SIAM Health Assessment

Markus Müller: 18 years of experience in conducting assessments.

Markus Müller, who contributed to the development of the SIAM Health Assessment, looks back at 18 years of conducting assessments in various roles, countries and industries. He explains the real advantages he has seen, not simply from glossy brochures, but rather, from experience and insight about what assessments have accomplished for the organizations he has worked for.

The SIAM assessment development team

When Michelle and Simon asked me to join the SIAM assessment development team, it took me about 0.2 milliseconds to answer to the affirmative. I have been part of the SIAM authoring team since the beginning when we worked on developing the SIAM Bodies of Knowledge. Assessments on SIAM competencies are familiar territory for me as I was responsible for SIAM services such as assessment delivery in one of the global consultancies, before moving to a global corporate organization to not only talk about and assess SIAM environments, but to live and breathe it every day in my role as ‘Head of SIAM’.

Last year Gartner attested that the service integrator “…continues to move up the Slope of Enlightenment as client adoption increases”. This means a higher maturity in coordination and integration of hybrid service providers in a services ecosystem is required.

Coordination and facilitation between suppliers work best when based on well understood dynamics, dependencies and connections. Having factual information about the state of the environment gathered from quality data sources is fundamental to this. Gathering information that is based on data supports informed decisions about what the roadmap to design, implement and run a SIAM environment should look like for a specific organization, is exactly what a SIAM assessment can do for that organization. 

A holistic approach which takes all components into account.

Before I explain what is outstanding about our SIAM assessment, I would like to summarize what I did not like about classic assessments:

It was clear that we did not want to repeat one-dimensional patterns, such as evaluating only the integrator’s ability to manage processes. For us, it has to be a holistic approach that takes into account all the components that make up excellent management practices. A SIAM assessment is unlikely to achieve its goal by looking at a single company in isolation. However, most assessments focus only on one organization, but not on the entire supply chain. In our SIAM Assessment, we`re talking about the progress of a SIAM ecosystem.

And if we then focus only on whether a particular practice is evident or not, we are in old-school territory. The classic yes/no questions usually don’t do justice to the complexity of many multi-provider management challenges today. You wouldn’t believe how many different discussions can arise around a single question. If the questions are not easy to understand and to the point, we risk negative feedback, as assessment participants could easily get the feeling that their valuable time is not well invested. Instead, the questions that are asked must be open-ended and enrich the participants’ thinking as well as implicitly convey know-how.

We had proprietary SIAM assessments in some places already. However, those concentrated mainly on just readiness aspects.

Our SIAM Assessment will be meaningful, no matter if you`re just starting to develop your SIAM Ecosystem, if you`re in the middle of the transition and need a checkpoint or if you`d like to retrospectively demonstrate progress and improvements made.

A quality assessment that is built on the best practice guidance from the SIAM Bodies of Knowledge, provides a baseline to be able to track an organization’s SIAM status.

It is an old saying, but a true one, that we must first understand the baseline from which we are starting before we can understand how to get to where we want to be. An assessment helps reduce risk in the early stages of transformation planning, for both the integrator and the customer organization, and experience suggests that this effort pays dividends when determining progress toward a defined vision for the customer organization.

Speaking of strategy, I personally find that the assessments I’ve led in the past have contributed positively towards sorting through various stakeholder opinions and helps to establish some clear priorities for improvement.

Check your own progress using the SIAM health assessment.

The SIAM assessment that we have developed will prioritize activities within an improvement approach based on the best practice guidance within the SIAM Bodies of Knowledge. This supports improvement across the key practice areas, people, process, tools, measurement and governance and strategy, so it really does provide for a holistic review and improvement planning initiative.

There is another important element that I have always found valuable about assessments: By checking an organization’s current practice against the documented practices in the SIAM BoKs, we can assure that these good practices provide the guardrails to elevate the organization to the next level of maturity without having to reinvent the wheel. The SIAM guidance is based on real world experience, with contribution of over 40 SIAM practitioners from across the globe.  An assessment can truly help an organization understand how well it is functioning and how the incorporation of service integration is enabling business benefit for the customer.

The ability to benchmark against known success factors for a SIAM environment, and the ability for an organization to review its own progress is what we hoped to achieve with the SIAM Health Assessment, and it is in my view that this can be a strategic asset when used in this way.

My consultant colleagues may not all agree with assessments and indeed, our development team had much debate about what we wanted to create and what we didn’t. The achievement of a ‘maturity level’ or ‘number’ was definitely not what we wanted. Our focus was on creating a tool that could be used to plan for improvements, wherever a customer organization was in their SIAM journey.

One of the great benefits of our assessment is that it can be done quickly and simply as a ‘DIY’ of self-assessment to get a baseline of health very quickly. If a deeper dive, consultant led assessment is required, this is possible too. The well-conceived questioning approach allows a guided assessment and expertise from the consultant to create a much more thorough review and improvement plan.

Both options work well depending on what an organization is hoping to achieve. In my view, the self-assessment effort has always paid off in advance of an external assessment to scale the external assessment so that not all areas need to be assessed in a 360-degree lengthy manner, but the level of detail of the assessment of individual SIAM competencies can be adjusted to the results that the self-assessment brought to light.

The organization that I currently work for uses assessments for many of the reasons I have mentioned here. However, there is one more good reason; by undertaking periodic assessments you can really track improvements. The nature of a SIAM ecosystem requires a customer organization`s governance, risk and compliance function to assure internal and external standards are being followed and good practices are developed and executed consistently across the SIAM ecosystem against these standards. Having an ongoing assessment can really help to achieve this and execute on corporate assurance responsibilities in context of governance, risk and compliance.

I personally see the benefits when talking to internal and external auditors who also compare what we do within our SIAM ecosystem against other industry practices such as COBIT. The section about COBIT and SIAM in our BoKs (see Professional BoK section 2.3.3) explains more about how close both are in terms of principles, framework, and management practices.

I am delighted to have contributed to developing this SIAM Health Assessment. It is a true example of community contribution, making our insight and knowledge accessible and truly ‘walking the talk’ for our industry!

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