On Process maturity assessments

Process maturity models start from the assumption that such a model is capable to identify process performance from multiple perspectives and setup an enterprise change program.

Dan Kane‘s post is clear regarding pure capabilities of this advanced models.

A typical maturity assessment starts with the assumption, implicit or explicit, that improved process maturity is an end goal in and of itself.  Here is a great example of what I mean, based on the CMMI model of evaluating maturity.  The definition of Level 1 maturity for Incident Management indicates there is no defined owner of the process.  Part of reaching Level 2 maturity is identifying a single process owner.  I agree that having a single owner of the process is a good thing, but what goal does it help achieve?  Moving to Maturity Level 2?  Congratulations.  My concern is that many maturity assessments end there.  You’re at Level 2 (or 4, it doesn’t matter).  Now what?

One month ago Capgemini published a new BPM report state of the nation. This study show evidence that many companies reported that most of its business process had a maturity level of 3 : defined and compliant with business rules (or any similar outcome) and what to move to level 4 (in a scale of 5).

During this year enterprises I work with are facing continuum pressure to improve operational processes, focused on cutting costs. Change candidates are normally the ones that use more resources. Typically is being said maturity models help managers to make decisions where to start change programs, but practice shows that managers ignore it. This is because maturity models ignore proper human reasoning and human perception of what must be changed. Managers feel correctly what is needed to be transformed.

Do you believe it’s worth to start a change program because you have a process at level 3 maturity stage when a level 5 process, customer critical is the first candidate? What if all processes equalize at level 5 (like human assessment methods that after 3 years of implementation 80% of employees reach the top of the scale).

Hence, what is the value of maturity models?

5 thoughts on “On Process maturity assessments

  1. Hi, I am a PhD student examining different kinds of process maturity models, in order to provide a comprehensive overview of existing models, and trying to theorise them.

    In my opinion, maturity models are a good way of helping organisations in improving towards higher process orientedness, and so higher performance. However, they should not be blindly followed. Managers should decide for themselves which processes are important enough to invest up to the highest maturity levels (i.e. those that are critical to customers). Other processes, e.g. support processes, may end up with level 2-3 as optimal level, and need not necessarily be improved towards level 5. That would be a needless overinvestment of time, money, resources, etc.

    I must say that organisations with processes on level 5 are not yet the rule. Most processes are still on level 2 or 3. Personally, I don’t know any organisation with all its processes on level 5. If you know some, please let me know, because they would be interesting case study material for my research!

    What after level 5? Most maturity models are not yet prepared for this future step, probably because most processes / organisations have not yet reached that goal. So current maturity models can still be improved, I admit. The better for us, researchers 🙂
    I am sure that most managers are well capable of making good process investments when environmental changes appear. A maturity model is in that sense somewhat generic, although research is going on by several scholars to design the so-called “situational” maturity models (i.e. taking into account different organisation sizes, level of market competitiveness, etc.) to decide on the appropriate investments.

    But today’s maturity models already give some good advice on which steps can be gradually taken. The only problem is: select a good maturity model, because many exist. They do not all measure the same type of process maturity and some are also rather crappy. If interested, follow my research (http://www.amyvanlooy.eu/), because soon I will launch a decision tool to select the best matching maturity model according to your organisational needs. For instance, personally, I do like the maturity model of Hammer, among others.

  2. Hi Amy:

    Thanks for the comment and some remarks:

    Today it’s an illusion to define support / core process, because in those days companies suffer without knowing from process silo effect. Until 5 years ago, companies design it’s processes in static mode and the links were almost fixed. For example in a utilities company, the end of meter reading process, was the beginning of the billing process. Despite the fact such link still exists, today it’s possible at any point of the meter reading process to spark a maintenance process / infra-structure upgrade process regarding the measurements of energy consumption that is being taken. These dynamic linkages never been explored in the past because the thinking was inputs can only enter at some given point. Thus this means “support” process are not anymore supporting anything and are making part of a truly end-to-end process execution, where the process is a blend of multiple processes.

    Going to the core of the post, human decision will always make a difference because good managers know what it’s critical for it’s business and that human feeling is typically forgotten by any mathematical model. Anyway I would like if you could share your findings regarding the assessment you are going to make, but let me suggest that after that you could concentrate your research effort in applying different maturity models in real world conditions and then compare what was the final human choice about what to be improved.

  3. Interesting post… I think you identify precisely how maturity models (of any type) can be misused. The goal isn’t to get to level 5, in my opinion. The goal is to be honest with yourself about where your process is at – and be able to ask yourself whether a particular level of maturity makes sense for the process in question.

    As a wise person once said, if you have 10 major corporate processes you are looking at, should you invest your budget for process improvement equally among the 10? or should you invest it disproportionately toward the major processes with the most room for improvement?

    A secondary problem is whether the maturity models ask the right questions to provide useful maturity differentiation between processes. In other words, are the differences actually moving the needle on how processes perform, or are they just easy things to check off on a corporate compliance checklist? The former has value, the latter does not.

    • This is what I added in the thread:

      I’m glad that the post catch the community attention.

      There is an underneath thought regarding the importance of thinking when humans make decisions.

      These days I’m experiencing increasing expectations that systems can help humans to predict or to improve operations. Repeatably people ask me when I’m making approaches with bpm tools (does not mean bpms only) if the system can recommend new ways to execute, to improve radically, to innovate. I don’t know if humans want to quit to think about problem solving or want to be helped more quickly in a time where speed to change is a key enabler to achieve market differentiation. For the time being, such intelligence does not exist (despite it’s being marketed a such) but somehow we will get there with efforts of R&D. Think for example that we are not to far from fully automated vehicle driving.

      Anyhow even if we had today that intelligence, there is a system principle that we cannot get rid off: the errors of intuitive thought or cognitive illusion. Systems don’t have the capacity to separate and process errors that don’t match in their computing algorithms. I remember a robot with intelligence provided by the IBM’s Watson that the only answer about North Korea was “North Korea does not have commercial/political relationship with USA”.

      Probably in the future artificial intelligence will be a reality, but still errors of cognitive thought are difficult to avoid.

      That is the reason that despite maturity models can provide a direction, the final decision will be made by a human being. Because he knows (or supposedly knows)what is the critical change that must be done that never can be part of a assessment model.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s