Today, technology permeates almost every facets of business. IT can no longer just support the business; in most global enterprises, it must become embedded in the business. Forrester predicted this evolution back in 2003: IT is no longer information technology, but business technology (BT), and the primary mission is about business enablement, not business support. But moving from IT to BT is much more than an acronym change. At its very core is a cultural change that involves not just IT but the entire organisation from the board of directors (BoD) to senior management down to the lowest level employee.

In the 21st century, the application of value-based business technology is a critical element for survival. IT organisations can either make the transition from an IT organisation that supports the business to a BT organisation that transforms the business, or it will increasingly find itself irrelevant as its mission is subsumed by external service providers.

Benefits of the BT Roadmap

So that was then, this is now. As organisations evolve toward BT maturity, executives will recognise that evolving IT practices, while necessary, is not enough. Augmenting the typical IT-centric framework approach with a BT road map will help solidify the journey ahead for executives who want to maximise business value from technology. A new maturity model and road map is needed, one that will:

· Illuminate next practices that are shareable with business.
By adding a BT road map, execs can grow IT's business engagement as the overall organisation matures.

· Position where an enterprise — not just the IT department — stands.
A BT maturity road map can make it very clear where a particular IT-centric organisation isn't, for example, effectively communicating project or change status to business peers.

· Serve as the basis for tracking progress across multiple domains.

The BT maturity road map identifies the distinct variations in practice for subject matter domains. Organisations may find that they are not yet evolved in a particular element — like performance management — for a subject matter domain like sourcing. But by using the road map to examine progress across multiple domains, they can see a broader picture that shows commensurate performance management immaturity in governance, infrastructure management, and architecture. With this awareness, CIOs can put in place broader, more meaningful initiatives to improve these areas and can avoid the more incremental, one-off improvement efforts.

What does BT Maturity look like?

Using a simple five-by-five matrix — what to improve and what improvement looks like — the BT maturity road map will incorporate five elements and five levels of maturity.

The Five Areas To Monitor And Continuously Improve

All BT subject domains, whether enterprise sourcing, application development, or collaboration, can be viewed across five BT elements. These elements enable CIOs to monitor maturity in a continuous and evolutionary fashion, progressing toward full BT maturity. These five elements are Strategy, Process, Structure, Performance Measurement, and Culture.

Most importantly these areas look to evaluate the business by: identifying the correct influences in the decision making process; how decisions will impact other IT domains and also the wider business; and its effectiveness to cultivate the correct behaviour and working environment for that domain.

The Five Levels of BT Maturity

As organisations identify how far they have travelled in the BT journey, they will need coherent goals to move to the next level. So, in our BT maturity road map, the elements of strategy, process, structure, performance measurement, and culture each span a continuum of five levels:

· Level 1 — Ad hoc and chaotic. The lowest level of maturity is defined by a lack of well-understood practices or repeatability and by compartmentalised relationships.

· Level 2 — Inconsistent and ill-defined. Level 2 means more than one approach is used in the enterprise, with efforts in some IT work groups or departments being more evolved than others.

· Level 3 — Defined and repeatable. At this level of BT maturity, the organisation has progressed to a single set of practices that can be described and repeated either in subsequent time periods or across other parts of the enterprise.

· Level 4 — Managed and monitored. At level 4, the organisation has added quantitative and business-oriented measures to its practices. Based on these measures, it regularly tunes and tailors these practices with periodic review, feedback, and training.

· Level 5 — Optimised and business-integrated. The enterprise now demonstrates shared responsibility for initiatives and adjusts well-defined practices in a deliberate way, moving beyond typical practice to produce specific business impacts.

Click here for graphical representation of Forrester BT model

The BT maturity road map can be applied to any IT domain, charting an evolution toward more rigor and improved results in areas ranging from governance to sourcing to architecture and application maintenance.

Progression along the road map reflects growing synchronisation between technology initiatives and business objectives and uncovers dependencies between these domains. Attainment of level 5 maturity in multiple domains equates to BT — a state that still eludes many firms.

BT Enlightenment

So, moving beyond IT-centric framework assessments is essential if CIOs are going to become the strategic leaders the organisation will need in the coming years. The benefit of using smart technology is too important for this process to be done half-heartedly.

With BT maturity CIOs will be recognised as change agents. Evolving the organisation and their own roles to the highest BT levels, they will help enterprises identify those latent needs that aren't on today's priority list. It will also accelerate the maturity of the firm's business network. As BT reaches the tipping point in enterprises, firms will assess and propel both their enterprise's BT maturity and influence the whole value chain and the way technology management evolves inside partner organisations.

The BT maturity road map represents opportunity for both the CIO and the Business. This is a chance to evaluate the shared objectives of technology use and the IT and non-IT barriers to achieving them. CIOs now need to start thinking outside the traditional IT box and look at the broader business-IT leadership of technology change that successful firms need.

About the author

Craig Symons is Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research writing specifically for CIO professionals. He is a leading expert on deriving business value from IT.
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