Over the last two weeks, we’ve hit on the first two steps needed to define a new ECM strategy. The first step was to assess your current state, and the second, to envision your future state.

With Step #1 complete, you have a handle on all the processes, players, capabilities and technology within your existing information landscape.

During Step #2, you involved the business to determine what they need and expect. You looked beyond mere systems, features and capabilities. Instead, you identified ways you can move the strategic initiatives forward by modernizing the information strategy.

In other words, you put business goals and your users’ needs ahead of technology requirements.

Today, we’re going to perform Step #3: the gap analysis.

A brief definition

In a few words, a gap analysis is a detailed comparison of what is and what should be.

You can create a gap analysis for almost any “before-and-after” scenario. One such scenario comes at a project’s end: comparing the requirements to the final, delivered product. (You’ll do that as part of user acceptance – but we’re not there yet.)

For this step, we’ll compare our current information landscape (documented in Step #1) with our vision for the future (Step #2).

What you’ll look at

A gap analysis is essential to your new information strategy. You’ll use the same four broad categories documented in Steps #1 and #2 as bases for your comparison:

  • Content needs (the information itself)
  • Processes (supporting the information life cycle)
  • Technology (the systems and infrastructure)
  • People (the business players)

While we tend to see only the flaws in our existing solution, it’s both unnecessary and expensive to reinvent the whole wheel. Instead focus on replacing only the broken spokes. Pay close attention to areas where current processes already address the needs expressed in the future state. This goes for technology infrastructure, too. If you can accomplish parts of the vision by modifying or upgrading existing systems, do it.

Once you’ve identified requirements you can address with current resources, you can document the rest: the capabilities, processes, technology and people you require beyond what you have today. These gaps will become detailed requirements for the coming project.

Analyze and prioritize

Optimizing information systems can have tremendous pay-offs – or tumultuous outcomes. Not surprisingly, analyzing and prioritizing your needs up front can avoid unforeseen pitfalls in your project. In addition, it provides transparency to both the benefits and risks of the changes required.

Look beyond capability and technology gaps to ensure you understand every requirement. Remember, your analysis should also detail how the new strategy will change the way people and systems work.

After identifying all of the changes required, it’s time to prioritize them by potential benefits, risks and costs. For each major change, ask yourself:

  1. How big are the potential savings and how quickly will you be able to capture those savings?
  1. What upfront investments are required before savings can be captured?
  1. How does the change align strategically with your business objectives and initiatives? What are the anticipated positive and negative impacts on these if you make the change?
  1. Do you have the organizational and leadership buy-in and support for this particular change to succeed?
  1. How big an impact will it have on users and on existing systems? Do you have the bandwidth to manage and mitigate all of these impacts?
  1. Is your organization capable and willing to adapt to the change? Or will it undermine your business’ ability to deliver?
  1. How will the change impact your governance policies?

Choosing the proper next steps

At this point, we’ve analyzed both the current and future states of your information strategy. We’ve identified the gaps – capability, technology, people and process – between the two, and the tasks required to bridge those gaps. Finally, as part of that gap analysis, we’ve asked pointed questions about the proposed changes, and revealed the potential benefits, risks and costs of each.

This step will help you expose the relative merits and impacts of each change throughout the entire organization and chain of command. This transparency – and the subsequent prioritization of tasks – is key to a strategic and successful optimization of your information landscape. Without it, a truly controlled optimization cannot happen.

Now that the tasks are all prioritized, stay tuned for how to create the best-phased approach for your project.

To learn more about aligning your ECM strategy with your business’s goals, download our whitepaper below.  

ECM Strategy Paper