IT Maturity Is More Than Process Improvement
For years, IT industry consultancies as well as hardware and software vendors have talked about people, process, and technology as the three corners of the success triangle within an IT shop. And yet the various maturity models that exist haven’t yet married these three elements with the levels of maturity they describe.
IT Maturity is often thought of in terms of process maturity or technical maturity. In the realm of IT maturity models, there are no shortage of frameworks that cover this area with Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), COBIT, Microsoft’s Infrastructure Optimization (IO) Model, and Gartner’s Maturity Model being among the most popular. (Process improvement models such as ITIL and the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) share a close relationship with these maturity models but don’t, in and of themselves, promote a specific path to improved IT maturity.)
Unfortunately, none of these models do a complete job of clearly defining the various maturity levels they espouse. The levels that are defined as part of their models are descriptive in nature without clear boundaries described between the various levels that give quantifiable measures of success.
Further, the descriptions themselves do not cover all aspects of maturity. CMMI and Gartner, for example, focus exclusively on process improvement in which each of the maturity levels describe better and better states of process maturity. The Microsoft IO Models consistently define maturity in terms of an organization’s ability to automate processes.
What is needed is a unified maturity model that incorporates what it means for an IT organization to be mature around the following:
The right staff is acquired and retained for the right job. They have access to appropriate training and, at the highest levels of maturity, have appropriate industry certifications and training credentials.
While this area has been covered in depth by most of the models, process maturity should also include why processes are being improved in the first place. CMMI, for example, defines Key Process Areas (KPAs) such as “Requirements Management”, “Product Integration”, “Causal Analysis and Resolution” to name a few. While these process areas are categorized into various maturity levels, they are not inherently linked to specific measures of business value.
Improving a process that isn’t measurably linked to enhancing the business’s effectiveness around any of the four War on Cost Value Pillars (http://blogs.technet.com/itbizval/archive/2009/02/27/the-role-of-information-technology-in-today-s-economy.aspx) is a waste of time and effort.
This area has also been covered in detail by various models such as the Microsoft IO Model. The technology aspect, however, is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Very often, technology is used as a means to improve processes by automating them. By focusing on process automation, the value of technology is sold short. Technology should be utilized to help improve the maturity of people as well by maturing training, access to information, as well as the quality of that information.
The War on Cost team is in the process of studying these concepts further to help unify these areas of maturity so that a more practical model of how technology can and should help customers become more mature can be defined. More to come.
Happy New Year everyone! On behalf of the War on Cost team (Elliott, Bruce, Brett, and Erik), we hope you have a prosperous and successful 2010!
All the best,
War on Cost Application Platform Lead