white paper is the third in a series discussing Information Technology
Architecture (ITA) for small and medium-sized enterprises. In this paper, the
IT Architecture Maturity Model (ITAMM) is both introduced and discussed.
Extremely flexible and adaptive in its design, the model delivers
practical value to both large and small companies. Value delivery is provided via a number of extremely useful
“tools” that sustain the entire “lifecycle” of an architecture -
i.e., implementation, on-going execution, and renewal. Moreover, because the model supports the complete ITA
lifecycle, any enterprise - whether or not it has already begun an
architecture initiative - can benefit from understanding and using this
What is the IT
Architecture Maturity Model?
the mid-1990’s, the Frank Russell Company developed the IT Architecture
Maturity Model to support the company’s new IT Architecture initiative.
Depicting how an organization’s level of IT Architecture readiness
changes and matures over time, the ITAMM proved a powerful education,
communication, self assessment, planning tool and directional “road map”.
of 6 stages (numbered 0 through 5), the ITAMM describes each phase through
which a enterprise must progress in order to achieve an effective and
sustaining IT Architecture. The
lowest level of readiness is Stage 0 and the highest level Stage 5.
The name given each stage characterizes both the degree of
architectural readiness represented and the main effort being undertaken. Additionally, each stage asks a question that epitomizes the
architectural challenge associated with that stage. Finally, the model highlights for each stage the business or
architecture deliverables required to meet that challenge. See Figure 1.
similar in concept to a ladder, an enterprise “climbs” the model
increasing its degree of IT Architectural readiness and maturity with each
higher stage. However, unlike a
ladder, it is possible for an organization to be at more than one stage at a
time. For instance, when the Russell Company’s IT Architecture Department
instituted a technology research effort (Stage 5), it soon discovered that the
processes required to document and track each research project were not
adequately developed. As a
result, the research effort was temporarily suspended while the inventory of
outstanding projects was documented (Stage 1).
At the same time, additional processes were developed to ensure that
research results were appropriately evaluated against Russell’s current IT
Architecture standards (Stage 2).
do we get there?
does it lead?
Architecture, Standards, Processes
do we have?
“as is” environment
1: IT Architecture Maturity Model
take a closer look at each ITA Maturity Model stage.
in this stage, an IT organization may recognize that it has a problem but it
is not sure what that problem is. The
organization asks itself “What’s wrong?.”
At the same time, corporate management is asking the question “Why
are we spending so much time, money, and resources on Information
Technology?” A quick analysis
at this stage would show that IT processes and decisions are informal and ad
primary effort at this stage is to answer the question ”What do we have?” The IT organization endeavors to find out what IT assets are
owned by the enterprise and where they are located. This stage tends to be concerned with “inventory.” The
main deliverables emerging from this stage are a documented inventory and a
description of the current IT environment.
Such a description would include physical assets such as PCs, servers,
and monitors as well as an inventory of “soft assets” - e.g.,
software applications, IT contracts, and active IT vendors.
stage looks at how well IT projects and initiatives are aligning against the
IT organization’s published set of IT Architecture standards.
During this stage governance processes are established and the IT
organization begins to get its arms around issues associated with missing
standards, lack of technological consistency, and too much variety.
The governance question being asked is “Does it fit?”
Governance helps new IT projects leverage already installed technology
while ensuring that exceptions to architecture and standards are implemented
consciously and are appropriately documented.
highlighted in the model, an IT Architecture, or at least part of it, must be
at Stage 2 before the governance process is established.
Until published standards are in place and review processes
established, governance can not occur.
Why? Because the question “Does it fit?” necessitates the
existence of a comparison benchmark.
benchmark is the published ITA standards.
organization may choose to phase-in its ITA governance.
For instance, governance may initially be concerned with only a few
types of ITA standards. In this
way, the governance process need not wait until all standards are defined and
documented. (This is especially
important if setting certain IT standards will help address particular “hot
buttons.”) Then as new
standards are established - whether they be hardware, software, or
procedures - governance can expand to cover these new “topics.”
Besides enabling faster ITA benefits, such a stepped governance
approach helps build support from with those most affected by both new
standards and the governance process itself.
Advantage stage concerns the degree that technology investments support the
enterprise’s business direction and requirements. Investments that align
with business needs ultimately lead the enterprise towards an advantage in
performance - whether that advantage be speed, quality, customer service, or
so forth. As a result, during
this stage, senior management is asking “What business value is coming from
our investment in IT Architecture?” while the IT organization is asking
“Where are IT investments leading the enterprise?”
successfully carry out this stage, the IT organization must understand of the
enterprise’s vision and business strategy.
Such an understanding is essential if IT technology is to support the
enterprise as it proceeds in the direction of tactical and strategic
objectives. Another way of
describing this stage is: if the Alignment Stage was about selecting the
correct type of ladder, the Advantage Stage is about making sure that the
ladder is leaning against the correct wall.
stage deals with the “business of IT” and how well the IT organization is
running its projects and other activities to move the enterprise to where it
needs to be. Leveraging the
organization’s vision or business strategy identified in the Advantage
stage, the Migration stage’s goal is to answer the question “How do we get
there?” Critical to this stage are funded IT projects, project plans,
and the IT organization’s internal processes.
The primary question of corporate management is “Are new IT projects
appropriate and being well managed?”
top stage of the model considers maintaining an organization’s competitive
advantage by ensuring that it’s IT Architecture is “fresh” and relevant.
