gap·ol·o·gy n. The systematic study of, and the method used to identify and close, gaps within and between organisational units (individuals, teams, departments) or social structures (gender gaps, race gaps). Becoming an expert in using gapology or studying gapology are the behaviors of a gapologist.

Okay, this is a definition I made up to make a point and create a reason for this post! You’ll find a couple more definitions here. My observation is that many of the problems we face in systems development are due to the presence of gaps of various sorts. Until we fill such gaps we will not be able to build systems that are as effective or efficient as they might be. Here are some of the worst.

  • The Knowing-Doing Gap. An article in Fast Company discusses this book which asks: Why is it that, at the end of so many books and seminars, leaders report being enlightened and wiser, but not much happens in their organizations?
  • The Business-IT Gap. The best known gap in IT. This is the inability IT have in understanding what business people really want (or the inability the business have in saying what it is they want depending on which side of the gap you are sitting).
  • The IT-IT Gap. This is the gap between what IT develops and what operations/maintenance think they are getting and need to run/maintain.
  • The Gender Gap. As I’ve discussed here there is still unfortunately a real problem getting women into IT which I think is detrimental to the systems we build.

Many of these gaps occur because of the lack of effective stakeholder management that takes place when building systems. A report published back in 2004 (The Challenges of Complex IT Projects) by The Royal Academy of Engineering and and The British Computer Society identified the lack of effective stakeholder management as one of the key reasons for project failure. The key learning point I believe is to understand who your stakeholders are, engage with them early and often and make sure you have good communication plans in place that keep them well informed.

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