Gap Analysis Competitive Intelligence Tool

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This article was written in February 2011. And describes the Gap Analysis Competitive Intelligence tool. 

Use Gap Analysis helps study differences between your competitors and your own organisation. Determine what they are doing to create the Gaps. The main goal of Competitive Intelligence is to produce actionable intelligence for decision-makers. 

Gap Analysis is a Competitive Intelligence tool to interpret information about your market. A Gap is simply the difference to where you are and where your competitors are. Positive Gaps indicates you are in a better position than your rivals. While a Negative Gap clearly means the reverse – in a worse situation. A fundamental Gap Analysis looks like this:

Isolation

Make a list of all the known Gaps. The apparent differences between you and your competitors. Then search for evidence to back up (and dismiss) these assumptions. Place the Gaps into an order of priority based on what on your customers’ needs. To do this, you need to understand how they decide to use your product/service. 

Assemble lists of known gaps. Introduce groups sessions involving your management, R&D, business development and marketing teams. Ensure that each identified Gap must be specific, understood, well described. Estimate the impact of each Gap. Determine which of your competitors is in a better position than you.

Potential Gaps

Potential Gaps are not considered as know gaps until they meet the agreed criteria. These potential Gaps will usually be down to missing information about the Gap. And its potential impact. For instance, your rivals may be introducing a “faster” production soon. It could affect your operation. The size of the impact and your actions will be different if it is 8% faster in 4 years or 60% faster in 7 months.

Understanding the relevant competitors will help. But you must keep track of the potential Gaps. Assign a member of your team to collect further information. Do this until you can dismiss the threat or point your resources to an isolated Gap.

Triggers

Triggers are events, activities, announcements, etc., which may signal future Gaps. You don’t operate in a vacuum, and these triggers are important. If you are aware of them, and know where to look at your competitors, tend to signal much of what they plan to do.

The above manufacturing example can be countered by monitoring new patents or watching your competitor’s investments into other businesses. Especially investments with complement their current offering. Advertising new job roles is another location for triggers. Most triggers will become predictable. And when trip the required number triggers you will be ready to investigate if a gap is being created.

Trend Monitoring 

Tracking your external environment is an important aspect of Gap Analysis. Track demographic, technology, product, legal and other areas which affect your business. The trend of things getting smaller, faster and cheaper is not a revelation. Still, the key to trend monitoring is to find trends. The one’s which could affect your current and future products and services.

An isolated trend needs analysis to identify the probable competitor response. And how others, not currently considered competitors, may gain some competitive advantage. Did they respond or where they caught on the back foot? Think of Apple introducing the iPod. And Sony responding by building a compact disc that could how more songs. 

Action Plans

Known Gaps –  Assign each known Gap one a person able to work across your organisation. They define and execute an action plan to close the identified gap. 

Potential Gaps – The goal is to determine the significance of potential Gaps. The size and the potential impact the Gap may have on your operation. Someone within your organisation needs to look for these potential gaps.

Triggers

Isolate what triggers a gap and use this analysis to see if you can predict gaps. Assign research of these triggers to outward-facing functions. Such as your business development or product marketing teams. 

Finally, watch and understand when a trend accelerates. To the point when specific, compelling market responses occur. Once isolating the market responses, identify the triggers for each competitor. To know how they intend to act.

Summary

You do not need special software or special skills. To start Gap Analysis create four pages on a spreadsheet. For tracking the known Gaps, potential Gaps, Triggers and Trends. This article described the Gap Analysis Competitive Intelligence tool. Gap analysis can be a straightforward, good team building and productive exercise.

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