by Susan Cramm

Reader Q&A on Using Research to Align with the Business

Sep 01, 20052 mins
Business IT Alignment

Q: Please explain what you mean by organizations being at varying levels of maturity in their use of IT. A: The concept of IT maturity, which dates back to the 1960s, is the notion that the ability to leverage technology’s benefits is based on organizational learning and capabilities that evolve over time. Richard Nolan became famous for introducing the IT maturity model in the ’70s. Since then, the IT maturity concept has been refined and extended to discuss the stages of capability development in areas such as software development, IT-business alignment and architecture. Maturity models are useful in that they help explain why certain capabilities exist (or don’t exist) and identify the things that need to be developed for those capabilities to further evolve. The classic mistake, resulting in wasted energies and lost opportunities, is to try to “jump” stages.

Q: I think one underlying research topic is how companies low on the scale of technology maturity can move up that scale. Some companies have solved all the problems on your list. Are there lessons they can share with companies lower on the scale?

A: Factors such as industry, leadership, organizational culture, size, growth, and competitive and regulatory pressures either accelerate or decelerate companies’ movement through the various stages of maturity. While many research organizations do a good job of defining the desired future state and, in some cases, the stages of maturity, executives need help with diagnosing the barriers they face and applying insights from others to break through these barriers.

Q: How can the best practices you mentioned get built into the enterprise planning process, rather than being left dependent on people—which means they have to be re-created every time someone new comes in? A: As you lead your organization further through maturity stages, make sure that you make the gain worth the pain—and apply other change management principles too—so that you can build and maintain the emotional momentum necessary to withstand setbacks.

Susan Cramm is founder and president of Valuedance, an executive coaching firm in San Clemente, Calif. E-mail feedback to