The Business-IT Maturity Model: Moving to the Next Level (part three)

This is the final part of a three-part series of papers on a Business-IT Maturity Model (BIMM).

Using the Business-IT Maturity Model

At its heart, the BIMM is a communications and calibration tool. For this reason, it is deliberately simple and evocative. Any business executive can engage in a meaningful discussion of business demand and IT supply and how these change over time. To use the BIMM systematically, you might use it to assess and drive discussion of:

  • The current state of business demand and IT supply and how well they are aligned.
  • Gaps between supply and demand, their significance and how best to close them.
  • How business demand maturity might vary by business unit, and how to accommodate and even leverage unevenness in business demand.
  • The IT Operating Model and how this should evolve to drive changes in Business-IT maturity.

The BIMM is intentionally simple to grasp and relatively open-ended. The model is a management tool, not a scientific instrument. Its primary purpose and value lie in driving dialogue, especially among business and IT leaders, about the current state and potential evolution of business demand and IT supply. In the process, they can align priorities, resources and ambitions; clarify strategic intents for the business use of technology; stimulate business appetite for IT capabilities; and maximise the current and future business value of IT.

One of the keys in using the BIMM is scope, or ‘unit of analysis’. The BIMM can have value in assessing average demand and supply maturity across an enterprise. However, while averages can be useful, they can also be misleading. It may be more enlightening to apply the BIMM to a business unit, division or segment, especially if demand and/or supply maturity vary substantially across units. Knowing, for example, that business demand in Business Unit A is low Level 3, while in Business Units B and C it is high Level 1, could have significant implications for appointing business-IT relationship managers and designing shared IT services across the three units.

Moving to the Next Level

Moving to the next level in the BIMM always involves discontinuity. You can’t reach Level 2 by simply getting better and better at Level 1 activities. To reach Level 2, both the business and IT organisations have to do new things, unlearn some old ways and do old things in different ways.

Moving from one level to the next typically involves new methods and techniques. More challenging, it involves breakthroughs in mindset, ambitions and values. When the business and IT reach equilibrium at one level, IT’s customers may express everyday satisfaction, but the perceived business value of IT will gradually decline. After all, IT is doing the ‘same old stuff,’ albeit well. If business and IT leadership are alert to the business potential of technology, then pressure builds to increase the business value of IT investments, assets and initiatives – and the move to the next level.

Level 3 creates business possibilities that don’t exist at lower levels. Yes, you can achieve isolated business product and process innovation at all levels, but typically it’s through heroics – and heroics are neither sustainable nor widespread. At Level 3, powerful, agile IT capabilities exist across the company, reinforced by leadership vision, collaboration and excellence in management processes and disciplines.

Common ‘Sticking Points’ along the Journey

The transformation from Level 2 to Level 3 is quite different from the Level 1 to 2 shift, and many IT organisations find themselves stuck in Level 2. Figure 2 below illustrates some of the common sticking points that derail the Level 2 to 3 transformation.

Business IT Maturity Model Part 3

As an example of the dilemmas involved in driving Business-IT maturity, while moving from Level 1 to 2 is an exercise in rigor, discipline and standardisation, the Level 2 to 3 shift is about innovation. A culture obsessed with rigor and discipline may find innovation stifled. At the lower levels, IT organisations learn for to constrain demand to match fixed and limited supply – with mechanisms such as business cases and governance boards. At Level 3, supply should be constrained only by business value. If the business need is real, and the value proposition compelling, supply limitations should not be allowed to stand in the way of the business needs being met.

Moving from Level 1 to 2 requires mastery of project and service management. Getting to Level 3 cannot be achieved by getting even better at project and service management – these are foundational competencies – they must be in place, but are insufficient to reach a Level 3 environment. To get to Level 3, without losing focus on the foundational competencies, IT organisations (and the businesses with which they partner) must also master programme, portfolio and product management.

Level 1 to 2 transition requires strong IT architecture capabilities, typically focused on physical and logical technology architectures and roadmaps. Getting to Level 3 demands strong enterprise architecture capabilities – business driven, with more to do with business models and capabilities. For a Level 1 to 2 transition, IT organisations must be good ‘order takers’ with their business customers. However, good ‘order taking’ will prevent you from reaching Level 3, which rather demands a real partnership between business and IT.


The sticking points at mid-Level 2 are many, subtle and complex. The steepness of the maturity curve at the halfway point is significant. The change in the curve’s trajectory is real. Even low Level 3 performance is very different from high Level 2 performance – it demands different kinds of IT capabilities delivering different types of services in different forms of partnership between business and IT.

If you are a business leader, you owe it to your shareholders to extract the maximum possible value from all investments, including those for IT. If you are an IT leader, you owe it to your stakeholders to inspire them to reach for Level 3, and to extract the maximum possible value from IT. The Business-IT Maturity Model can be an effective tool in helping increase the business value of IT – by shifting the IT dialogue from cost to value, by elevating business demand and by improving the effectives of IT supply.

The model and its application are further described in part 1 and part 2.

I welcome your thoughts.

Vaughan Merlyn

Formicio Insight Article – The Business-IT Maturity Model: Moving to the Next Level (part three)

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