this is truly where we show our value. We prepare a draft report and discuss it with the various stakeholders for final comments, before presenting our final report to the client, with short-term, medium-term and long-term action items.

M: That’s a very extensive process! How long does it take, end-to-end?

R: It depends on the client, but it can range from a few hours to a few weeks! It all hinges on how we are able to make our client and the stakeholders comfortable enough to talk – this is the only way we can truly understand the processes and offer recommendations.

M: Wow, that’s impressive. Thank you for breaking this down into such detailed steps for us! My question for you is this – once you identify gaps in their processes, how do you determine which gaps should be addressed by the Management first?

R: I guess the prioritisation of the gaps to be addressed stems from which pain points are the most critical. Cost and technology can be other considerations as well. Another constraint, usually, is bandwidth. If something can be addressed instantly, it’s better to get it done.

It all boils down to these 3 Mantras for Gap Analysis: Profit Maximisation, Cost Minimisation and Optimum Utilisation of Resources.

These 3 are vital, and based on these, the measures and criticality need to be put in place. It’s helpful to segregate it in timelines: short-term for what can be done in the next 1-3 months, medium-term for 3-5 months and long-term for anything longer. After all, it’s not just about setting up systems and processes: it needs to be followed! That’s the only way it helps. So we need to be realistic when it comes to prioritisation to make sure it’s successful.

I had a client where they had an immediate need to take care of their accounting. During my analysis, I found a gap with their regularisation of compliances. However, because their pressing pain point was maintaining their data through accounting, our first “short-term” step catered to the accounting. As a second “medium-term” step, we focused on their compliances. So while all the gaps get addressed, the order of pain points usually dictates the priority.

M: How does technology play a role in this whole process? Are there any specific tools or softwares you find particularly useful?

R: Maybe I can answer this question through an example. I did a finance gap analysis where they were maintaining their accounts on an excel sheet. It is easy for a person inputting the excel sheet to miss-out on anything. In that case, it’s important to have a system or ERPs like Tally or Zoho to update this data. There are facilities for reminders, and data flow and e-mail connectivity that minimises the chances of errors. Technology helps minimise errors through automation of manual processes! 

Today, there is GST & TDS Reconciliation as part of the finance process. Manually, it can take days and contain errors – however, automated tools simplify the process to minutes, saving precious time & money. In fact, Cappitall Want Network offers these tools as part of our platform! 

Similarly, HRMS tools for the HR department or social media automation tools for the Marketing departments can add a lot of value to a small business strained for resources.

M: That was really insightful, Rahul! Thank you so much for this. As a closing, can you tell us why our audience should choose Cappitall Want Network for performing their gap analysis?

R: At Cappitall Want, we practise everything we preach! Our recommendations stem from decades of experience and a team with domain expertise across various functions. We understand the nuances of your pain points, and are committed to helping you optimise your business’s financial health!