The 5 levels of IT maturity that lead to digital transformation

Digital transformation is only possible for organisations which have reached a certain level of IT maturity.  Simon Kent assesses how advanced your business currently is and why organisations must think like Business Relationship Managers to reach digital transformation maturity.

Digital transformation is the hot topic in business technology right now.  It promises to sweep away incumbent restrictive IT, replacing it with flexible, responsive technology that will enable businesses to respond to changing customer demands.

However, many organisations are failing to progress past the talk and theorising.  The problem with digital transformation is that you can plan and strategise down to the finest minutia, but it will fail unless the correct building blocks are in place.

Digital transformation isn’t a project.  It’s a fundamental change in the way that IT is delivered and managed.  To realise benefits from it, organisations must therefore fundamentally change IT and their relationship with it.

The Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMi) maturity model is the perfect starting point for assessing your digital transformation organisational readiness.  Relationships are not only crucial to digital transformation, in my opinion, they are the factor that will ultimately decide success or failure.  Digital transformation requires collaboration, accountability, and leadership.  By studying the 5 levels of IT/Business relationship maturity in the context of digital transformation, it becomes easier to see why Business Relationship Management is so pivotal.

The IT/Business Relationship Maturity Model for Digital Transformation

Level 1 – Ad Hoc IT
At this level, there is little respect between IT and the business, with strategy either mis-communicated or mis-understood.  A silo mentality reigns, with both business and IT unaware of each other’s changes.  Clearly at level 1, digital transformation is close to impossible.  And sadly, if they were being honest, many organisations will admit they are at this level with some of their IT/Business relationships.

Level 2 – Order Taker
Regular demand is understood but little attention is paid to the value of IT.  The basic ITIL processes are implemented (incident, problem, change) but process-heavy IT service management is dominant and BRM is basically swamped in operational and service delivery ‘noise’.

At Level 2, IT is regarded as too slow and so Shadow IT appears as the business sources its own technology.  Although there are pockets of collaboration between individuals and departments which have discovered synergy, the IT silo operating model still prevails.  Basically, the business procures ‘stuff’ and throws it at IT to make it work.

Clearly at Level 2 digital transformation will be extremely difficult, because aside from a few informally created pockets of collaboration, there simply isn’t enough unity and understanding to develop anything but small scale, piecemeal projects. 

Level 3 – Service Provider
Organisations at this advanced stage have the highest level and maturity from ITIL processes and IT value for money is articulated. BRM is understood and has executive support and as a result, IT is trusted to run the business.  IT silos are starting to break down and collaboration is common place – DevOps is being used by businesses at this level to further cross functional collaboration.

Now for the negatives.  IT has an awareness of business strategy, but it is not necessarily visible, understood or embedded into all IT work. This means that while IT has the grounding needed to lead digital transformation, it lacks the strategic insight needed to execute.

Level 4 – Trusted Advisor
IT shows agility and the ability to deliver transformation with operational acceptance.  Business consults with and proactively requests IT guidance on technology initiatives.  IT proactively lead pockets of technology investment decisions based on shared business outcomes and strategy.  Value is accurately considered in all portfolio and project decision making.  At this advanced stage, digital transformation is underway with some good case studies and lessons learned from value realisation.

Level 5 – Strategic Partner
IT leads business decision making.  Strategy is defined together and IT is used to define strategic advantage.  An experimentation, collaboration and fail-fast operating model prevails.  What was formerly known as IT risk, investments, value are now all seen as business risk, investment and value.  There is no IT and the business; it’s all business.  Digital transformation is in full swing and is continuous.

I think this maturity scale is a great way of observing why so many organisations are failing at digital transformation.  Until Level 3 is reached, there is little point trying to realise some of the grander plans of digital transformation.  The organisation before this point is simply incapable of working at a cross-departmental, strategic way and so the unified, company-defining concept of technology transformation is simply a “pipedream”.

Not only is IT/Business relationship maturity crucial to digital transformation, in many ways, achieving the maturity outlined here IS digital transformation.  Creating collaborative IT which is strategically and operationally converged with the business is the foundation which will deliver the responsiveness and innovation that digital transformation promises.   In other words, working on IT maturity and BRM is the path to digital transformation, rather than focusing on digital transformation as a stand-alone pursuit.   

Download our guide 8-Steps to Achieving Digital Transformation Success: the basics holding organisations back and how to overcome them.

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