This is the 4th and final part in a series on assessing IT Capabilities.  (See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

A Quick Recap

Part 1 introduced some assessment principles I’ve found to be important.  Part 2 defined the term IT Capability, presented a potential landscape, or normative model, if you will, for IT Capabilities, and discussed ways to determine what IT Capabilities are needed.  Part 3 covered assessment Dimensions, Options and Ratings.

In this final part in this series I’d like to address some contextual issues about why and how to conduct an IT capability assessment.

Why Assess IT Capabilities?

I think there are some parallels in the question, “Why have a medical check up?”  Sometimes, we have a medical check up because we suspect something might be wrong with our health – perhaps we are more tired than we think we should be, or we get a tightness in the chest if we exert ourselves.  This falls into the “I think I might have a medical problem – I need to find out if I do, what it is, and what I need to do about it!”  Other times, we have a medical check up because we like to be proactive about our health – assure ourselves that all is as well as we think it is, and find out about unrecognized problems before they become critical.  Still other times, an external force leads to the medical check up – applying for new medical insurance, for example.

So, the corollary is that we should assess IT Capabilities when:

  1. We think we might have a problem – costs to high, performance too low, etc.
  2. We think everything’s just fine, but would like to prove it!
  3. Someone of importance wants us to be assessed – e.g., the CEO, an Audit Committee, a major client, etc.

How to Assess IT Capabilities?

I’ve mentioned before, the best way to assess IT Capabilities is such that the assessment has credibility and the power to motivate improvement.  From my experience, a facilitated self-assessment, with an acknowledged expert facilitator fits both these needs well.

Here’s an outline of the approach.

  1. Identify the scope and depth of the assessment.  (See Parts 1, 2, and 3 for more on this.)  This will help determine the number and boundaries of Capabilities to be assessed.  I think the ideal is between 5 and 9, assuming you are going for full coverage of the IT landscape.
  2. Identify ‘leaders’ for each capability.  These will be people who will identify the SME’s and stakeholders (key customers and suppliers) for the assessment focus sessions.  An idea group size is between 7 and 9 people.
  3. Provide training on the method to the leaders – I find that a 1 hour session is more than adequate.  This positions the leaders to know who to invite and what to expect.
  4. Schedule the assessment focus sessions.  Allow 2 hours per session and timebox the sessions.
  5. Distribute the assessment results for commentary and feedback.
  6. Present the findings to the IT leadership team.
  7. Create a high level plan of actions coming out of the assessment.
  8. Communicate the high level plan to all assessment participants.

The Secret of IT Capability Assessment

But underneath all this, I have found the real power of capability assessment to be the dialog and insight it leads to – a way for suppliers, capability groups and customers to talk in a disciplined way about what they do, what works well, what needs improving and, to a degree, how best to improve it.  That is the magic – to view capability assessment as a social activity.

Capability Assessment as a Continuous Process

The insight of viewing capability assessment as a social activity has led my business partner and I to start experimenting with ways to leverage social tools to enable self-assessment and even to move it from a periodic to a continuous process.  Watch this space – or contact us if you are interested in getting involved.

Graphic courtesy of Elite Training

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