All IT organizations have processes. Whether they acknowledge it or not, the activities they perform are part of a process, which may or may not be defined; but that’s precisely the difference between an ad-hoc and a defined process. But the journey of a process doesn’t end when we define it; on the contrary, it should start there.
Once a process is defined, higher levels of maturity of that process should be pursued. It doesn’t really matter what discipline in IT we’re talking about—Security, IT Service Management, Development, Operations, Project Management, Architecture, Infrastructure—all domains have processes whose maturity should be taken care of.
Every organization will have different priorities that will justify the need for a higher maturity level of certain processes over others, but speaking in general terms, there are some benefits that an organization obtains when it really pursues a higher maturity level of its processes overall.
1. Ensure Consistency of Results
One of the reasons for defining a formal process is of course achieving consistency in the outcomes of activities, but just the definition of the process won’t be enough. The process has to be deployed and communicated throughout the organization, and moreover enforced and controlled, so that results are actually consistent. A defined process has good intentions, but it has to gobeyond definition in order to achieve consistency of outcomes.
2. Reduce Waste
So many people dislike processes because they add more work than value, and this is sadly true for many processes in the IT industry. Processes that get stagnated on maturity will eventually become a source of waste instead of a means for reducing it. Mature processes are agile, which means they use only what they need to achieve all they are intended to achieve. A mature process will be properly monitored, measured and controlled, therefore it will be easy to detect unnecessary tasks and resources and reshape it to keep it swift and simple.
3. Respond Faster to Changing Requirements
The world is changing at the speed of data, and businesses of all kinds are trying to keep on that pace. Requirements for IT are rapidly changing, and the process structures that supported former ways of working are no longer sufficient to meet the business’ and customer’s needs. Processes have to adapt as quickly as possible, with the less negative impact as possible, in order to maintain value delivery to the stakeholders. Take for instance the cloud; the way many IT services are being delivered has changed, and if the former processes supporting the service are not adapted to this new type of service delivery, I’m afraid there will be a reduction on customer satisfaction with time (which takes me to the next benefit).
4. Increase Stakeholders’ Satisfaction
It’s not about creating new processes; it’s about having mature processes that, by having good and relevant indicators (KPIs) defined, being aligned with the business and customer goals they are meant to support, and delivering meaningful information that helps with the identification of trends and forecasts, can be adapted in a somewhat natural way as soon as the needs of the customers evolve. This will just create happier customers, which can also be translated into higher customer retention rates, which is equal to higher revenue margins for the business. A process that is no longer able to support a customer need will not only be an obstacle for solving a specific problem when it arises, but will also be detrimental for customer satisfaction.
5. Demonstrate Value in Quantifiable Terms
How many people in IT struggle with being able to demonstrate the value of a process they own, manage or support? Or explain it to any customer of that process, or even understand it themselves! One of the constant issues we see in IT organizations in general is that it is difficult for them to see the actual value a process has for the overall organization. Process activities and policies are many times seen as arbitrary definitions everyone needs to comply with, or even as bureaucratic measures. Go figure what perception the business/customer has. This is nothing more than the lack of mature processes that have all those (and only those) attributes they need to meet their stakeholders’ value requirements.
The maturity of the people involved in the process is another factor to consider, but that may be a separate subject to discuss on a later post.
Do you think your IT organization’s processes are mature enough? Do you carry out regular and comprehensive maturity assessments besides audits? Feel free to leave us your comments below!