A process-orientated approach to building organisational capability

The first Capability Maturity Model was developed by the Software Engineering Institute of the Carnegie Mellon University. The aim is to assist organisations improve their processes by following an evolutionary path.

The maturity level of an organisation provides a way to predict the future performance of an organisation within a given discipline or set of disciplines. Experience has shown that organisations do their best when they focus their process-improvement efforts on a manageable number of process areas that require increasingly sophisticated effort as the organisation improves. A maturity level is a defined evolutionary plateau of process improvement. Each maturity level stabilizes an important part of the organisation's processes.

The maturity levels are measured by the achievement of the specific and generic goals that apply to each predefined set of process areas. There are five maturity levels, each a layer in the foundation for ongoing process improvement, designated by the numbers 1 through 5.

The first step in improving a process is to understand the boundaries of the process you are trying to improve. The process could be any process and it will be a combination of people, tools, technologies, and methods employed to accomplish a task.

Once the operational entity is defined, a clear understanding of the operational entity's purpose and objectives guides improvement efforts. Many times, the purpose and objectives are stated in strategic planning documents. A clear understanding of the purpose and objectives will keep improvement efforts aligned with strategic needs and will avoid expending critical resources on improvement efforts that don't contribute to those needs.

Along with understanding the operational entity's objectives, it's important to understand how to know if you achieve its objectives. It sounds good to say you intend to make your operation "world class", but how would you know when you're there? The objectives of an operational entity are stated first so that you can perform some level of verification to confirm that your improvement efforts move you closer to those objectives.

Once the operational entity requiring improvement is identified and its purpose is clearly understood, constraints and risks are more easily identified and addressed. The current state of the operational entity could be assessed against its objectives to identify current and potential barriers to meeting those objectives. Improvement plans would then be developed and implemented to address these barriers.

Operational process improvement using a COBIT type model is simply an organised approach to identifying and addressing these constraints and risks and helping the operational entity more effectively achieve its purpose.

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