Capability & Maturity Assessments

When reviewing, measuring and improving business processes, most organizations tend to follow a quality-based, plan-do-check-act approach to continual improvement. The natural first step is to determine the current state (Where are we today?), followed by the establishment of best practice requirements for improvement (Where do we need to be?), and specific recommendations defined within an improvement roadmap or plan (How do we get there?).

In the vast majority of cases, internal audits are performed to determine how well, or to what extent, the organization’s people and processes conform to specific standards, legislative or regulatory requirements and controls. These results are most commonly expressed as a percentage. This indicates the extent to which compliance is achieved and helps to identify how much work needs to be done to close any gaps and nonconformities. 


But what if we need to go deeper?

Whilst compliance-based audits are still an essential requirement in many cases, it is sometimes helpful to examine beyond just minimum best practice in order to understand other factors, such as: 

  • the management intent and support for the processes
  • how well the processes are documented and understood
  • whether roles and responsibilities have been clearly defined and communicated
  • if sufficient and suitably skilled resources are available to effectively support the process
  • how well processes are performing (such as effectiveness and efficiency measures), and 
  • whether improvement opportunities are being identified and implemented. 

These additional factors essentially become the basis for developing Process Assessment Models (PAMs) for measuring process Capability and Maturity, in addition to Compliance. Such an approach is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the world today.

Depending on the required outcome, sometimes it may be preferable to examine either process Capability or Maturity, or perhaps a combination of both. 

Where Maturity represents an overall expression of the organization’s ability to control and manage its processes (whether reflected on a per-process basis, or as an overarching score for the system as a whole), measures of Capability have become increasingly prevalent through the adoption of process assessment standards such as ISO/IEC 15504 (now the ISO/IEC 33000 series), as leveraged by popular frameworks such as COBIT and others. 

Capability scoring essentially provides a stricter method that helps to ensure processes satisfy specific work product, quality and performance outcomes. Process Capability and Maturity are commonly represented on a scale of zero through to five. Whilst there are fundamental differences between these models, they essentially represent a progressive improvement through the levels of: 

  1. ad-hoc or informal activity;
  2. defined and repeatable practices;
  3. processes and roles being been defined, communicated and followed;
  4. controls and performance measures being established; and
  5. optimization through increased integration and support for business goals. 

In most cases, the achievement of Level 3 Capability or Maturity provides an ideal initial target, with added benefits to be achieved when reaching for Levels 4 and 5 (although the achievement of such higher levels is not always an essential requirement).


Measure Compliance, Capability and Maturity concurrently!

Solisma’s Service Improvement Manager (SIM) software solution provides a sophisticated assessment engine that allows you to measure process Compliance, Capability and Maturity concurrently. It’s Process Assessment Models (PAMs) have been designed in such a way that all three measures can be obtained based on your specific requirements and the desired outcomes from the review.

Doing so requires more than just an examination of best practice requirements, but other essential factors such as generic practices (management intent, support and definition of the process etc.), operational controls, performance reporting and continual improvement. When combined, these help to ensure that all aspects of a process, both tangible and non-tangible, are considered.

The ISO/IEC 33000 series of standards provide a robust methodology for assessing an organization’s processes using these perspectives. Various requirements and activities are mapped and analysed against one of nine different levels, with these then being used to determine a Capability score for each process.

Rather than having to do this manually, SIM’s powerful assessment engine is able to translate the results into measures of Capability, Maturity and Compliance instantaneously, thus saving significant time and effort during the reporting and analysis phase.


Leveraging Industry Best Practice


Numerous process assessment libraries can be used with SIM. These include options for IT Governance (such as COBIT) and Service Management (based on ITIL and/or the ISO/IEC 20000 standard) and more.

However, it’s also possible to create your own models using ISO/IEC 33000 guidance or, better still, templates you can use within SIM itself to significantly speed up the process. By using SIM’s powerful assessment engine to do the ‘heavy lifting’ for you, it’s now possible to measure Capability and Maturity against virtually any process, framework or standard.


Commencing an Assessment using SIM

To conduct a Capability or Maturity assessment, you will first need to decide which best practice framework or standard to assess yourself against. This could be achieved using one of the libraries that can be licensed with your instance of SIM, or by creating your own using a design template made available to you.

Upon completion, answers to the assessment questions are processed and translated into measures of Compliance, Capability and Maturity. This means that the results can be compared and analysed against differing perspectives and approaches based on your requirements. Where Compliance scores measure how well you align with minimum best practice, measures of Capability and Maturity help you to understand other factors that may be inhibiting the overall health of the process.


Capability/Maturity Uplift and Continual Improvement

Whilst a baseline assessment is essential to understanding the current state, another challenge arises when it comes to planning how to close the gaps and uplift maturity. Traditional approaches have relied heavily on spreadsheets to translate gaps into improvement activities, but this is often a time consuming and laborious process. But it doesn’t have to be…

When conducting an assessment with SIM any gaps are automatically translated into improvement tasks for you. Each improvement is tagged with:

  • Priority: for the preferred implementation order (to uplift capability and maturity)
  • Estimated Effort: indicating how long this will take (for planning purposes)
  • References: to authoritative sources and guidance (like having a consultant to guide you)

Based on these results, SIM also projects your future/target levels of increased Compliance, Capability and Maturity over the next 6, 12 and 18 months. This helps to understand the benefit of implementing ‘quick wins’ and to gain management buy-in and support for continual improvement.

When the assessment is closed in SIM, all improvements are published to the Improvement Register so that they can be centrally tracked and managed. These can then be assigned to individual team members to complete or, alternatively, an initiative may be used to manage the improvements as an overall programme or work complete with a business case and benefits tracking. SIM’s Initiative Manager includes features for mapping all improvements onto a timeline (gantt) based view, and for quickly and easily building a business case by identifying the costs, savings and benefits to be achieved. This level of planning helps you to obtain management funding and support for the initiative. More information on this will be provided in a separate article to follow.


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