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How to Perform an IT Gap Analysis

How to Perform an IT Gap Analysis

IT plays a critical role in modern businesses. Technology solutions empower almost every business process in some way—whether directly or indirectly. However, in many organizations, the strategy for acquiring IT solutions is haphazard.

Instead of smoothly filling in every IT need they have, organizations often simply acquire tech on an ad hoc basis. This creates a hodgepodge of tech that doesn’t always translate into a fast, flexible, and scalable IT infrastructure that performs up to expectations.

This is where an IT gap analysis can help. What is an IT gap analysis? How can you conduct one? What tools do you need for your analysis?

What Is an IT Gap Analysis?

As noted by TechTarget, a “gap analysis is a method of assessing the differences in performance between a business’ information systems or software applications to determine whether business requirements are being met and, if not, what steps should be taken to ensure they are met successfully.”

In other words, it’s an analysis of how well your current IT systems are performing against the requirements of the business. This isn’t just limited to metrics like “processing X data requests per second.” It can include how well existing systems facilitate business workflows, whether specific functionalities have been left out of the company’s IT assets, and even regulatory compliance requirements.

RELATED: NIST 800-171 & CMMC 2.0

Setting up for a Gap Analysis

Before running a gap analysis in IT projects or for the business as a whole, it can help to do some basic setup first. Some important steps in setting up for a gap analysis include:

Choosing an IT Priority

What is your organization’s most important, must-have priority? Does a specific team or business unit need to improve productivity by 15%? Are you trying to cut costs to stay under budget limits? Do you need to meet a specific regulatory compliance standard?

Setting a priority is vital for giving context for your analysis—so this should be part of any IT gap analysis template.

Set Desired Future State

What does success look like in relation to the priorities you’ve set? If everything goes according to your plans, what will your IT infrastructure, policies, and procedures look like? This is your desired future state.

Documenting your desired state is vital for ensuring that you can identify gaps between your current state and your goals. Ideally, you want to be as granular as possible about your desired state and it should be as aligned to your priorities as possible.

For example, if you need to meet CMMC or NIST 800-171 for regulatory compliance reasons, then a part of your “desired future state” may include “ensuring that two-factor authentication (or better) is implemented for identity verification for all users.”

Analyze Your Current IT Infrastructure and Policies

A big part of any gap analysis is taking a look at your current IT infrastructure, policies, and procedures. Having an accurate map of all assets and tools is a must-have for correctly identifying and fixing critical IT gaps.

For example, say you went to enable that two-factor authentication system mentioned earlier. However, one of your servers was not accounted for. Because of this, the server doesn’t get updated. Later, cybercriminals use that under-defended server to access your systems, stealing sensitive info that they can use to commit fraud. This exact sequence of events once happened to one of the biggest banks in the USA.

Compare Your Current State to Your Desired State

After completing your analysis of your current IT state, compare that to your desired state. Do you meet all of the items you need to meet your goals? Which items are missing? Are there excess resources being dedicated to IT assets that aren’t needed to achieve your desired future state?

Go through the list of items for your desired state and compare them to your existing IT resources, policies, and procedures to identify any gaps.

Establish a Plan for Closing the Gap

Now that you know where you are and where you need to be—and what’s missing between point A and point B—it’s time to create a plan for closing the gap.

There are many frameworks you can use to create your plan for closing your IT gaps. For example, a plan of action and milestones (POA&M or POAM) can be useful for creating a document with lots of small, readily achievable goals that you can use to address gaps. POA&M documents can also be useful when proving to regulators what you’ve done to meet their compliance requirements.

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4 Tools to Use for a Gap Analysis in IT

So, now that you know some of the basic steps in an IT gap analysis template, what are some of the tools you can use to conduct the analysis?

Some basic tools for analyzing IT gaps include:

  • Gap Analysis Frameworks. There are many ways to organize your gap analysis. Settling on a specific framework, such as the McKinsey 7S framework or the SWOT analysis framework (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) can help you organize your efforts and make it easier to communicate your gap analysis goals and results to stakeholders in your organization.
  • Spreadsheets/Checklists. A document detailing what gaps there are and which ones have been addressed (and how) can be immensely useful for efficiently addressing IT gaps.
  • Network Mapping Solutions. There are some software solutions that can help you scan your network infrastructure and identify all of the IT assets on it. This can be immensely useful for creating an accurate IT map that helps you identify key gaps in your technology resources and strategy.
  • Managed Service Providers (MSPs). A managed service provider often has extensive experience in helping organizations of different sizes and industries achieve their IT goals. Additionally, managed security service providers (MSSPs) may have in-depth knowledge of how to achieve compliance with specific security standards. Their services may prove useful in achieving your desired future state while minimizing the time and resources consumed in the effort.

Regardless of your specific IT goals, the gap analysis tools and resources listed above can prove invaluable.

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Do you need help conducting a gap analysis (or enacting your plan to close your IT gaps)? Reach out to the team at Systems X today! We can help you with network compliance, vulnerability scanning, incident response, and many other IT elements necessary for modern cybersecurity compliance standards!

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