Tuesday 15 August 2023

A Prescriptive Path for Digital Resilience

The four-step process shown in this picture was used throughout Splunk’s recent .conf23 user conference. It was used with different titles, different messages before the arrow swooshing upwards, and with different elements within the product suite linked to the segments. The objective is to show a journey of continual improvement by enhancing organisational ability to respond to problems.

Capability Maturity Models

A prescriptive path is essentially a Maturity Model, a mechanism defined in 1986 to measure organisations ability to develop software reliably. This original model was developed at Carnegie Mellon for the US military as a means of assessing software suppliers. This classic model has five steps:

  1. Initial (sometimes called disorganised or chaos)
  2. Managed
  3. Defined
  4. Quantitatively Managed
  5. Optimizing

Most organisations were at level 1 — and most of them still are. The objective was to ensure timely delivery of large-scale software projects that met its requirements. Despite many people building complex processes, the sad reality is that building large software projects is genuinely difficult. Even when processes are applied rigorously software grows organically and despite everyone’s best efforts results in a Big Ball of Mud. Generally these failures are project management antipatterns, however there is also a parody “immaturity” model which rings all to true.

A Maturity Model to Digital Resilience

The original maturity models were driven by the desire to deliver hugely complex software systems from sprawling specifications; the classic waterfall model. As such it is largely based on managing projects, things that have beginnings, middles and ends. A maturity model for digital resilience, however, has to be designed for continuous operation and to have objectives that are as clear as delivering functionally on time.

While the proposed journey reads well and ties into the company’s range of products, underneath it lacks the logical progression of the typical maturity model. Admittedly the term maturity model isn’t used, but the intent is clear. The four steps in the prescriptive path are:

  1. Foundational Visibility
  2. Prioritized Actions
  3. Proactive Response
  4. Optimized Experiences

The first three make sense, but the leap to optimization is premature, and different versions of the chart off different forms of optimization. For the model to work across the whole product range, it needs to encompass the goals of all. It also needs to bridge the gap to optimization; while active response is important, in itself it doesn’t cover the gamut of resilience.

Building a true Digital Resilience Maturity Model

As I have already mentioned, all organisations need to consider their digital resilience. A maturity model is a great way of providing a structure to assess and achieve that. It could even be used as a form of certification. As I’ve been considering Splunk’s prescriptive path over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about what the ultimate form of this model would take and to whom it would apply. Ideas forming but not yet ready for publication.

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