Process Maturity Assessments

I recently gave a workshop outlining the basic ideas and steps needed to design and implement ITSM processes. During the workshop we discussed the importance of knowing the maturity level of your processes. You determine the maturity of your processes by conducting a maturity assessment. Using a maturity assessment model will allow you to know where your processes currently reside in terms of usability, effectiveness, efficiency and economy. You can also determine what level of maturity you want your processes to achieve as a future state. Finally a maturity assessment will show you what steps you need to take to close the gap between your “as is” process and your “to be” future state.

There are three maturity assessment models you might think about using. Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), ISO/IEC 15504 and the ITIL Process Maturity Framework (PMF). All three use a multi-level approach to identify the maturity of your processes. Each also uses a set of assessment criteria to determine the level of maturity. Let’s dive a little bit deeper into how these models work by looking at the ITIL Process Maturity Framework (PMF).

The framework consists of five (5) levels:
  1. Optimizing—Institutionalized process; strategic objectives aligned to business goals
  2. Managed—Well defined processes and process interfaces; objectives and targets are aligned with business goals
  3. Defined—Documented process; agreed objectives and targets
  4. Repeatable—Recognized process; no clear objectives or formal targets
  5. Initial—No defined process; some procedures; few results retained
Levels 1-3 require a focus on the internal workings and mechanisms of the process you are assessing. At level 1, since no process is defined, you must take on the task of defining and documenting your process. At level 2 you have a defined and documented process but must work to establish metrics and methods of improving the process. At level three you have a documented, usable and workable process. In many ways level 3 is a sufficient level for smoothly functioning and productive processes. Many companies aim for level 3 for their processes as a future state since it provides them with the level of efficiency, effectiveness and economy they seek for their customers.

Levels 4-5 require a focus on the external factors and mechanisms that effect and impact the process you are assessing. At level 4 we are moving towards integrating processes together and so the focus becomes how two or more processes might work together to achieve success as a pair or group of processes. At level 5 you move towards total integration of all the ITIL processes as a single whole. To achieve true level 5 processes you need to see not a set of individual processes, but one ITSM system composed of a number of integrated and aligned parts (in the form of processes).

Using a process maturity assessment model like the PMF can give you great insight into how well you have done up until this point and how much more you might have to go before you achieve your desired future state. It also helps to lay out the plan or roadmap for how you will achieve your “to be” future state for your processes.

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