Processes. They’re everywhere in an organization; yes, even where they aren’t evident. By definition, a process is a set of activities performed in order to accomplish a specific objective. There may not be a formal process, but where someone performs an activity, there’s certainly a process.

Since many years ago organizations have defined their processes in many different domains—manufacturing, marketing, sales, logistics, customer service—and in the last few years there has been a peculiar focus on IT processes. Why is this? Let’s see.

The same way that during the Industrial Age quality management became a priority for businesses in order to enhance their manufacturing processes, now in the Digital Age the outcome of IT processes has got management’s attention; hence the large number of organizational initiatives around the world to adopt frameworks or standards (like ITIL, SCRUM, DevOps) which help organizations shape or define processes that deliver consistent outcomes.

There is a slight difference, however, between the approach taken by organizations during the Industrial Age and the way they are acting in this Digital Age. The link between manufacturing and the business seems to be very clear, as we all associate directly production with money, which—let’s be honest—is the priority of every business. But this link is not as evident between IT processes and businesses in the Digital Age, which should be absolutely clear for all businesses, because now it is IT which is enabling all kinds of businesses! As surprising as it sounds, many business (and even some IT) managers ignore this fact. Therefore the focus put on IT process improvement is not being as strong as the focus put on quality management back in the Industrial Age.

Why do businesses and IT organizations need to focus as hard on IT process improvement as they did on manufacturing processes’ quality back then? Because it is now IT that runs the business! IT is as critical for business survival as manufacturing was (and of course still is) for many businesses; and moreover, this time we’re talking about absolutely all industries, not only companies manufacturing products, but also service providers.

How should businesses approach IT process improvement?

Of course there are many frameworks and guidance out there that can help organizations improve their digital processes, but there has been a confusion in many areas that needs to be set clear. Being compliant with a standard or doing everything a framework suggests does not necessarily mean that the process is good, or useful. We all have heard about “process maturity”, and this is what I’m talking about here.

Many people think that maturity means checking more boxes from the list of requirements from a standard or best practice, but there must be a clear differentiation between compliance and maturity. Compliance is just meeting a requirement from an authority or some other kind of regulation, but that won’t necessarily create value for anyone. Maturity is a bit different; maturity means that a process fulfills a need; value is delivered to someone (ideally the process’ customers). Maturity means that the process’ activities flow seamlessly in such a way as to ensure a consistent production of outcomes, usually through some kind of automation. Maturity is the degree in which a process meets the value creation needs of its customers.

In the next posts I will be talking about different aspects of process maturity. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date with the most relevant topics on IT management.