Three Barriers to Enterprise Technology (ET) Process Maturity

In the Five Levels of Enterprise Technology (ET) Process Maturity, I discussed how IT’s enterprise technology processes – the processes that touch the entire technology portfolio deployed by a company – can operate at one of five levels:

  • Level 1: No Process – The process is undefined.
  • Level 2: Described – The process is described (likely as a large PDF document) but implemented manually.
  • Level 3: Partially Automated – The process is described likely in software and utilizes automation to make it more efficient, but still depends on some manual intervention to complete.
  • Level 4: Fully Automated – The process is completely automated and completion time can be measured precisely.
  • Level 5: Continuously Optimized – The process uses data to optimize and continuously improve its activities.

In my Amazon bestselling book, The Next CIO, I argue that IT organizations face at least three barriers to ET processes operating at maximum maturity: siloed management tools, scattered and fragmented data, and poorly defined ET processes.

Siloed management tools
Figure 1: Example point tools used to manage technology portfolio

For the most part, all people in the CIO’s IT organization work in their own silos, taking care of the work needed in each domain of the organization. Unsurprisingly, each siloed group adopts its own set of tools to help bring efficiencies to their jobs, with examples shown in Figure 1 following the ETM framework.

Because there are many types of technologies and different phases of technology management, IT teams use a combination of management tools: one each for software, endpoints, networking, on-premises and cloud infrastructure, and so on.

For instance, the folks responsible for the network will no doubt use a network management tool to help them manage all the complexity involved in keeping a network running. The DevOps folks will likely use application management tools to help them ensure optimal user experiences.

The CISO’s team will no doubt have its own set of security tools to mitigate vulnerabilities, enforce policies, and triage issues. In fact, according to one estimate, the average enterprise deploys over 130 security tools, while a medium-size company relies on 50–60 tools on average to help keep the organization secured.[1]

Many of these siloed groups implement some level of task automation to help bring efficiency to their individual jobs. This is a good start, but it is not the same as automating entire ET processes.

Custom integration

If an IT organization wants to automate a process that touches various technologies, one option is to stitch solutions together themselves by doing their own custom integrations. This approach is not only time consuming (of IT resources that are already in short supply), but it also risks incurring additional costs as the custom automation needs to be supported and maintained as the point tools update.

Look to one vendor

Another option is to follow various vendors such as SAP as they expand their process footprint beyond being considered point products. For instance, SAP offers several processes that expand beyond traditional ERP, such as recruit-to-retain Human Resource Planning (e.g., Talent Acquisition & Onboarding, Personnel Administration and Performance & Succession), Financial Management (e.g., Field Sales Monitoring, Customer Profitability and Vendor Procurement Monitoring), and Customer Asset Management (e.g., Equipment Maintenance, Equipment Refurbishment and Equipment Disposal). That’s quite a broad range of ET process functionality.

However, it seems like a very tall ask for SAP to operate as a best-in-class offering both across all ET management processes (including security) and the entire enterprise portfolio from endpoints to infrastructure and applications. For instance, to expand into human resources, SAP bought SuccessFactors. However, as Alain Brouhard — former CIO at Coca-Cola — shares, a company might prefer to use a different HRM application and not be forced into an SAP-dominated process world.

Plus, it’s difficult to imagine SAP — or any other company — buying point products across the entire ETM framework, many of which likely wouldn’t be for sale, such as cloud provider management software including AWS Systems Manager.


Scattered and fragmented data

One consequence of using point tools is that an enterprise’s data about technology gets scattered across the siloed tools with no centralized system of record. Since point-tool functionality varies, they often have limited data that only concerns the technology function they are managing. This results in fragmented and often inaccurate enterprise technology information, making it difficult for a business to understand the state of its entire technology portfolio.

For instance, the CIO of a healthcare provider had to manage the technology for hundreds of dental offices across the country. As part of this service, the CIO’s team manages each dental office’s networked x-ray machines (endpoints) throughout their lifecycle. If this process were automated, the IT team might be able to:

  • Track which systems are approaching end of life, so they can be scheduled to be replaced before offices struggle with outdated equipment
  • Forecast and budget for replacement x-ray equipment, avoiding any budget request or supply chain surprises
  • Ensure newly purchased systems are configured correctly and patches are maintained
  • See and respond to detected security threats and policy violations
  • Track the historical reliability of each of its deployed systems, which can be useful in working with their x-ray vendor

Today, the unfortunate reality is that most IT organizations’ processes are not automated or optimized. For instance, most IT organizations can’t click a button and receive — within a few minutes +/- a second or two — an entire inventory of all technology deployed by the organization with exact locations, owners, lifecycle stage and security state. This would be handy for that healthcare provider to help them manage those networked dental office x-ray machines, and to ensure the operational availability for the dental practices they serve along with exceptional experiences for their customers.

Instead, it’s typical for different IT staff members to log in and out of several point solutions to access the data required to run various ET processes. This requires several manual interventions, including manually normalizing, aggregating, and analyzing disparate data sets. In the case of our healthcare provider, the risk is that it may take a long time to remediate critical performance or operational issues on some x-ray machines, while new x-ray machines may not be ordered on time to meet the needs of their customers, thus fueling ET process inefficiencies.


Poorly defined ET processes

Speaking of processes, the unfortunate truth is that many IT organizations have not defined all their ET processes. Or if they have, they tend to be defined in lengthy PDF files that are hard to define and follow and even more difficult to govern, maintain and share consistently.

The reality is that due to many operating pressures, people often don’t have the time to follow processes exactly. Plus, there are too many exceptions because the world is more complex than considered in the written-down processes. So, when it’s announced that auditors are coming in six weeks, everybody starts working like crazy to update log files, protocols and so forth to prove that we are living the system.

This frenzy to pass an audit just reduces the operating efficiency of the IT organization.

For maximum IT efficiency, processes would ideally be defined in software. This way, not only can they be automated, but details around what tasks were completed and when can be precisely tracked.


Lack of ET Process Maturity means opportunity

This all said, the fact that existing ET processes in general lack relative maturity implies there is room for improved efficiencies, and therefore, great opportunity for the CIO. If enterprise technology processes can be made more efficient through automation and continuous optimization, more money can be saved from existing IT budgets, which could be reallocated to fund innovative initiatives such as in digital transformation.