Even if you are not actively innovating with technology or using the latest and greatest applications in your business, you know that technology is vital to the success of any business today. But how can you establish a roadmap to get IT to a point where it is providing ROI and fueling your success, instead of causing pain or confusion? Knowing and following the four stages of IT maturity will get you there.
You may recall from our recent blog post, “Exposing the Four Types of Business IT,” just what those four stages are:
- Stage 1 – Break/Fix: Technology is mostly limited to essential functions like email, and the main focus is on keeping costs low and maintaining the status quo.
- Stage 2 – Operational Management: Technology is required for operational success and some new IT initiatives are implemented, but system management and maintenance demand the bulk of the resources.
- Stage 3 – Operational Enhancement: Technology is recognized as crucial to success and begins to generate ROI for the business; new systems and applications are implemented to drive success, and existing IT is augmented to further enhance operations, and protect profit. The business drives IT changes.
- Stage 4 – Business Transformation: Technology is completely integrated with the business model and clearly sets the company apart from its competitors. Technology capabilities drive business model changes.
Before we take a closer look at the four stages individually, let’s get an understanding of what all this means in terms of identifying what stage your organization is at, what moving to the next stage means for you, and what factors you should consider when progressing.
Why Do These Stages Matter?
There is great value in the progression through the stages of IT maturity, not only ensuring you are ready for the next step before moving on, but also in enhanced technical proficiency within your business. How long your progression takes, and how you move from one stage to the next, also has a huge impact. Additionally, chances are that the IT changes you make will not be the only ones needed as you advance through this process. Aligning the maturation of your business processes with your evolving IT capabilities will help appropriately redefine your internal procedures, and will demonstrate the ripple effect that your IT choices have throughout your business.
It is also important to note that your customers will gain value from your technological progression as well. While IT maturity seems to have great internal effects on your business, it is also important to keep up with customer expectations. Advancing your overall technological footprint through the stages of IT maturity will help you advance along tracks, such as Forrester’s stages of mobile maturity and social maturity, allowing you to not only keep up with the latest ways your customers are using technology, but to implement the technology they expect (i.e., mobile apps and connected devices) to see from you and your competitors.
Finally, keep in mind that skipping steps in this sequence is very rarely a viable option. The only real exception to this rule is startups with lots of venture capital funding, which often enables them to jump in at stage four. The ones that are successful in making this leap (and not all of them are) often completely change the landscape of their industry. (Think Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, etc.) This isn’t to say that you can’t achieve the same shakeup as an already-established business, but doing so will take more planning and a more gradual advancement as you transition between the stages of IT maturity, and augment your technology so that it is integral to your growth and success.
How Can These Stages Work for Me?
Determining your current stage of IT maturity will help you understand how your prioritization and budgeting of IT impacts your success, and what steps you might need to take to be even more successful. It is important to work with the assumption that your competition is actively working to move through the stages of IT maturity (and in reality, they probably are), so continuous progress is vital to get ahead.
Additionally, since you cannot realistically jump from stage one to stage four, it’s important that each step prepares you for the subsequent one, rather than moving on and implementing new systems and applications just because you “should.” Instead, each stage can be used as a platform to prepare for advancement to the next. Take the time to identify the best tools, work out the kinks during implementation, integrate them with your business processes, and adapt or refine them to meet your needs and ensure reliability. All are vital steps in your move toward incorporating IT as an inextricable feature of your brand and your success.
Photo Credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/crystalflickr/2317183342
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why the four stages of IT maturity can provide significant insight into your business capabilities, as well as help to advance the role of IT, to set you up for continued success. Over the next few weeks, we will discuss each of the four stages in-depth, including how to budget at each stage, the staffing levels and types of resources required for success, preparing to advance to the next stage, and understanding when it’s the right time to move on to a higher stage. Don’t miss it!