During this stage the IT organization addresses the question of
“What’s next?” Moreover, IT
is also attempting to look at “what comes
what’s next” - all in connection to the enterprise’s vision and
direction. A refreshed and updated architecture results through technology
reviews and innovative research. This
stage also is an excellent time for the IT organization to compare itself
against other IT organizations of both its industry and direct competitors to
determine how well its efforts to maintain a competitive advantage measure up.
Using the IT
Architecture Maturity Model
hallmark of the IT Architecture Maturity Model is it adaptability and
flexibility. These traits enable the ITAMM to support both large and small
enterprises. Furthermore, the
Model also supports new IT Architecture efforts as well as established
initiatives. This ability to fit
different situations makes the model a valuable tool for small and medium
enterprise is unique and the circumstances surrounding its IT Architecture
initiative are different from those of other firms.
Consequently, enterprises require tools that operate within and support
its particular IT Architecture situation.
The ITAMM answers this challenge.
four means by which the ITAMM provides support and value include:
is not an easy concept to communicate. While
not entirely eliminating this problem, the ITAMM simplifies the IT
Architecture concept. This
simplification occurs in three ways. First,
the model introduces ITA a having a “life cycle.”
Consequently, architecture is shown as both evolving over time and
providing value even when only partially complete.
Second, the model presents ITA as a journey rather than as a
destination. In other words, an
ITA effort is never “done.” Rather,
an ITA reflects the ever-changing enterprise, its business drivers, and
business environment. Finally,
the model provides a view of the enterprise’s current IT situation and a
vision of where an architecture will lead.
able to educate business management about architecture in general and IT
Architecture in particular greatly helps in building the business case
necessary to obtain the funding required to begin an ITA initiative.
politics often inhibit implementing an ITA.
Overcoming such challenges requires careful planning and communication.
As a communication tool, the ITAMM builds executive support by
conveying several messages. The first message makes known that ITA initiatives require an
inclusive team composition. Specifically,
the necessary body of architectural knowledge for implementation and ongoing
support must come from across both the IT organization and business units.
This inclusive participation message helps eliminate perceptions that
the architecture initiative will be an IT “ivory tower” effort.
Another message is similar to that mentioned above regarding
“Education Tool.” That is, an
ITA effort is a journey and thus requires funding not only for implementation
but, also, for ongoing administration and maintenance.
By bringing both short and long term cost commitments to the forefront,
the model helps avoid the specter of cost surprises coming down the road.
Lastly, the model communicates the clear message that there is a ITA
implementation strategy and that this strategy includes both tactical and
these messages build senior management buy-in for an ITA effort.
Such buy-in is essential to obtain funding and to acquire participation
from the appropriate technologists and business specialist from within the
ITAMM really shines as a high-level roadmap providing a vision where the
organization’s IT Architecture is headed over time.
By recognizing where the architecture is headed, the enterprise can
focus the scope of the initiative and develop improved budgets and resource
strategies. Also, understanding
the scope enables establishment of priorities and action plans that direct
effort - saving money and other limited resources.
Likewise, these action plans establish managed expectations on the part
of senior management.
in all, the architecture team is better able to together juggle long-term
strategic issues with immediate needs. What's
more, architectural deliverables - both immediate and ensuing - can be
identified at the outset to establish credibility by harvesting some “low
hanging fruit.” These
deliverables can actually comprise important components of the business plan.
understanding one’s architectural readiness and maturity enables the ITA
team to adjust and refocus both resources and effort, an self-assessment tool
is crucial for the success of any ITA initiative. For example, if the ITA
project team can monitor progress against enterprise “hot buttons,” a
determination can be made as to how well certain tactical deliverables are
being completed. These tactical deliverables often comprise the “low-hanging
fruit” promised as part of the ITA funding request. Hence, “harvesting” particular low-hanging deliverables
will constitute a major selling point when requesting additional ITA funding.
ITAMM is just such a self-assessment tool.
It provides the means to review one’s own architecture, determine its
maturity level, and to assess its readiness.
Equally important, with the model the ITA need not be viewed as a
single monolithic entity. Rather,
the architecture’s component parts (e.g., standards, processes,
deliverables, etc.) can each be assessed individually.
This ITAMM characteristic enables the rapid redeployment of resources
and effort to achieve tactical results while targeting strategic goals.
performing these self-assessments over time is a difficult task. Architectural
self-assessments demand that the IT organization consider its own particular
and changing situation. At the same time, the enterprise’s similarly
evolving situation must also be taken into account. Conveniently, the ITAMM
assumes that both the architecture
and the enterprise situation are changing and
developing over time. Hence, the
model greatly simplifies self-assessment.
of any size can utilize the IT Architecture Maturity Model.
The model’s unique flexibility and adaptability supports successful
IT Architecture implementations by helping the enterprise save money, plan
implementation strategies and resource requirements, perform architectural
readiness self assessment, and, perhaps most importantly, communicate the
concept of architecture while building executive support.
Steve Huhta is
a Fellow of The Business Forum Association. He was (until he retired) the Contracts
Manager with the Contracts Services Department of the Russell Investment
Group. Steve holds a
BS in Computer Science (with distinction) from Washington State University, an MBA
from Pacific Lutheran University, and a Masters Certificate in Commercial
Contract Management from George Washington University. Steve's career
includes 30+ years of experience in Information Technology across a variety
of industries - including aerospace and forest products - and for both large
and small companies. His experience includes application development,
business IT planning, process change and improvement, development and
management of customer centric support and help organizations, definition
and implementation of IT-focused internship programs, IT asset management,
IT innovation planning, IT metrics, IT Architecture, and contract
management. Steve volunteers his time to advise non-profit organizations
during their planning and acquisition of computer technologies.