Is it time to grow up? Measuring your operational maturity

It’s no secret that the pandemic accelerated not just technology adoption and digital transformation for businesses, but also people’s expectations of that technology. Customers now expect seamless experiences and instant gratification – if they don’t get it from one business, they will move on to the next. As a result, DevOps teams are expected to work longer hours to meet ever-increasing demands and keep digital systems operating in service of those customers.

This leads to a harmful cyclical effect. The more time technical teams spend managing unplanned troubleshooting, the higher the risk of burnout and turnover. Less experienced teams inevitably spend less time on proactive innovation, and more time firefighting unplanned issues.

The solution is clear: It’s time to grow up.

An organization’s operational maturity plays a critical role in how well teams handle incident response. Simply put, mature organizations perform better: they have healthier operational efficiency, happier, more productive teams, and improved customer experiences.

Research we conducted with IDG supports this: on average, organizations with a mature digital operations approach can:

  • Acknowledgment incidents seven minutes faster

  • Mobilize responders 11 minutes faster

  • Resolve Incidents two hours faster

  • Experience 14 fewer hours of downtime each month

Understanding your current level of digital operations maturity is a critical step toward becoming an innovative, resilient organisation. But how do you know where you stand – and what does a truly ‘mature’ organization look like?

The five stages of operational maturity

Before you can reach operational maturity, you first need a map of how to get there. We created a five-stage Digital Operations Maturity Model to give organizations a simple way to identify where they are on the journey, and understand what they need to do to improve.

Here’s a brief overview of the stages:

1. Manual: Issues are identified by customers, not by internal teams

  • Incidents are initiated manually using queued workflows such as tickets; urgent issues are manually escalated by a central team

  • Little to no mechanisms to reach experts in an urgent and timely manner

2. Reactive: Constant ‘firefighting’ mode

  • Technology investments (eg, Cloud hosting) bring visibility and real time mobilisation

  • Some distributed teams, but skills still in silos

  • No defined process for managing issues

3. Responsive: Resolving issues as they occur

  • Teams have better visibility into customer-impacting issues, and can respond quickly

  • Machine learning is used to identify potential issues, reduce false positives, and reduce noise

  • Issues are automatically identified and actioned by subject matter experts, but assembling the right team is still a challenge

4. Proactive: Seamless, coordinated issues management

  • Issues are detected and fixed by technical teams before customers are aware

  • Relevant information about issues is delivered in a timely manner to the right people

  • Seamless cross-role response and action

5. Preventative: Getting ahead of issues before they surface

  • Superb customer experience is the norm

  • Predictive issue remediation through machine learning insights; automated processes eliminate tool and escalations

  • Consistent best practices across the organization – continuous learning, improvement, and prevention woven throughout

Maturing digital operations

Having a model to follow is one thing; putting the recommendations into action is quite another.

There are plenty of organizations that learn about problems with their digital operations from their customers and operate from a reactive position. Reaching the most mature end of the spectrum is still elusive for most – and the bar keeps moving higher. The first place to go in learning how to mature your digital operations is to look to best practices, and work with a trusted partner that can identify the quick wins, long-term goals, and tech initiatives to support your biggest business imperatives.

Following this path to operational maturity has clear benefits, including

  • Benchmarking against known best practices to reflect and identify areas for improvement

  • Allowing technical leaders to visualize their desired future state so that they can build it into their strategic roadmap

  • Enabling companies to identify some of their personal ‘north star’ metrics to help measure success and set goals for improvement

Overcoming resistance to change

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the inherent resistance to trying something new, regardless of the long-term benefits.

The key is finding the believers within your organization – the ones willing to embrace transformational change. It may take a village to turn vision into reality, but first it takes just a few respected individuals to lead the charge.

Fortunately, none of this must be done all at once – change works best when it’s incremental. In other words, do the small things well, and then the big things won’t seem as daunting.

But working toward operational maturity, however elusive the higher end of the spectrum might be, isn’t a choice. Organizations can either grow up, or risk getting left behind.