Business Process maturity models

Process Maturity banner

In the latest blog you (may) have read that process governance is a requirement to achieve high process maturity levels in your organisation. Through this blog, you will have an even better understanding of process maturity and how maturity models may help you to determine a growth path, enabling your organisation to acquire an even higher process maturity level. So it can generate even more value and/or even higher quality products and services.

What are maturity models?

There are many kinds of maturity models : not only for business processes, though also for project management, for software integration, for SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), for business rules, for Kanban, Lean maturity models, etc.

Maturity models are frameworks which help to assess the maturity level in a specific domain. Process maturity models aim at appraising an organisation’s level of process-centricity. They help to measure how effectively and efficiently the organisation is working, by means of its process management capabilities.

Why process maturity models?

As you have read in this blog, measurement is the key to improvement. As a process maturity model measures how well an organisation applies process management, it thus helps to evolve to higher levels of process management capabilities. So that the organisation succeeds even better with optimal value creation and continuous improvement.

5-whyIt has been proven, indeed, that the quality of products & services which an organisation delivers is strongly determined by the quality – and thus the maturity – of the processes that develop and deliver these products & services.

History and overview of the main maturity models


The origin of business process (management) maturity models can be found at the US Department of Defense in the nineties of previous century. This Department was looking for a way to assess the capability of its potential software development vendors to deliver on time and according to budget.

That’s why they asked the Software Engineering Institute (SEI – part of the Carnegie Mellon University) to develop such a method. Consequently, the SEI developed what was called the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), and published it as “The Capability Maturity Model – Guidelines for improving the Software Process”.

The principle was to assess an organisation’s capability maturity thanks to process measures, and so to assign a “maturity level” according to the measured results.

Level 5 being the ideal organisation, where business processes are managed very exemplary, as they are continuously improved. While at level 1, processes are not organised. Such organisations  are not even aware that they do have business processes. There is a well-known joke in the profession that reads “fortunately, there is no level zero”.

CMMI – Capability Maturity Model Integration

The limitation of CMM was its too high focus on software development, while there was a need to apply similar models in other parts of organisations. So, many specific variants popped up. E.g. the one for HRM, named the People CMM. This model aimed at assessing the maturity of an organisation’s workforce practices, aiming at establishing continuous improvement programs for workforce development, and the integration of the workforce development with process improvement, so to foster a culture of excellence.

As too many models arose even in one and the same organisation, there was a need to integrate those multiple models within, and across, organisations. This is how CMMI came into being.

CMMI levels described

CMMI considers process maturity more generally and broadly, so it can be applied to many more processes than software development, and even broader than IT-related processes.

PEMM – Process & Enterprise Maturity Model

In 2007, Dr. Michael Hammer published in the Harvard Business Review his Process & Enterprise Maturity Model or PEMM. This model comprises 2 worksheets (which you can download from this webpage) :

  • One sheet to assess the maturity of specific business processes on their own, within the enterprise
  • One sheet to assess the process maturity of the overall enterprise

Which makes sense, as an organisation may have very well managed business processes, while having other processes which have a rather poor maturity level. And to achieve an enterprise wide high maturity, you should strive to increase the level of all business processes.

Mind that this model distinguishes ‘only’ 4 levels instead of the ‘usual’ 5 maturity levels.

While this model is quite simple and straightforward to use, it also has some shortcomings:

  • there is no connection between the levels and the business outcomes you may expect from the respective levels. This may make it hard for (senior) executives to be motivated to invest in achieving higher maturity levels.
  • it does not take strategic alignment into account. As you have read in previous blogs, this is key to avoid sub-optimisation : all business processes should be designed to contribute anyhow to the organisation’s vision & strategy.
  • the model does not take IT either as a key enterprise capability, while IT – say digitisation – is an essential enabler for process improvement.

BPMM – Business Process Maturity Model

Shortly later, in 2008, the OMG (Object Management Group, also owning and managing the BPMN specification) published the BPMM framework that further builds on the CMMI model.

Hence, it also has 5 maturity levels:BPMM-levels

  • Level 1 = initial : it is characterised as inconsistent management, often called “fire-fighting”. There is a (total) lack of management objectives to organise the organisation’s activities.
  • Level 2 = managed : featured as work unit management, where there is already some management foundation, however limited to the work units ; which often results in so called functional silos. To my experience, this is the level where still (too) many – most probably the majority of – organisations stick today.
  • Level 3 = standardised : is also named the process management level, as it is the 1st level where an organisation becomes aware of its business processes. At this level, organisations establish and use enterprise wide process infrastructure and related process assets, so aiming at achieving consistency in their activities though also in the products & services they deliver.
  • Level 4 = predictable : once at this 4th level, organisations start to exploit the capability of the process infrastructure & process assets, which they started using at previous level. Hence, the second name capability management level. The objective is to achieve predictable results with a controlled, limited variation of process outputs.
  • Level 5 = optimising / innovating : at this level, organisations aim at continuous improvement of their business processes, products and services. They achieve this thanks to defect and problem prevention, by continuously improving their capabilities and through structural (i.e. planned) innovation.

