“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The key to practice adoption is maturity. The maturity of a practice will affect the value you derive from it and developing that maturity is a journey.

You don’t need to implement every piece of best practice for that practice right from the start. 

Identify the core part of the practice and make it your own, make it part of your culture, and grow and evolve it with your team. Certain concepts you have to be strict on, others you can tweak to suit your needs.

The most important part of driving maturity is executive support. Someone who can hold others responsible for implementing the practice. That someone is usually a CIO or Managing Director. 

Without that support and holding people responsible when they don’t follow the practice, it will fall to the wayside as people bypass the practice completely through exception after exception. After a while, people complain that the practice just doesn’t work, but they never used the practice in reality and let it mature.

Maturity doesn’t come overnight and can take months and even years to achieve. How quickly it happens is all based on the aforementioned support. Different practices will be at different levels as you add more of them to your toolset. 

This is fine. 

Pick an area and focus on it, once it reaches an acceptable level of maturity move to the next practice.

A popular maturity model, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) nicely describes how a practice and related processes mature in the environment. 

I will summarise it below:

  • In the beginning, you have nothing in place. You have no real visibility and can’t make real decisions.
  • Once you start implementing a practice a few people will follow it, but the results will be unpredictable. At this stage, the practice is kept alive by the actions of heroic individuals.
  • As more people come on board, the practice is followed by entire teams. You can start measuring some basic metrics and use those metrics to make decisions.
  • Once your whole organisation has adopted its part in the practice, your life usually becomes a lot simpler. The practice forms part of induction training and most people follow it. You have standardised reports that provide useful information to you and the business.
  • Next up, you’ll be able to track more and more and make more detailed business decisions. You know which metrics are important for your business and which belong on page two of the report.
  • Finally, the practice will be well-tuned to your team and your business and you will know how to respond quickly to the changing business environment.

I have seen medium-sized support companies at the final stages of maturity in the practices they focussed on, able to easily make decisions about clients and their own resources. They could respond to the volatility of the IT environment, without having a long list of exceptions on how to manage and support their customers. 

 It took time and effort to get there but in the end, the journey proved to be worth it. They began small and let the practice mature and grow with their needs.