IT Evolution: The Path to IT Maturity
IT is in a state of flux——and if you’re reading this article, this probably isn’t news to you. Business has grown progressively more technology-centric during the last few years, causing IT to shift from the periphery to the heart of the business.
As technology has found its way to the center of the business, so too has it grown outward to affect consumer expectations. In the consumer world, people expect push-of-a-button speed. So when employees interact with IT, they look for the same ease and efficiency they get when they order an Uber or book an AirBnB. We’ve entered a new world for IT.
When it comes to the projected evolution of IT, where are we today? Where do we need to go? What steps can you take to drive IT from where you are now to where you want to be?
The Maturity Stages of IT Organizations
BRM Institute presents a model of IT Provider Maturation that consists of five levels, which could be simplified even further into three levels based on an IT organization’s level of business convergence and mastery over technology.
Image source: Jeannine McConnell
Level 1: Reactive and Scrambling
A Level 1 IT organization has virtually no business convergence. Rather than actively shaping demand through a proactive joint strategy, IT responds reactively to demands pouring in from across the business. Time and resources are lost, metrics are nonexistent, and creating a consumerized IT experience is on the bottom rung of the priority ladder. In short, the moose is loose!
A recent CIO Magazine “State of the CIO” survey found that 54% of line-of-business leaders surveyed indicated that IT is an obstacle to their mission. If this describes your current IT situation, you’re one of many—and misery loves company. Things have changed rapidly, and many IT organizations have remained lost in holding patterns that no longer serve the business.
Level 2: Supplier and Producer
Level 2 is a more breathable situation than Level 1. The chaos is under control, some metrics and measurements are in place, and generally, projects are less prone to failure. It’s a pretty sweet place, but it isn’t the final destination.
Although routines are established at this stage, the primary aim is still to keep the lights on. Time for strategic innovation is limited. It’s a necessary stop on the way to Level 3, but it’s not where you want to stay.
Level 3: Strategic Partner and Innovative Leader
Level 3 is where IT organizations become strategic and innovative leaders and share ownership of results. At this point, IT is converged with the business, new technology approaches are proposed and adopted to address real business needs, and an agile, innovative culture encourages “fail fast” risk management.
Here, IT is elastic and moves at the speed of the business. The CIO sits at the table with other chief business strategists. When IT hits this level of maturity, the strategies, goals, and outcomes of the business are intimately tied to those of the IT organization.
How Do You Get There?
Traditionally, IT and its teams have been cloistered away from the rest of the business, occupying some space in back offices. Deep, cross-business relationships have been rare and mostly incidental.
This must change. To be an operable Level 3 organization, IT must learn how to communicate effectively with all parts of the business, and BRMs must lead the charge in converging the needs and priorities of the business to IT and vice versa.
Conversations must be strategic and connected, and BRMs must know how to collaborate.
Consider this information from CIO Magazine‘s State of the CIO 2016 survey:
At Level 3, IT should function at the speed of business, nimble enough to fail fast and stand up again. Processes have to be intuitive, automated, and user-friendly to guide stakeholders—it’s critical that UIX emphasizes a modern, consumerized experience with an ergonomic focus.
If technology is functional but not user-friendly, it’s gotta go.
Two other pieces critical at Level 3? “Shifting left” and the Zero Concept. “To shift left” is to automate as many of the day-to-day IT processes as possible. When IT is locked into a Stage 2 “keeping the lights on” routine, innovation and strategic thinking are off the table. Shifting away from mundane, basic tasks frees up IT to engage in the innovative and strategic work of Level 3.
When organizations shift left, they begin to see the Zero Concept: costs and cycle times trend toward zero. Zero is, of course, a notional concept —we can’t actually eliminate all costs and cycle times. But by shifting left, we reduce down to negligible chunks that enable the really powerful work of strategic advising.
Finally, Level 3 requires business-enabling technology that makes efficiency possible. The ideal technology is cloud-based and agile, providing workflow automation, virtualization, and streamlined processes. Such a solution also enables transparency and allows for effective collaboration across an organization.
Level 3 might seem far off, but wherever your IT organization is, it’s within reach.
If you’re wondering “How do I get there?” you’re asking the right question.
Jeannine McConnell is a supporting member of the Project Management Institute, with certifications in Program Management, Project Management, as well as the IIBA with a certification in Professional Business Analysis. Jeannine also holds a Six Sigma Green Belt with a focus on transactional activity, and is ITIL certified. More recently, Jeannine become a contributing thought leader to Business Relationship Management Institute and holds a BRMP® certification. She is also a contributor on some of Microsoft Press’ best-selling publications on software engineering. She currently holds the role of Executive Strategist at ServiceNow, where she supports enterprises who want to change how their employees work.
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