Specific to BPMM are also the so called “Domain Process Areas”, which describe which kinds of new measures should be taken to lift the organisation up to the next maturity level. For example, if an organisation’s process maturity is at level 2, though it aspires to the 3rd level, then it should consider following 9 domain process areas as a BPMM improvement program :

  1. Organizational Process Leadership, to establish the executive sponsorship and the management accountability for the performance of the organisation’s process improvement activities.
  2. Organizational Business Governance to set up executive accountability for the management and performance of the organization’s work and results.
  3. Work Unit Requirements Management to establish and maintain the documented and agreed-to requirements for the work that a work unit performs.
  4. Work Unit Planning and Commitment for establishing and maintaining the plans and commitments for performing and managing the work required of a work unit.
  5. Work Unit Monitoring and Control which enables to regularly monitor and adjust the work assignments, resources, and other work factors for the individuals and workgroups in the work unit and keeping performance and results in line with the requirements and plans.
  6. Work Unit Performance so to have the individuals and workgroups within the work unit perform their assigned activities and produce the agreed-to results so that the aggregate efforts of individuals and workgroups satisfy the work unit’s overall requirements and plans.
  7. Work Unit Change Management deals with managing and controlling the content and changes to product releases that are deployed for use internal and external to the organization.
  8. Sourcing Management to manage the acquisition of products and services from suppliers external to the organization.
  9. Process and Product Assurance deals with providing appropriate conformance guidance and objectively reviewing the activities and work products of work efforts within the organization to ensure they comply with applicable laws, regulations, standards, organizational policies, business rules, process descriptions, and work procedures.

You will find much more about the BPMM model in its full specification (of almost 500 pages). This is available for anyone and for free on the OMG’s website – or by just clicking here.

APQC’s Seven Tenets of Process Management

Some years ago, APQC published a paper named “Using Process Management Maturity Models – a path to attaining process management excellence”.

As they inspired from the BPMM, their 5 levels are very similar, even though the level names are different :

Level 1 = No organised processesAPQCs 7 tenets of Process Management

Level 2 = Some organised processes

Level 3 = Most processes are organised

Level 4 = Processes are managed

Level 5 = Processes are continuously improved

The seven tenets

These 7 tenets are meant to make it easier for an organisation to assess themselves, and at the same time to make it even more clear to define the measures to take to ‘grow’ to the next maturity level. Like illustrated in above picture, the 7 tenets are : Strategic alignment, Governance, Process models, Change Management, Process performance, Process improvement and Tools & technology.

Rummler & Brache’s Process Performance index

A bit a ‘strange duck’, even not named as maturity model, this process performance index – consisting of only 2 pages, including 10 questions and 3 levels – is, however, very easy and fast and effectively to apply.

Indeed, through the 10 questions you quickly get the score, which allows you to read the recommended measures to be taken to the next level.

How to use a process maturity model?

A process maturity model is meant to be used as an improvement or growth path, guiding organisations to evolve from less mature levels to higher ones, i.e. to well-organised and disciplined business processes.

Identify your current position

GPSComparably to a GPS, you first need to know your current position, i.e. at which process maturity level your organisation is currently situated. This might be assessed through an external assessment or by an organisation’s self-assessment.

All process maturity models have their own assessment methods. Basically, they all boil down to

  • have interviews with
    • people carrying out process activities
    • people who manage the performance of process activities
  • identify and review
    • artifacts produced by process activities, e.g. quality control, respecting SLA’s,…
    • artifacts supporting the good performance of process activities, e.g. the way the activities are organised and managed.
  • capture data, enabling you to
    • characterise the organisation’s culture, like employees habits, attitudes and behaviours.
    • assess process – and overall – performance and results, e.g. effectiveness and efficiency.

Define the way to the next maturity level

Then, they show you the way to your destination, i.e. to next maturity level. Like illustrated with above BPMM’s (domain) process areas, most of the maturity models suggest an approach to grow from the current level to the next.

Although those business process maturity models are very inspiring to set up and to monitor Business Process Governance, be aware, however, that

  1. the suggested generic approaches will need to be made specific in your own organisation
  2. above all, such a systematic process maturity increase will only succeed when top management – including the CEO – is involved and is willing to sponsor it.

Interested in getting the entire package of above mentioned models as pdf? Just share your experience or opinion with maturity models through below Comments box. Or would you like some support in assessing the process maturity level in your own organisation? Feel free to contact me through the online contact form and I will be happy to guide you in your BPM-journey.

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  • Juan Carlos Madrid Abad

    Very interesting article. We are developing a SaaS to help organizations to manage their process maturity.

  • Juan Carlos Madrid Abad

    Please send me the entire pdf package.

  • Abraham Gonzalez Rivas

    Please, I need PDF