Using IT to Boost Value & Innovation

national university of ireland maynooth

There is the old joke that asks: What is the great thing about standards? There are plenty to choose from.

With IT frameworks like COBIT, ITIL, CMMI and SPICE around, it may seem that adding another another brings them perilously close to the territory of a standard. But with Fortune 500 companies and academics at their back, proponents of the IT Capability Maturity Framework (IT-CMF) believe their approach is the key to unlocking business value and innovation.

“I think it’s going to be a big player in the future and it’s based right here in Ireland,” said Michael O’Duffy, CEO of Centre for Software Engineering at DCU, at an Irish Computer Society (ICS) briefing today.

The IT-CMF came out of the Innovation Value Institute (IVI) at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. “It was built on foundational learning in IT at Intel and refined by academics and industry input,” said Sarah Farrell DCU’s liaison at the IVI who presented the talk. It was designed following 60,000 hours of research using open innovation, she said. More than 100 pilot assessments were done, and data is constantly being fed back to build and refine industry benchmarks.

The institute’s “steering patrons” are the university, the Boston Consulting Group and Intel. Patrons include BP, Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Chevron, and SAP. More than 40 other companies are members or contributors.

The existing IT frameworks deal with discrete areas of the profession, Farrell noted. ITIL, for example, tackles service provision while COBIT looks at governance. The heart of Capability Maturity Framework is business value, she said. “I can’t emphasize enough that’s what the focus of the IT-CMF is.” However, it is not meant to replace other processes, Farrell said. Another key difference is that innovation management is included.

IVI — which they prounce ivy —  identified 32 critical processes in four macro areas to help IT build its value for the business. The four areas are: Manage IT like a business, manage the IT budget, manage the IT capability and manage IT for business value. Organizations will cycle through the macros as they build up the maturity of their IT groups.

Five maturity levels have been identified by IVI, Farrell said. The initial phase is where IT is run on an ad-hoc basis and everything is late. “IT is considered a pain in the backside by the business,” she said. As the IT organization improves, so do relations with the rest of the company until, eventually, IT is at the optimizing phase. By this time, IT has implemented transparent investment decisions and is able to quantify ROI on them.

However, at the final phase, IT invests in new technology and is actively seeking ways to bring value to the business. A sample self-assessment can be found on the IVI website here.

During the question and answer session, Farrell was asked about the other frameworks. “We are not trying to re-invent the wheel,” she said. “We are just trying to cover a gap that exists.” Intel added $600 million to their bottom line by unlocking value from its IT organization, she said.

O’Duffy agreed. Intel got “tremendous value” and extended the framework to other areas, he said. “So much so, that there is a blurred line between their IT centers and their innovation centers.”

Photo of old NUIM campus courtesy of Inge Knoff on Flickr.