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Merck, Chevron and BP are touting a new IT management framework

It’s easy to forget how young a discipline IT is, given its enormous presence in our lives. Yesterday, however, that fact was front and center, as I watched the top IT talent at Intel Corp., Merck KGaA, BP PLC and Chevron Corp. talk about raising their “maturity levels.” Brilliant minds, and they’re talking about inching from Level 2 to Level 3 with the help of a new management IT framework called the IT-CMF, the Capability Maturity Framework.

The occasion was a morning presentation in downtown Boston by the Innovation Value Institute (IVI), a joint venture between Intel Corp., The Boston Consulting Group and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Established in 2006 and based in large part on the intellectual capital of Martin Curley of Intel, IVI’s mission, as the press material states, is “to tackle the universal problem of otherwise highly sophisticated companies ‘shooting in the dark’ on their IT investments.” The goal is to manage IT for business value.

News Editor Tina Torode will be writing in more detail about IT-CMF’s five-stage maturity framework, the end-to-end 36 IT processes it covers and its database of best practices culled from the insights of industry titans like Chevron, BP and Merck. Suffice it to say here that there was a lot of talk about assessments, establishing a baseline of maturity, drilldowns, identifying gaps, tapping into best practices. Oh, yes, and slide upon slide of charts with multicolored arrows to indicate the progression to maturity.

In one-on-one interviews after the slide presentations, some of the IVI presenters acknowledged the obvious: that the framework is young, that rounding out its database of best practices will realistically take more years and many more companies. Vincenzo Marchese, head of architecture capability and performance at BP, for example, said that while the framework addressed processes and delineated the underlying capabilities necessary to achieve a particular level of maturity, it did not cover people and tools much. Those 36 processes also could use some pruning, he said. But the framework, its disciples agreed, was a path to measuring whether the billions of dollars spent on IT are bringing an ROI for their funders. In addition, its emphasis on continuous improvement, an approach long embraced by business, was fundamental to helping IT mature.

Indeed, the emotional wallop for me, sitting in The Boston Consulting Group’s 31st-floor seminar room with magnificent views of the Boston Harbor, was how desperately IT wants to find a way to demonstrate its business value. IT, the Peter Pan of the commercial world, needs to grow up, in the eyes of these people. Maybe this IT-CMF framework will help.

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