IT Maturity: Chasing rainbows?
It is surprising just how many organisations do NOT monitor their IT maturity. Where are we? Is it going up, or down? In fact an even more basic question is: Exactly what is IT Maturity and is it an integer, percentage, score or grade?
It’s difficult to put a finger on what it looks like, and what the final output ‘Score’ is. It reminds me of the famous book and film ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Universe’…. Where after several years, the Mega computer that was tasked with finding the answer to ‘Life the Universe and Everything’, came up with the answer 42……Thank you – Very helpful.
IT Maturity is less about the answer, but more about the trend. There are many models that can be used from various analyst or consulting firms, and all use the same fundamentals (but scored differently, so don’t compare). I would point out that a lot of this is common sense and a great way to get IT really connected with the business.
The building blocks centre on your PEOPLE, PROCESSES, TECHNOLOGY and MISSION; more on these foundations later.
However, the fact is, although it might be an interesting way to spend an afternoon, doing an IT maturity benchmark against other organisations (either in your sector or not) it isn’t really relevant. There really isn’t an apples-for-apples comparison. It may be close, but building a maturity model where you can score yourself-against-yourself (over time) will prove significantly more valuable and will be a whole lot easier to realize.
There is no standard maturity model that works really well at outputting a set of actions that will deliver improvement for a particular business – and there never will be. There are too many variables to be considered. An accurate IT maturity assessment model would be far too complex and impractical – to build, or to use. At the other end of the spectrum, too basic and irrelevant. Maturity models are either too loose (and have too few inputs to be useful), or they are too tight and require a whole heap of numbers you just don’t have to hand. Even the most simple of questions, like “do you have a service catalogue?” are rarely simple in the real world. Owning a service catalogue doesn’t indicate what it does or the value it delivers. Is it integrated with a service request system to manage execution, or is it just a front-end for the service desk? Are all of your services listed, or just some? IT is complex by nature and each question tends to spark a dozen deeper questions.
So, if general IT maturity models and assessments are questionable, how should you evaluate your own IT maturity? It turns out that the models that are out there can be of some use – as a starting point for your own custom maturity model. A model that can help you steer your own vision of IT and business harmony. When approached from a critical standpoint, you can get some good ideas on questions you can ask within your own organization to evaluate IT maturity in a way that is relevant to your business. When asking introspective questions about the status quo, things tend to fall into a natural path. When you boil it down, it can hardly fail to fall into the trusty old improvement model. If you’re asking “What is our IT maturity level?” you’re really asking “Where are we now?” If you’re asking “What does the next level look like?” you’re actually asking “Where do we want to get to?” The whole thing starts to look suspiciously like an improvement roadmap.
It occurs to me that the Service Management methodologies and tools play a critical role in the IT Maturity journey. The foundations of PEOPLE, PROCESSES, TECHNOLOGY AND MISSION all (or should) touch this common platform. ITSM could be the conductor of total IT maturity. Often relegated to the role of IT Help Desk, in fact you probably already have the tool that could transform your business, life and career.
ITSM pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…
Utilizing your toolset and ITSM best practices in a business and IT maturity context can transform IT, the business and the ability to compete and react to business challenges.
Mission. What type of IT and business does the organization want?
What is the role of IT in the organization. Is it merely to provide compute, network and some applications to the business in a secure and compliant fashion, or perhaps, IT is the business. (or needs to be the business. If your business for example is in payroll printing systems, but the vision is to become on e-billing and Payroll Company, IT clearly is going to become the business.
In order to build your own custom maturity model/roadmap, you really need a good understanding of the business KPIs and what factors influence them (both up and down). From this, you should be able to map out the IT capabilities that are most influential on those KPIs. When put in this context – one that is highly relevant to your own business – the concept of IT maturity is considerably more valuable. When you can say to the business “We are here…and this is what it means to the business. We want to get here…and this is what it will mean to the business” and they agree, then you know you’re heading in the right direction.
So Mission needs to define key business metrics, Governance, financial, planning, supply & sourcing.
People. Based on the mission, do we have the right people and skills?
This should score key skills and the quantity required (capacity to do the job), training, culture, organizational alignment and people management. Empowerment needs to be considered, do we centrally give the tools and services, or do we empower the staff/organizations to build what they need themselves?
Technology – Do we get value, quality, flexibility and interoperability that is secure?
Too often this topic is the sole focus, and typically scores quite well. It’s our heritage and passion, but recent development are clearly challenging sub topics such as Efficiency, Service Quality, Standards and Integration and the overall technology management capabilities. Don’t forget IT maturity does not necessarily provide you with the agility needed to redesign and deliver the services the business wants. In fact many organisations with cumbersome legacy solutions would score highly for IT maturity but have the turning circle of an oil tanker.
Processes – How digitized, efficient, automated and controlled are our processes?
Typically the lowest score in any IT maturity model score. Consider IT process. Consider non-IT process. Consider cross platform process integration. Best practice model alignment, process management and entire process lifecycle and where possible link all process scores to $$$$ metrics (Staff cost, stock, license, and in the case of non-IT process, labor gains and efficiency gains)
Finally, I would recommend you build some simple BVD (Business Value dashboards) that link commercial data with IT data for your exec teams to see just how well IT is doing, improving and delivering real value to the business.
Oh look… It’s raining and the suns out…