The ITSM Maturity Model

The ITSM Maturity Model is useful to explain the correlation between the adoption of ITSM practices against the business value derived from them. These five stages are not absolute, but serve as a guide to help us understand and explain the dynamics of changing a complex system.

The cultural archetypes in this model are based on the dominant behaviours and observable attitudes. Every IT department has IT staff of varying levels of professionalism, experience and work methods and while there may be exceptional cases, this model requires us to focus on the dominant impression.

It is important to stress that attitudes, behaviour and culture cannot be changed through direct intervention. Culture emerges from establishing and maturing a management system which provides guidance to behaviour. In absence of any formal management approach, the culture is likely to be loose and variable. With the adoption of structure (Polices, Process, Roles & Responsibilities etc), a more professional, service-orientated culture will undoubtedly emerge.

Typical Characteristics

Level 1: The Chaotic Archetype

Also known as “fire-fighting culture”, Level 1 is characterised by a lack of organisation and collaboration, and where performance is largely dependent on individual effort. We typically see the following symptoms:

  • High number of disruptive outages, often caused by poorly-planned changes and a lack of appreciation for complex inter-dependencies
  • Low levels of business confidence in IT
  • Uncontrolled and spiralling IT costs
  • Poor success rate of deploying changes to the production environment
  • Frustrated end-users who experience long delays before queries are resolved
  • Poor record-keeping, especially with IT assets
  • High levels of re-work due to non-standard work methods
  • Abandoned, unmanaged virtual servers (ie. AWS) contributing to unmanaged costs
  • Sprawling, unmanaged and undocumented IT landscape
  • Very low levels of First Call Resolution (FCR), with most calls being escalated to Second Line Support. The Service Desk is perceived to be a centre of incompetence.
  • Fire-fighting culture is often burdened with “superheroes” who insist on their right to uniqueness and creativity.
  • High levels of Work-In-Progress (WIP)

Level 2: The Reactive Archetype

This archetype emerges after the adoption and formalisation of management controls such as policies, processes and an integrated Service Management tool. End-user satisfaction rises rapidly due to their experience of improved consistency, and also possibly due to Stockholm syndrome. We begin to see the following:

  • Significant improvement in First Call Resolution (FCR), with most calls being resolved by the Service Desk. End-user satisfaction improves significantly.
  • Reduced time to resolve an incident (MTTR) due to re-use of knowledge
  • Reduction in the number of incidents caused by poorly-planned changes
  • IT assets (hardware and virtual servers) are identified and recorded
  • Rudimentary software licence management practices are in place
  • Opportunities begin to emerge for the consolidation of systems and platforms

Note: Many organisations get stuck during the transition from Level 1 to Level 2 and don’t truly realise any meaningful benefits of a Service Management approach. This is often due to unchallenged management policies and entrenched Industrial Management mindsets, as well as the misapplication of ITIL practices (Change Control is notorious for being adopted incorrectly).

Level 3: Proactive Archetype

Once processes integrate by sharing and connecting information (typically only achieved through the functionality of an integrated service management tool), a more proactive culture emerges where information supports productive knowledge-work. The workload largely shifts from “fixing stuff” to “building reliable systems”. New management insights emerge, which lead to different decisions and approaches:

  • Appreciation for the fact that unplanned changes are largely responsible for system outages.
  • Further reduction in the failure of complex software deployments
  • Understanding of system dependencies and complexity through the establishment of Configuration Management and Service Catalog Management.
  • Emergence of a principle-based engineering discipline. More engineering effort goes into preventing incidents, than fixing them.
  • In Operations, preventative maintenance is prominent, with a calendar of planned maintenance and Projected System Availability (PSA) being published to end-users through the Service Desk.
  • Feedback loops are established, which result in more risks being identified, as well as opportunities for improvement.
  • The “superhero” culture disappears, and is replaced with a collaborative and team-centric approach.
  • Improved financial transparency, with accounting and budgeting practices implemented as prescribed by the Finance dept.
  • Significant reduction of Work-in-Progress.

Level 4: Service Provider Archetype

At this archetype there is a shift from IT delivering systems, to delivering services. We see a greater alignment with business objectives, a sensitivity to business priority and a focus on achieving business outcomes. We also see the emergence of the following:

  • Greater alignment between Development and Operations (DevOps)
  • Identification and Management of Risks
  • Establishment of a sustainable and high-performance governance structure
  • The formalisation and funding of Continual Improvement initiatives
  • The nurturing of a Continuous Improvement culture amongst IT staff.
  • Release Management features prominently, with system implementations being planned and communicated in line with business priorities.
  • Business Relationship Managers transition from handling legacy issues, to having truly strategic discussions with business executives. This has an impact on the IT strategy and development on internal capability.

Level 5: Strategic Partner Archetype

In this archetype, IT transitions into a strategic partner, often leading the business with emerging technology.

  • Business Relationship Managers take the lead by means of a Strategic IT Portfolio, with a strong focus on Investment (as opposed to managing costs).
  • Strategic initiatives emerge, often on the theme of Digital Transformation.
  • Flexibility to support changes to the business model


  • IT staff often have an inflated sense of relative maturity, which is why an external perspective provides a more objective opinion. Our ITSM Process Assessment provides a comprehensive report which describes all aspects of the current state, and provides a prioritised roadmap of improvements to achieve a desired future state.
  • While the maturity level is a useful indicator, we discourage that recommend chasing a maturity level – instead, we focus improvements on aligning with customer outcomes.
  • Good governance is based on a foundation of Continual Improvement. We recommend a quarterly cycle of improvement to ensure that improvements are planned and implemented, and that the impact is monitored.