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Opinion: Measuring your firm’s IT maturity

Industry Insight

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Architects and engineers make the world we live in more beautiful, functional and safe. They are typically driven to produce results that inspire and help people in one way or another. You can’t go anywhere in the modern world without seeing the wondrous result of an architect or engineer’s hard work.

Behind the creativity and calculations of these humans are powerful computing systems and the networks to keep those systems running and delivering at peak performance. However, the key to a seasoned and effective architecture or engineering firm goes beyond simply installing powerful computing systems. The organization must have a mature strategy for their information systems. Firms that have this understanding are more profitable and successful. Organizations can use a model wherein maturity is measured by examining five levels of information technology maturity. This model applies to architectural firms, engineering firms and just about any other organization. In order from 1-least mature to 5-most mature, the levels of maturity are:

1. Beginning. If your firm is at this level, you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re generally characterized as being too flexible. Your service quality and budget are unpredictable, and the strategic value that IT offers is unrecognized.

2. Emerging. You are beginning to realize the things you don’t know. Emerging organizations are generally characterized as still being overly flexible. Your service quality and budget are unpredictable, but you at least have an initial awareness of the need for IT’s strategic value.

3. Scaling. If you are at the scaling level, you have a basic understanding of the total cost of service quality. Organizations at this level are generally characterized by a reduced level of flexibility that yields increased service quality and IT budget predictability. Basic business value is being delivered by IT.

4. Optimizing. You have a good understanding of the total cost of service quality. Organizations that are optimizing are generally characterized as having stringent standards and minimized flexibility. You have a strong service quality and a high level of IT budget efficiency. You have strategic alignment basics in place.

5. Innovating. Your organization has an ingrained understanding of the total cost of service quality. Organizations at this level are generally characterized as adding controlled flexibility and enabling new lines of business or revenue with IT. Your IT is integrated into or leading the company strategy.

Those descriptions are written at a high level, as there are many subcategories that help determine one’s actual maturity level.

As mentioned, the level of maturity is determined based on three categories, or what we refer to as “controls,” as well as many subcontrols. Here are the controls for determining the level of IT maturity:

1. Operational scalability. This explores how IT in your firm is allowing for greater operational efficiency and scalability. This control deals with aspects of technology standards, cloud technology, IT roles and skills, projects, change requests, documentation, security and much more. Efficiency for any organization usually translates to profitability. That is why this control is so important to many business owners.

2. Governance and controls. This explores how IT in your organization is allowing for reduced risk. This control deals with aspects of IT budgeting, value creation, contribution levels at the executive table and operational review meetings. Governance is typically seen as risk mitigation by organizations, and that generally translates to cost savings and profitability – two things business owners don’t find boring.

3. Strategic alignment and business value. This explores the characteristics of end-user training, revenue growth, creating new business opportunities, managing vendors, measuring effectiveness and efficiency, and other strategic growth concerns.

This idea of maturity shouldn’t be foreign. There are levels of operating maturity in every area of a company, whether it be management of sales, finances and strategy or other aspects of business operations. The problem is few executives take the time to know there is a model of maturity to their IT environment and to learn how it should be managed. The level of IT maturity, unlike many other categories in business management, usually touches every single aspect and every single employee in an organization. It can have far-reaching effects for increasing profitability, mitigating risks and decreasing expenses.

Todd Nielsen is chief strategy officer for JMark Business Solutions Inc. in Springfield. He can be reached at tnielsen@jmark.com.

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