Framework Hopes to Fill IT, Business Gaps

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Despite some pretty creative uses of fabric, I've never seen a garment in which one size truly fits all. And I question whether one process-improvement framework will work for every IT organization.


In April I wrote about using multiple frameworks, an approach suggested by Mike Harris, owner and president of David Consulting Group and one of three authors of a new book titled "The Business Value of IT: Managing Risks, Optimizing Performance and Measuring Results." When I interviewed him, Harris told me most organizations would derive value from implementing three popular improvement methodologies: ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and related Technology ) and CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration). The trick, he said, is to "take the strengths of each one and to apply them in the right way."


As Harris explained it, the business would be most involved with COBIT, which provides a framework for governance and control of IT providers; somewhat less so with ITIL, which focuses on best practices for IT operations; and even less so with CMMI, which focuses on best practices for systems and software development.


This approach, and IT generally, lacks a unifying framework that focuses directly on the value IT can contribute to the business in a language that business leaders can understand. The Innovation Value Institute (IVI), a consortium of industry, consulting, not-for-profit and academic organizations, is attempting to fill that need with its IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT-CMF), a five-stage maturity model it introduced last February.When I interviewed Sheila Upton, director of Technology and Security Risk Services for Ernst & Young, a member of the IVI, she told me:


You really have to get tangible about your value. It's interesting that people always ask the questions "why" on business cases. Why do we need this? What's it going to do for us? What we've seen with our clients in the last few months that is interestingly different, a lot of people are not just trying to cut costs, but they are trying to readjust where they spend. It's about cutting something here, so they can spend it somewhere else. Therefore, the important question becomes "when." When do I need to spend it? When can I get the benefit? And if I don't do it now, when am I going to have to make a decision? So "when" has become very important in everyone's mind.


Among the IVI members using the IT-CMF are Chevron, BP and Merck Research Laboratories, all of which share their experiences in a SearchCIO.com article about the framework. An assessment of Merck's IT innovation-management processes performed by fellow IVI members led to $850,000 in savings for one project alone, a rollout of tablet PCs to clinicians. According to the article, the assessment helped put a number on IT's ability to reduce the waste of lab resources and time. Since the tablets will soon expand to more researchers, Merck expects to enjoy even higher savings.


The framework focuses on 36 processes that are divided into four key management areas:

  • Managing the IT budget to deliver better performance and value.
  • Managing the IT capability in core process areas.
  • Managing IT for business value by tying IT investments to business benefits.
  • Managing IT like a business by focusing on end users and services versus technology.


The article also touches upon the collaborative process for creating the framework. In November, I shared some interesting thoughts on that from Dr. Martin Curley, director of Intel Labs Europe and co-director of the IVI. 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 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."


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.