Posted by Mike Rollings
As I wrote in the Burton Group Research Perspective "Measuring Enterprise Architecture Success" it is hard to avoid a simple trap -- the use of benchmark results purely to understand your organization’s progress in reference to the progress of others. Using the results in this manner encourages mediocrity.
Whatever you benchmark, it is more important to address the problems your organization is experiencing instead of getting a passing grade. Therefore, the problems must be examined with an internal perspective and not just addressed with a broad brush of a benchmark. Problems with IT delivery, decision-making, the application of standards, and other issues cannot be identified solely by comparing your score to that of others in your industry. By analogy, just because you know where you are, and others are with you, does not mean that you are not lost or that you should follow the same path.
A benchmark may be a useful data point to help an organization identify glaring differences between itself and the competition, but that is only a small part of the picture. The most valued use for a benchmark or maturity assessment is to identify what is working and what is required to improve to better address business outcomes.
Sometimes the excuse is "we need a benchmark because it is the only thing our executives understand." This cop out is one of the disabling assumption in IT that avoids something that is critically important today -- having fact-based, real discussions. As I wrote in the Burton Group Research Perspective "Real Transformation - Why IT Change is not Enough", we need to deal with underlying business and IT assumptions before we use the excuse of status quo to our peril.
Two phantom assumptions many IT organizations encounter are the assumptions, “we cannot do that because. . . .” and “the business will never consider. . . .” Phantoms solidify into the assumptions and constraints that perpetuate complexity and duplication while hindering new business and IT conversations and progress.
Management executives require metrics to monitor improvements and achievement of business outcomes. If you are avoiding the conversation because you think executives won't understand it, then maybe they don't understand it due to the lack of meaningful metrics.