Several documented approaches are available for business and IT leaders to use when considering implementing the best practices of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), or the Software Engineering Institute’s capability maturity model integration (CMMI) or Lean Six Sigma as individual methodologies or frameworks.
There also are some references that suggest how to use the methodologies or frameworks in combination, or that describe their compatibilities and synergies.
However, business leaders who want to enjoy the benefits of the combined methodologies and frameworks need a clear implementation roadmap – a roadmap that highlights the sequence of key tasks along the path of integration (see figure below).
Beginning with ITIL Alignment
A fundamental leadership responsibility is to look at the organization and assess its current performance and capability to achieve its prescribed objectives. Often this assessment leads to a look at the individual processes and their performance. When the organizational performance is not at the level where it should be, and the assessment reveals processes are not in place to support the objectives, then a decision has to be made about adopting ITIL and aligning the organization and its processes to the framework.
ITIL, as a best practices framework, describes the set of processes a strong and well performing IT organization needs. The ITIL framework describes the processes, their objectives, roles and responsibilities and as well the basic interfaces and interactions between the processes. The first tasks on the integration roadmap then are to align the organization to the ITIL framework and begin adopting the prescribed functions and processes. This requires such things as assigning process owners and their responsibilities from the organization and documenting the processes using the ITIL framework as the reference.
The ITIL framework is now in its third major revision and is the culmination of more than 30 years effort in combining the best practices used by IT organizations thoughout the world. Beginning with an ITIL alignment affords the leader an opportunity to take advantage of this experience.
Assessing Maturity Using CMMI
What is the difference between an “improved” process and a “mature” process? An individual process can be improved so that it produces its output better, faster and with less cost or with fewer defects. But processes do not exist in isolation. They exist within an organization and its culture and climate. This implies a process can be producing its output, but is not fully mature in terms of how well it is documented or how deeply it is integrated with other processes and the organization in whole. The process also can fail when it comes under stress. A key indicator for this situation is the process is bypassed when the organization comes under pressure. In other words, the process needs an environment conducive to its stable operation.
A maturity estimation, based in part on CMMI, allows leaders to understand how well integrated the processes are within the organization. In this phase of the integration, leaders look at such things as vision and steering, culture, technology, people and the process interactions and interfaces. The processes are assessed in terms of their maturity in these areas, and action plans are developed to bring the processes to a higher level of maturity on a prescribe scale. The result of this effort is management that understands the environment the process operates within and has clear focus areas for improvement.
At this point on the integration journey, leaders ideally have a set of ITIL prescribed processes, which are well documented and strongly aligned within the organization and process maturity has been assessed and action plans are in place for increasing the maturity. It is now time to begin the continuous improvement activities and optimize the process outputs.
Moving to Full Process Optimization
Those familiar with the Lean Six Sigma methodology may ask, “Why is the voice of the customer (VOC) activity beginning after processes have been documented and implemented? Shouldn’t VOC actually determine the process design?”
That is a valid question, and here is the rational: This VOC collection activity is focused on confirming the business specific critical-to-quality characteristics (CTQs) for the individual ITIL processes, as the basis for the improvement activities that will follow. The process descriptions and general performance objectives, offered in the ITIL framework, have been accepted and process implementation has begun, but there is still a need for the business specific improvement activities. ITIL prescribed process outputs and the interactions with other processes are not questioned, but rather an effort to establish business unique process performance targets is beginning. This can only be derived from the formal VOC collection process.
Conducting the VOC collection process at this point on the integration roadmap has another beneficial effect. The wider business is observing a change in the IT leader’s organization as it aligns and adopts the ITIL framework, and assesses itself on process maturity. When the leader takes the opportunity now to discuss with the business their specific and measurable expectations from the IT organization and the leader demonstrates a willingness to adopt a formal methodology such as Six Sigma to deliver process improvements, the business leadership becomes even more supportive and can understand the tangible benefits that will come from the initiatives.
The remaining tasks along the integration roadmap are relatively standard for a process improvement or optimization initiative. Voice of the customer information is transformed into business-level and process-level Y’s, performance is baselined and process performance goals are established. At the process-level, improvement projects are launched and at the business-level a formal continuous improvement program, including a tollgate review process and scorecards, is implemented.
Results: The Best of Everything
What can business and IT leaders expect to realize for their organizations by following this roadmap? The organization has well defined and documented processes that collectively have been demonstrated to deliver superior IT services to the business. The processes are integrated and operating at a measurable and standardized maturity level. The customer expectations have been documented and process improvement activities are based on a combination of these customer expectations and the process maturity results. Finally, there is a continuous improvement program in place that constantly refers back to the ITIL framework, a maturity assessment and customer expectations.