The Enterprise Technology Five-Level Process Maturity Framework

In an earlier article, I shared The Five Levels of Enterprise Technology (ET) Process Maturity. In that article, I discussed how CIOs and their staffs could fund transformational initiatives like digital transformation by improving the maturity of their processes that span siloed management tools and touch the entire technology portfolio deployed by the company. Today, these processes are typically implemented through manual workflows. 

Now, I’d like to connect the dots and introduce the Five-Level Enterprise Technology (ET) Process Maturity Framework I propose in my Amazon bestselling book The Next CIO. In this book, I argue the industry needs to create a new category of enterprise application called Enterprise Technology Management (ETM).

Figure 1: The ETM Framework

As shown in Figure 1, the ET Process Maturity Framework defines a five-level service maturity journey that can be applied to each ET process used to deliver IT services to the business. An IT organization can have several ET processes at all levels of maturity on their journey from ad hoc and reactive to automated and proactively optimizing processes.

Level 1: No Process

Description: No ET process is written down. The work is implemented completely ad hoc without a formal process described. Given there is no process, the maturity is at level 1.

Improvement Focus: Undefined-to-described

  • Service: Formally define the IT service to be delivered to the business entity
  • Outcome: Formally describe the outcome this IT service should deliver. This will become crucial not only in describing the value of the service to the receiving business entity, but it will also help define if the service is delivering an appropriate level of value.
  • Technology: Inventory the technology portfolio in scope required to implement the IT service. Ideally, a full inventory of the enterprise technology portfolio is done, creating a single source of truth. This is because it’s best to start with an accurate inventory of technology that will be touched, as the full gamut of IT services will ultimately touch all technology. As a side note, a fundamental capability of an ETM application would be enabling accurate data hygiene.

Once these three actions are taken, the ET process moves to Level 2: Described.

Level 2: Described

Description: The ET process is described, but still implemented through manual tasks.

Improvement Focus: Described to partially automated

  • Process: Describe the ET process used to deliver the IT service. Ultimately, the objective of the ET process will be to deliver the organizational goals as outlined in the IT service.
  • Workflow: Define the workflow(s) that will execute the tasks required to implement the ET process. As a side note, if the workflow is described as part of a large PDF or equivalent format, then it will not be possible to move to Level 3: Partially Automated, as the workflow will need to be defined in software to be automated. If the workflow is defined in software, then it can also be more easily audited to be meeting compliance regulations.
  • KPIs: Defines the inputs, outputs and KPIs that will be used to measure how well the ET process is delivering on the organizational goals outlined in the IT service.

If these actions are taken, IT organizations could take an ET process to maturity Level 3: Partially Automated.

Anders Romare — current CIO at Novo Nordisk — shares that many IT organization ET processes he experienced are manual and not measured, so IT doesn’t really know how long these processes take to complete. A manual step might only take a few minutes to do, but the employee could get interrupted by a phone call and now those few minutes have expanded to a few hours of wall clock time. As another example, some processes might take a long time to complete simply because the employee lacked the proper training and didn’t fully understand the work required.

As Romare points out, often in these situations the CIO and IT organization don’t learn there are issues with the processes until the employees executing them start complaining that the workflow is not workable.

Level 3: Partially Automated

Description: The delivery of the ET process is implemented through a mixture of automated and manual tasks.

Improvement Focus: Partially automated to fully automated

  • APIs: The APIs into technology touched by the service are identified.
  • Connectors: Connectors into an ETM application that communicate with these APIs have been implemented.
  • Data: The workflow that implements the process that delivers the service is written in software, sending and receiving data to/from the ETM application and the point management tools. At this step, this data is well defined.

If these three actions are taken, the ET process moves to maturity Level 4: Fully Automated.

Of course, automation isn’t always the answer to higher IT productivity and lower costs. Melissa Gordon — current CAO at Tidal Basin Group — says she asks these basic questions when deciding whether to automate a process:

  • How many hours does it currently take to complete this process?
  • How much time is wasted waiting for data to transfer or information to be sent given a lack of integration?
  • If we automated this process, how many hours and wall clock time would we save?

As a side note, an ETM application could also help IT implement end-to-end processes without the need for custom integrations. Instead, teams from IT and the lines of business could utilize connectors provided through an ETM application to build automated workflows in software using a no code user interface that is also provided by the ETM application.

Level 4: Fully Automated

Description: The workflow that delivers the ET process is fully automated. The ET process is holistically managed with complete observability into the relevant IT landscape of technology.

Improvement Focus: Fully automated to optimized

  • Orchestration: Automated tasks are unified into an end-to-end ET process, allowing IT to manage the entire process lifecycle from a single location, including development, testing, monitoring, and measuring.
  • Dashboard: Visualization is available through a dashboard where the measurement KPIs, SLAs and XLAs can be monitored.
  • Notifications: Alerting is in place, automatically sending notifications to the dashboard and appropriate personnel upon re-established triggers.

If these three actions are taken, the ET Process Maturity moves to maturity Level 5: Optimized.

Level 5: Continuously Optimized

Description: Data is used to proactively deliver, optimize, and continuously improve ET process.

Improvement Focus: Optimized to community

  • Measured: ET process is measured both in terms of delivery time and value creation to assist in continuously improving the process. AI/ML may be incorporated to help in this optimization function. For instance, a demand forecast process might identify patterns in purchasing that can be further streamlined.
  • Community: As part of finding continuous improvement, a community of third-party resources are identified, such as IT service providers and non-competing IT organizations willing to share best practices. An ETM application is utilized to automate the sharing of crowdsourced knowledge and best practices for the ultimate good of helping all CIOs and their companies.
  • Collaboration: In this final step, continuous collaboration occurs within the community. For instance, if one member gets hit by a ransomware attack, this can be shared with the community to warn them of the attack and provide real-time information to improve all member defenses.

At Level 5, essentially the data becomes the new operating system (to paraphrase a visionary statement by Mike Kelly, former CIO at Red Hat). Actions are completed because the data brings knowledge of what’s happening in the environment, with perhaps a final manual approval if necessary.