The Benefits of Process Assessments and How to Do it Right

Reader Question: Why should I assess my process performance? I already have a good idea of how well our processes perform and where the gaps are.

Third Sky Expert Answer:

kai_holthaus-474x640Kai Holthaus, Director of Consulting, Third Sky

Process assessments are actually really important. As you know, in order to improve anything, you first have to know what your starting point is. Case in point – if I told you that after a recent process improvement, an IT department now resolves 65% of all calls to the service desk at first contact. What would you say? Good? Bad? So-so? The issue is that with that statement we are lacking the reference point. 65% might sound rather good, but if the company was doing 65% before the improvement initiative, then we might be able to say that the initiative didn’t produce benefits.

So, process assessments give you this kind of baseline information. And if you have a ‘good idea’ of how well your processes perform, that’s great. But do you actually have hard data? Or is it based on anecdotal evidence? Process assessments can not only help you to establish a baseline to start your improvement from, they also might tell you what areas of improvement you should focus on first.

Good process assessments do this based on industry best practices. There are several frameworks or standards available to be used, for instance CMMI or Six Sigma. The one I’d like to recommend for IT Service Management, however, is TIPA. TIPA is based on ISO 15504, which is an international standard for assessing process maturity. ISO 15504 can be applied to any process framework, by plugging in what’s called a Reference Model for the process framework to be assessed. TIPA uses ITIL® v3 as its Reference Model.

Because of the reliance on international standards and industry-best practice frameworks (like ITIL®), TIPA provides a repeatable way of performing a process assessment. This should not be underestimated. What this means is that once you understand how TIPA performs a process assessment, you will be able to self-assess your process maturity further down the road. I think this is quintessential to ITIL’s® concept of continual service improvement. In order to stay on top of your game, so to say, you will need to repeatedly assess the maturity of processes to help tell you (a) how much benefit the previous round of improvements actually brought and (b) what your next area for process improvements should be. By allowing you to self-assess you can decrease your reliance on external experts, and instead rely on in-house expertise to demonstrate the value of your improvements.

Having said that, it’s important to note that you won’t be able to perform TIPA assessments overnight. Our recommended approach is therefore to have TIPA Assessors perform the first assessment. The second assessment can then be a self-assessment under the guidance of TIPA Assessors, and from the third assessment onward, IT organizations should be able to perform their own.

Third Sky offers TIPA Assessment services that include guidance and training for future self-assessments.