There's lots of talk about collaboration within companies, and some companies are extending their collaborative initiatives beyond the corporate walls, to suppliers and other partners, to their customers and sometimes even to competitors. That last category is still pretty rare, so I always find it interesting to hear more about how it works out for companies actually doing it.
One such company is Intel, a driving force behind the Innovation Value Institute (IVI), a consortium that researches and develops unifying frameworks and road maps to more firmly align IT investments with bottom-line business results. Earlier this year I interviewed IVI member Sheila Upton, director of Technology and Security Risk Services for Ernst & Young, about the IVI's work, specifically about its IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT-CMF), a five-stage maturity model used to organize and structure a framework for mapping IT improvement efforts.
Despite the plethora of frameworks already used by many IT organizations, including ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) and COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and related Technology), Upton said the IVI felt there was a need for a more inclusive and unifying framework and especially one that could help measure and demonstrate the value IT delivers to the business.
That sentiment was echoed by Dr. Martin Curley, director of Intel Labs Europe and co-Director of the IVI, in his recent interview with InnovationManagement.se. He said:
A main issue CIOs face is trying to derive greater demonstrable business value from IT spend amid tighter IT budgets while wrestling with many other demands such as complexity, security, capacity, agility and innovation. While today's stark economic outlook makes optimizing IT's value a top priority, there currently is no integrated, standardized framework for making and evaluating investment decisions strategically from a holistic perspective at the corporate level.
Intel sought to recruit IVI members from six key communities: the technology ecosystem, enterprise end-users, public-sector end-users, analysts, academia and CIO and professional associations. It got a number of them to join, including Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft, SAP, Chevron, BP, Gartner EXP and CEPIS (Council of European Professional Informatics Societies).
The idea, said Curley, was for the IVI to gain "a force multiplier effect, i.e. that we can achieve results faster, cheaper and with a better quality than any one organization can deliver on their own." This approach is increasingly popular in many quarters. Netflix recently employed this collaborative approach to good effect with a million-dollar competition to find an algorithm to improve the accuracy of its recommendation system. Several teams from around the world that entered the competition ended up combining their efforts and Netflix got access to some great minds for a fraction of what it normally spends on R&D.
The open-innovation model works well for the IVI, said Curley, because "consortium members are working on a problem which is pervasive in the industry and is bigger than any one company or university could solve on its own." He added:
This brings about a generative behavior and so called "social production" with the goals of the consortium transcending individual and even organizations' goals. A key factor in the success so far is having an integrated research plan with a common vocabulary and taxonomy.
Curley said the IVI members and partners test the IT-CMF, with a requirement that all tools are tested at at least three organizations before being released to the broader community. A technical committee comprised of executives and professionals from the IVI's patrons and contributors helps with quality control.
The five maturity levels of the framework:
The IT-CMF emphasizes four macro processes at each of the five stages: managing the IT budget, managing the IT capability, managing IT for business value and managing IT like a business. Said Curley:
A key transition is to move IT from being reactive to proactive and ultimately to move IT to where it is understood as "innovation technology.
The framework is underpinned by 36 critical processes, from areas such as enterprise architecture, technical infrastructure management, governance and innovation. It "attempts to cover all of the main processes that a CIO needs to manage," Curley said.