Process maturity assessments do serve a purpose but it is their misuse that is dangerous.
Maturity assessments can provide an organisation with a baseline against which they can demonstrate improvement. The conduct of a maturity assessment can demonstrate to the CxO and management team how ITSM is improving over time. They provide a reference point for continual service improvement (CSI).
So what are the dangers?
What many ITSM maturity assessments do not do is indicate what improvement is needed to meet the needs of the business as a whole. What are the business pain-points that ITSM process improvement needs to address? What are the opportunities facing the business that will require ITSM process improvement in order for them to be achieved?
A maturity assessment that scores your Change Management process at 1.5, whilst your other ITSM processes are scored at 2.0, does not automatically mean that your focus should be on improvement of the Change Management process. The business could be missing marketing opportunities due to poor performance (and intermittent failure) of the CRM system resulting from a shortage of processing capacity. Therefore it could be time to take a look at the Capacity Management and Demand Management processes and determine why the processes failed to identify and/or predict the need for additional capacity to support business processing.
Once a process improvement that meets a business need has been identified, the process maturity score will help in demonstrating an improvement in the process but at the end of the day it will be an improvement in the ability of the organisation to conduct its business that will be key.
A good process maturity assessment should help in identifying the areas in which the process needs to improve that will assist in providing increased business value. A process maturity assessment should be preceded by an appraisal of the business perception of IT service provision. This helps to identify which processes, if improved, will have the most value to the business. Activities should also be undertaken, such as a stakeholder workshop, to gain IT leadership consensus on where to focus – to positively impact the service delivered.
The outcomes of a good maturity assessment should be tailored to the organisation’s needs – not just a score.
Not a Benchmark
I have had many conversations with potential clients that request an ITSM maturity assessment in order to benchmark themselves against other organisations.
There are organisations that specialise in the conduct of TSM maturity assessments and have built up a database of results that can be sorted by industry sector. So if I am in the financial sector I can compare myself against other organisations in the same sector. So what! It gives me an indicative sense of how mature other financial organisations are and where I could strive to be. But, once again, all because I am a 2.0 in my Access Management process whilst other organisations are a 3.0 doesn’t automatically mean that this should be my area of focus. It should – only if it meets a business need.
I don’t believe that maturity assessments allow you to compare apples with apples. Every organisation is different with different business drivers, priorities, goals and objectives. ITSM process improvement should be aligned with these and not driven by the results of another organisation.
Too often ITSM process maturity assessments are seen as a means to drive organisational change.
It is believed that poor assessment results will encourage employees to make process improvements and adopt changes in behaviour.
Telling employees that Problem Management is a 1.0 and therefore needs to improve is not going to provide the incentive for change. It is just a number!
The score is just a part of the story. As an employee I need to understand how the process improvement will help me do my job. I need to understand the ‘What’s In It For Me’ (WIIFM). I need to understand how the process improvement will aid the business and make someone else’s job easier as well as my own.
Many assessments are conducted by a consultant performing interviews with staff, observing behaviours and reviewing process artefacts. The results are based on the consultant’s perception of the current state.
Add to this the fact that many organisations undertake an assessment with a particular consulting organisation only to conduct the next one with an alternative organisation. They may use the same organisation but the consultant undertaking the assessment is a different consultant who conducted the previous one. The assessments are subjective and not providing a ‘true’ picture of current state and process improvement. The experience and knowledge of the consultants will be different.
I believe the best assessments are the automated ones. These are the assessment tools that have captured the knowledge and experience of the most senior ITSM consultants and practitioners, and generate the right questions to ask regarding each process. The assessment, and its outcomes, should be facilitated by a consultant but the data input from the business and IT staff is quantitative, objective and facts based. It is not subject to the interpretation of a conversation held by a consultant with an IT manager.
These automated assessments are repeatable, providing a true reflection of process improvement.
Use in the Right Way
I am not advocating that you don’t undertake ITSM process maturity assessments. At Macanta we offer maturity assessments as a service!
What I am advocating is that they are used in the right way. Use them to baseline where you are and drive process improvement but in the areas that meet a business need – not just as a need to increase a score.