The Deadly Sins of IT Maturity Assessments

On the 7th August I will be taking part in a webinar that looks at how to ‘Boost Your IT Maturity With ITSM’ and I have a confession to make – I love IT Maturity Assessments. You may also love them but my love comes from the fact that I used to be an enterprise system and service management consultant and today I want to confess my sins. 

As you may know, maturity models and assessments are a cornerstone of many System Integrator service offerings. During my time as a consultant on a number of ‘IT transformation’ projects in the UK, the companies that I worked for would use maturity assessments as part of their standard go-to-market offerings. In terms of my role, I would use ITIL and systems management maturity models and my promise to the customer was that working with me would get them to that next level of maturity. While I believed I was truly helping the customer, I knew, deep down, that maturity models were a way of cementing continued business and that unfortunately within a year I would be on another project meaning I would not be there to see the improvement roadmap move forward. 

But today I want to start my rehabilitation. I still believe that IT maturity assessments hold a lot of value for Enterprise IT but I&O professionals needs to be aware of the following 5 deadly sins:

1.      Chasing the tail of complexityThe last seven years has brought a dizzying level of technology innovation – virtualization, social media, cloud, big data, consumerization. This brings increased complexity from a people, process and technology perspective. No static maturity assessment can realistically cover all of these areas meaning that we have seen the rise of a whole host of specific maturity assessments. My word of warning is to proceed with caution and not to undertake IT maturity assessments in a fragmented approach. Remember technology is there to support and help drive the organization competitively and therefore a strategic approach to maturity assessments and roadmaps is required. A fragmented or tactical approach will just result in you ‘chasing maturity’ in the next technology buzzword.

2.      Vanity though external benchmarking. If the main reason for undertaking maturity assessments is to see ‘how you compare against the competition’ then please stop. There is a lot of discussion at the moment in regards to technology becoming a commodity in some areas but please remember that IT is a strategic differentiator and it’s more than just the technology, it’s the process, the culture and most importantly the people. While business capabilities may be similar with organizations in the same industry, the people will be different – this is one of the reasons why your organization remains competitive. Do not get caught up in spending time and resources just to compare your organization against the competition as it detracts from what’s important - your customers of IT services. 

3.      Answering the ‘why’ question wrongly. Do you have a clear reason for wanting to undertake an IT maturity assessment? This may sound like an obvious question but the answer should be a business centric reason not an IT reason. So undertaking an ITSM assessment to see how well your organization aligns to the ITIL framework is not a good enough trigger but an ITSM maturity assessment that is triggered by poor IT customer satisfaction scores is a better, business centric reason.

4.      Assessment with blinders. Blinders are used in horse racing to prevent a horse seeing to the rear and, in some cases, to the side. In terms of IT assessments, I use this term for those assessments that only focus on one area i.e. process or technology and are not a holistic assessment. At a minimum, a holistic assessment should focus cover governance/oversight, technology, process and of course people areas. I also use this term to point out that the assessment should not just be carried out by enterprise IT but the process should also involve customers of IT services from each capability area. Also assessment with blinders refers to improvement roadmaps which do not have support and ownership from other business functions. Good IT maturity assessments should help to formulate a roadmap but in my experience those roadmaps that do not have customer of IT service or business ownership tend not to last the required distance – a bit like a poorly trained race horse.

5.      Misunderstanding the finish line. A completed assessment is only the beginning. I would advocate that strengths that are uncovered are actively marketed back to the business to re-enforce value understanding and to strengthen enterprise IT reputation. In relation to this, weaknesses should be linked to business pain points and dependencies analyzed. The result should be a clear roadmap which shows intended improvement milestones and checkpoints every 6 months at a maximum. The most important factor in any roadmap that is developed because of a maturity assessment is that it’s accepted and if possible, owned by the business or the customer of IT services as IT is all about the people.

So there you have it, I bet you can think of more ‘deadly sins of IT maturity assessments’ and I would love to hear your additions, comments and feedback. If you would like to hear me discuss more on this subject then feel free to attend the webinar that I will be part of on the 7thAugust. You can register here

 

Comments

Nice blog post John

As much as I wanted to love bullet number 2 the most, I think you saved the best till last in bullet number 5.

How many IT organizations view the maturity assessment as the outcome rather than one of the means to a bigger end (or the start of an improvement journey)? In my experience too many. I think we have all spoken with clients who "carry on regardless" in between assessments :(

Thanks Stephen!

One that I missed was "Striving for 5s" or trying to achieve the highest level of maturity in all areas. I remember a couple of years ago a client set their desired state to 5 for all the ITIL process areas. Again this shows a lack of understanding the business value.