My last post on this topic, Plugging the IT Management Gap for Small & Medium Businesses, identifies a gap between the growing sophistication and complexity of today’s SMB IT environment and the availability of adequate resources and skills on the part of SMB business to manage that environment. Starting in the mid 1980s, several conceptual frameworks have appeared to guide thinking about how to improve IT management, stabilize IT processes and get the most value from IT investments. I believe that these frameworks can make a huge difference to how IT operates, in part because adoption of a framework demands a necessary level of discipline in information gathering, performance monitoring and reporting. I've found the classic model developed by Gartner in the 1980s to be a good starting place. The Tuesday Technology Report has discussed the Gartner model previously (see, for example, TTR volume 3, issue 4) and, of course, my most recent post; but also more recent frameworks being developed by the University of Ireland's Innovation Value Institute. See, for example, stories from TTR volume 6, issue 5 and TTR volume 6, issue 1. In my next two posts, I'd like to dig a little deeper into the ways small and medium business can use a maturity model and, without prejudice to any others of the many useful models around, focus on Gartner’s five-level IT Management Maturity Model as a useful framework for assessing current IT management maturity and building a roadmap for improvement. As a refresher for those not familiar with it, the characteristics of organizations at each of level of the Gartner model are:
- Chaotic: a near-total lack of IT support procedures and operational discipline, resulting in unreliable systems and dissatisfied users; IT support responds to everything in a make-shift manner, usually with inadequate results; the organization views IT as a necessary expense, rather than a business asset, and fails to understand the value of investing in improved IT management.
- Reactive: effective help desk, with consistent service incident handling & timely resolution, system monitoring, for early problem detection and rapid resolution; up-to-date training of technicians also fosters timely problem resolution; reliable backup & recovery for critical data implemented.
- Proactive: proactive problem identification, analysis and resolution minimizes service disruption; systemic procedures for applying patches/updates avoid system failures and security issues; risks to service availability are sought out and remedied; sophisticated IT service management automation enables system performance monitoring and utilization management for the IT support staff; changes to IT systems are well planned to reduce the potential for adverse impact.
- Service-Oriented: a business view of IT management is adopted and IT capabilities viewed as "services"; acceptable service levels for availability, performance, and IT responsiveness are agreed upon with the business and measured; service levels for internal IT operations and external suppliers are monitored, analyzed and reported in order to manage SLA compliance; proactive future needs assessment and capacity planning; service continuity planning ensures service restoration times meet business continuity goals.
- Value Creation: IT metrics expanded to include business attributes; proactive IT services portfolio management; new, cost-effective solutions continuously deployed to enhance business agility and capability; financial management to optimize IT investment return; cost-benefit analyses determine optimum technology refresh timing; trade-offs between difference solution models are continually examined for potential cost savings; IT planning is integral to strategic business planning and IT objectives linked to business objectives.
While even enterprise-scale organizations struggle somewhat to increase IT management maturity, smaller organizations often find the challenges overwhelming. It is difficult for them to invest enough to build the expertise and implement the processes and automated systems necessary to realize the full benefits of moving from level to level. In my next post, we’ll see how Technical Staffing and IT Management services from a capable and experienced IT services provider can help them. In my next post, I will explore challenges facing SMB businesses trying to improve IT management, and identify ways that third-party Technical Staffing and IT Management services can help. Feel free to e-mail me or call me at 1-800-387-5045 to find out how Compugen’s Technical Staffing and IT Management offerings can help your business.