What is operational maturity? An overview starting with OML 1

Operational maturity doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes years to fortify a strategy capable of securing operational maturity. In many ways, becoming operationally mature requires a focus on escalation policies and a business’s on-call evolution.

When a business starts, its leadership is intricately involved with each of its operations. It takes time to figure out what works, and it takes a lot of trial and error. As a business grows, however, leadership begins to shift its focus. Day-to-day operations are no longer endeavors for leadership teams. Instead, the workplace’s leaders engage budget needs, long-term planning, and goal setting. An operationally mature company, at the top levels of operational maturity, can focus on innovation, marketing, and diversification. Operational maturity is reached with time, powerful decision-making processes and—of course—technology.

That said, technology isn’t always an advantage. It can be a liability if a business’s decision makers don’t scale correctly. To do so, they need to understand the five levels of operational maturity.

Today I’d like to begin providing a quick framework of the five rankings of OML. Over the next several weeks, I will present the OMLs sequentially. Also watch for future, more in-depth OML analysis articles on this site.

operational maturityThe Five Levels of Operational Maturity

When technology is introduced to a business, it’s installed to boost operational maturity. In our experience performing Executive Workshops, the average mid-size business with an in-house I.T. team has achieved an operational maturity level 1 to OML 2 (on the five-point scale overviewed below). In our strategic workshops, we advise a quick elevation to OML 3, and a longer-term goal of OML 4.5 to OML 5.

Fortunately, the earlier stages of operational maturity foreshadow the later stages. It’s possible to use early OMLs as stepping stones to reach the next technological hurdle. As “The 5 Levels of vCIO Operational Maturity” via LinkedIn.com puts it, operational maturity is vital to a business’s segmentation above all.

What is OML 1?

At Level 1 of operational maturity—or OML 1—businesses will experience a beginner’s level of flexibility, technological capability, and marketing potential. Likely, they’re operating on a “break-fix” approach, wherein decision makers must keep the business afloat with hands-on approaches. These break-fix approaches might be viable—or even perfected—but they will fail to service complex client needs.

An OML 1 business can, however, provide its clients with basic goods and services. Everything is operational, and everything—for the most part—is reliable. OML 1 businesses, on the technological end, will focus on maintaining the I.T. environment—rather than introducing new products capable of promoting expansion. Mid-size companies with OML 1 standards use management methods which yield low financial performances. They may also experience slow growth levels.

Technology traits of OML 1 companies

Most of the workshops I conduct are with C-level leaders of mid-size, growth-oriented companies struggling to measure their I.T. accountability. I use a proprietary OML evaluation scale that reflects Service Leadership’s best-in-class tool for managed I.T. service providers.

  • OML 1 compliance with technology standards: Technology standards tend to be non-existent or poorly defined. OML 1 companies generally do not have a goal to standardize. Technology equipment purchases are often at a departmental level with little I.T. department overview or input.
  • OML 1 adoption of cloud technology: The OML 1 company generally does not employ the cloud or does so without standardization and controls.
  • OML 1 I.T. department roles and skills: Responsibilities of I.T. staff members may be determined based on task-level functional requirements. Overlaps and gaps exist in skillsets and training. I.T. position descriptions and performance metrics are not in place.
  • OML 1 service requests: Requests to I.T. staff by end users will occur in informal emails or phone calls and are poorly documented. Projects are completed ad hoc.
  • OML 1 system and service management tools: Tools are chosen for narrow and specific functions, with little analysis of operational efficiency and effectiveness. I.T. work processes are poorly documented.
  • OML 1 documentation and training of operating processes: Process documentation is incomplete and out-of-date. Training is informal, voluntary, or at an inappropriately low level.
  • OML 1 security compliance: No formal security policies exist, or inadequate or outdated policies are in place. I.T. security is not measured.
  • OML 1 I.T. budgeting: I.T. budget is informal: Technology purchases (generally including hardware, software, and services) are ad hoc.
  • OML 1 value creation processes: I.T. does not support the company’s value creation processes.
  • OML 1 focus of I.T. management: The top-level I.T. managers or executives focus on reactive support. OML 1 companies’ I.T. leadership often reports directly to business unit or finance department.
  • OML 1 business reviews and planning: Strategic business meetings for planning and operational review are held infrequently and without a measurable agenda.
  • OML 1 employee training: The company performs little I.T. department-led training for technology end users.
  • OML 1 support of revenue growth: The I.T. department generally drives little revenue growth in the company.
  • OML 1 vendor management: Most vendor relationships are transactional. Corporate departments may make individual purchases from various vendors. The company does not have a corporate interest in the vendor to provide service or product ratings and does not know or contribute to vendors’ goals.
  • OML 1 operational efficiency measurements: The OML 1 company relies on business unit/department heads to assess performance. Little formal measurement is performed.

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