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Improving IT Maturity: Moving from "Proactive" to "Service-aligned"

In our previous blog post, Improving IT Maturity – Moving from “Committed” to “Proactive”, we looked at level 2 (Committed) organizations and how they can step up the IT maturity ladder to level 3 (Proactive).

In this post, we look at the typical attributes of a “level 3” organization, and what IT Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leaders can do to make the transition to the next level of IT maturity.

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What “Level 3” looks like

Level 3 (AKA “Proactive” or “Defined”) is the point at which the Gartner Inc. ITScore model considers an IT organization to be mature. At this level, IT is a stable utility IT service provider. Stability is enabled through widespread standardization of the infrastructure and the application of mature, standard processes which are well embedded (with high process adherence enforced by tools). Through the establishment of a solid foundation and extensive automation to take the strain, level 3 is where IT begins to evolve more rapidly. With basic operations running smoothly, IT creates sufficient slack to proactively reduce TCO and apply automation in high-demand areas—releasing sufficient resources and funds for larger and more complex development projects.

IT operations is guided by a broad set of very mature IT processes—shored up by well-established policies, embedded skillsets, IT operations tools and management practices. Services are of high quality and high availability, driving consistently good end user satisfaction levels. The vast majority of infrastructure changes are completed successfully and with minimal disruption to end users.

At this stage, IT operations as a whole is transitioning from a process-oriented to a service-oriented perspective. Support and technology groups co-operate and share data and knowledge to deliver outcomes for the business. IT leadership manage a prioritized portfolio of IT projects. Integration with financial disciplines lays the groundwork for “running IT like a business”.

The technical infrastructure platform is designed and managed to support efficient, flexible and robust service provision, with virtualization and architectural redundancy in place. Complete, real-time visibility of devices, systems (including short-lived virtual systems), and services ensure IT is no longer caught off guard by entirely avoidable issues.

What to do next - Processes

Begin extending the ITIL process footprint to cover the full spectrum of service lifecycle phases (managing the full lifecycle of services within the context of a strategic service portfolio). Continue to measure process metrics but apply service-oriented metrics as tension metrics—to ensure processes are not “overoptimized” to the detriment of service quality and the end user experience.

What to do next - People

Invest in more business-oriented and “soft” skills to empower IT people to work more productively with business stakeholders and end user communities. Introduce business relationship manager (BRM) roles to develop relationships with (and deep understanding of) the business units that IT serves. This development of knowledge and relationships is a critical success factor for achieving the top levels of IT maturity. These cannot be obtained on a just-in-time basis at the beginning of a new project; the acquisition of knowledge must be proactive.

What to do next - Technology

Migrate commodity services to specialist cloud providers to further consolidate infrastructure, reduce TCO and put the focus on services that differentiate. By now, IT should be managing a well-defined, well-costed portfolio of IT services, presented to end users via a digital portal. Managing IT as a service portfolio allows for the continual assessment of what IT provides against open-market alternatives; ensuing the business always gets the best deal—without compromising quality.

What to do next - Management

Extend service management practices to other internal service providers such as HR, facilities management, legal, motor pool and travel administration—folding their self-service sites into the IT end user portal to create a single, shared enterprise service portal that improves employee productivity.

Buying IT management technology

To get to this stage of efficiency, organizations need to manage a much larger automation footprint (supporting more processes, data, users, etc). At this stage, the effort required to migrate to a new toolset would be much higher than at levels 1 and 2, and this process could seriously compromise the IT maturity roadmap. The explosion of toolset complexity is one reason why IT organizations struggle to evolve past average maturity and why it is so important to think ahead when selecting IT management tools. One approach to solve for toolset complexity is to select an IT management suite with broad, native functionality; one which will carry lower application management overheads than a solution comprising loosely integrated point solutions.

In our next article in the series we’ll look at level 4 IT maturity organizations and how they can make the step up to level 5 (Business Partner).

Find out more about IT Maturity in our latest whitepaper:

Choosing IT management tools that work for you

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