A gap analysis is a method of assessing the differences in performance between a business’ internal controls to determine whether business requirements are being met and, if not, what steps should be taken to ensure they are met successfully. Moreover, it is a determination of the degree of conformance of your organization to the requirements of an internal controls standard. A gap analysis is mainly a document review or a “show me the evidence” type activity, evidence which usually will come in the form of a record or document. During a gap analysis, there is some auditing accomplished, through key stakeholders providing the evidence they may have –or not- for each of the requirements set forth in the relevant internal controls standard.
Gap analysis are very often conducted at the beginning of the journey of an organization seeking compliance to an internal controls standard or it can be used as the basis for internal controls enhancement. Interestingly this can lead to more or even less internal controls, as sometimes in the realm of internal controls, less is more. The primary reason why a gap analysis is conducted at the beginning of the development phase or after some development has occurred is because the organization wants to know where they stand regarding meeting the relevant internal controls standard and they want to know specifically what they need to do to close the gaps. Companies need to understand where their gaps in internal controls are located, how large those gaps might be and what they need to do to close those holes and get closer to fully meeting the requirements of the chosen specification or standard.
Gap analysis is a technique that can be used to assess if an enterprise can meet its needs using its present capabilities. The capabilities that may be examined for improvement include staff competencies, facilities, applications, technical infrastructure, processes and lines of business; all with an eye towards (1) improving the compliance environment and (2) operationalizing compliance into the functional business units.
Miriam Boudreaux posed the following, “Imagine a situation where you have been asked to improve the performance or efficiency of a particular unit of an organization. You have no clue whatsoever as to what set of factors is the real cause of the degraded performance you have been asked to improve. Identifying the gap between what is expected and what you are delivering, that is, the difference between the current state and the future state, is referred to as “Gap Analysis”.”
She goes on to state that a “gap analysis can be defined in a number of ways, which more or less point towards the same meaning:
- It is the process through which a company compares its current or actual performance to its expected performance to determine whether it is meeting its objectives and using its resources effectively.
- It is a technique that businesses use to determine what steps need to be taken in order to move from their current states to their desired future states.
From both definitions, it is evident that gap analysis is a technique that can help a business reach its peak eventually. By defining and analyzing gaps, a project team can create an action plan to move the business forward and fill performance gaps.”
After the completion of the gap analysis there should be a report which presents a clear summary or where the major gaps exist between the company’s documentation and the internal controls requirements. It also should show a detail recount of each requirement and the degree of compliance, with corresponding actions that need to be taken to close these gaps. Here lies a major difference between an Audit report for example and a gap analysis report: the gap analysis report has some inherent advice to it, which makes it suitable to be accomplished by consultants or experts in the chosen specification or standards.
Another way to consider a gap analysis is the steps you should take. These include:
- Accurately defining the future goals: If you are not clear about the organization’s goals, all your efforts will be in vain. The first and foremost thing to be done is to identify what exactly the goals of the business are and the changes needed to achieve these goals. If the goal is not clear, the improvement exercise will keep on deviating from its desired path.
- Identifying the current scenario and associated issues: To reach the place you desire, you should first assess where you are located in your internal controls regime. For example, a failure to see the real reason behind the poor compliance performance of your business units may affect profit and growth on the long run. At this stage, the analyst may organize brainstorming sessions, employee interviews, document review sessions to gain insight into present challenges. Only after a comprehensive definition of present challenges can one get a clear picture of the situation.
- Devising the action plan: Now that you know the present and future expectations, you can think of the how factor, which is in form of a plan. How will you implement the action plan to close the identified gaps? The solutions may include several steps like hiring more employees, procuring extra machines and equipment, offering perks and incentives to get the best out of employees and so on.
- Report: Finally, you will want to report your findings with the appropriate data and analysis presented. To do this, you may wish to use our gap analysis report template. In your report, you will include things like the background of the company and analysis, problems that have occurred, and even reasons for undertaking the analysis. Then, you will present your findings, showing the strategic objectives, current standing, deficiencies, and whether the current situation is acceptable. If the situation is unacceptable, you will present a course of action for improvement. Finally, all your analysis will be backed up with the data gathered during the analysis.
Three Key Takeaways
- Be prepared to require evidence from key stakeholders.
- Use a multistage approach to a gap analysis.
- To get to where you want to be, you have to know where you are.
To know where you want to go, you need to know where you are. Using a gap analysis can help.Click to tweet
For more information on how to improve your internal controls management process, visit this month’s sponsor Workiva at workiva.com.