IT maturity is the crux of an organization’s success. When a company is strategic about and plans for increasing its IT skillset, it leads to increased productivity, high-quality products and satisfied customers.
As companies evolve, the challenges for IT can change radically and rapidly. The most recent changes have occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where millions of people shifted to remote work environments.
Companies that couldn’t adapt to those changes quickly struggled or failed, while mature IT organizations centered on standards and execution were able to quickly scale based on business needs. IT maturity enables the support of both customers and internal users without the typical turbulence of changing environments.
To understand IT maturity, it’s important to dive into its definition and how it has evolved to serve companies and CIO professionals.
What Is IT Maturity?
At its core, IT maturity is a measure of how well companies and decision-makers in that company use technology to advance the business. This includes creating a strategy to achieve goals, adhering to best practices and focusing on IT throughout the organization, not just in a single department.
The idea of IT maturity has been around for some time. In the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Defense funded research that led to the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Aimed at improving software development processes, the model focused on the degree of formality in processes versus ad hoc practices.
Used until 1997, the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University refined the original maturity model to integrate different models into a single, unified framework. Now known as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), it’s a required process in many software development government contracts.
As the model has matured, so too have the identified approaches to achieving organizational maturity. Each of the methodologies points to stages of maturity in similar ways:
- Level One: Chaotic — No consistent management processes exist. Projects are often late or miss the mark. Run-the-shop IT processes are not documented, and unplanned outages exist.
- Level Two: Reactive — Processes are defined but not executed consistently. Varying levels of process management exist, and some activities still miss the mark. Operational issues can be identified earlier but not avoided.
- Level Three: Proactive — Standards for all phases of IT exist. Project management activities are built off of corporate standards. Regular reviews are conducted for run-the-shop activities. IT governance exists.
- Level Four: Measured — Based on defined standards and criteria, organizational performance is measured and quantified across all IT disciplines (governance, DevOps, infrastructure, ITIL, and more.)
- Level Five: Predictive — Analysis of measurements leads to process evaluation, correction, and visible, measured continuous Process Improvement programs.
A worldwide survey by Gartner, Inc. revealed “that 91 percent of organizations have not yet reached a “transformational” level of maturity in data and analytics, despite this area being a number one investment priority for CIOs in recent years.” When respondents were asked to rate their organizations according to Gartner’s five maturity levels for data and analytics, 60 percent rated themselves in Gartner’s lowest three levels identified as “basic,” “opportunistic” or “systematic.”
The Impact of Improving IT Maturity
While Gartner identified a broad range of barriers to increased use of data and analytics to improve maturity, it identified the three most common as: defining data and analytics strategy, determining how to get value from projects, and solving risk and governance issues.
Research has shown that implementing maturity-based process improvement programs help improve companies through increased product quality and productivity and reduced costs. “Immature, undisciplined development practices can severely constrain productivity,” Bill Curtis, one of the original creators of the CMM and People CMM at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University noted in his book Rethinking Productivity in Software Engineering. He added that “staged, evolutionary improvements in an organization’s development practices can dramatically increase productivity.”
Thus, developing specific capabilities that enable or enhance business performance improves your company overall, with streamlined approaches and better efficiencies through innovation.
Increasing IT maturity is an essential component of operating a successful business. Improving your IT maturity can have an impact in many ways:
- Improving the efficiency of people and systems
- Providing predictability of quality, schedule and content
- Stabilizing customer- and user-facing systems
- Enhancing employee satisfaction (IT and Enterprise)
- Enabling clearly defined deliverables and systems that do not miss the mark
- Demonstrating measurable analytics that allows for continuous improvement and ROI confirmation
These impacts contribute directly to the company’s strategic success and help ensure that efforts of all phases of the business are focused appropriately on activities and deliverables that impact the bottom line.
The Path to IT Maturity
Improving IT maturity is possible for any organization with the right strategy and tools, starting with assessment and goal setting.
Tips for ensuring success include:
- Ensure you understand your organization’s focus. Start by assessing what problem (or problems) you are trying to solve, whether it’s to improve people and system efficiencies, stabilize systems, define deliverables and systems, or something else. Make sure you also understand which issues are the most pressing, so you can address these earlier in the process. Each desired goal may have a different approach and timeline for improvement.
- Get executive buy-in. IT maturity is organizational, not departmental. The more buy-in you have, the greater your opportunity for success.
- Execute your maturity improvement plan in phases or steps. The road to IT maturity can be a challenging one at all levels. Each movement forward comes with organizational transformation, from those in infrastructure to governance and process standardization. Take the time needed to move through each step, rather than quickly moving from level one to level five.
- Identify metrics used in determining success and ROI. Outlining key performance indicators and ensuring consistent and standardized measurement will be key to creating successful change programs.
- Identify an operations management partner who can help define and guide the project. This leader will help strategize and create efficiencies to maximize profits for the organization.
Tailor Your IT Maturity Program to Your Business’s Needs
Not all organizations find it necessary to implement every phase of the maturity model. Some companies find that they’re streamlined, efficient and meeting goals and objectives once they reach the mid ranges of their maturity program.
The point is there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to improving your company’s IT maturity. Create a strategy, set realistic goals and objectives, and consistently measure your achievement to maximize the results of your defined IT maturity program.