As an IT service management (ITSM) consultant, customers sometimes start by asking me to carry out a maturity assessment. They usually tell me that they want to know how they compare to other similar organizations, and how they rate against an industry approved scale.
There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
When I was less experienced I assumed that my customers understood what they were asking for, and knew why they wanted it, and my job was simply to carry out the assessment that had been requested. I even developed tools to help me deliver consistent maturity assessments based on the ITIL service management process maturity framework, which can be found in Appendix H of ITIL Service Design, 2011 edition. But I know better now. I have learned to ask more searching questions, so that I understand what my customers’ real goals are, and then provide a properly focused assessment that will help to solve their problems.
So, what’s wrong with maturity assessments? And is there something more valuable that you can and should do instead? To answer these questions we need to start by thinking about why an assessment might be needed in the first place. What is it for, and what value does it create?
Many customers ask for assessments because they are planning improvements. It’s just good sense. If you’re planning to make improvements, then you need to understand what you are currently doing, for a number of reasons:
An assessment carried out at the beginning of your improvement journey can help with all three of these.
But does it need to be a maturity assessment, per se? In case you are unfamiliar, a maturity assessment provides a score based on comparing what you do with a pre-defined set of management best practices. It typically provides a score on a scale from 1 (least mature) to 5 (most mature). The best known maturity assessment model is CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration).
So suppose I tell you that your current maturity level is 2. That’s pretty limited even in terms of providing a baseline, and it definitely doesn’t help identify and prioritize the things you need to fix. Even in terms of success criteria, it’s not very useful. Would increasing your maturity to level 3 be a good thing? Why? What value would that deliver to your customers?
Here are some of the things that can be a much more useful focus for assessment than maturity:
Once you have reviewed these aspects of your organization, you may want to consider reviewing the effectiveness and efficiency of your ITSM processes. A process assessment can help to identify things that need to be improved – and even more importantly, it can help to identify things that are good so you can encourage people to do more of them. But don’t get too focused on internal goals and metrics; it’s how well you’re meeting your customers’ needs that counts. If your improvement activities stay focused on that, then you can be sure you’ll never lose sight of what’s important.
If you still want to carry out a maturity assessment then you should read this blog by SysAid CEO Sarah Lahav, for another viewpoint.