Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Theoretical Basis for Maturity Models (Part 1)

There has been some excellent discussion of the Genealogical Maturity Model (GMM), both here and elsewhere. I see some points raised against the proposal have arisen because of my poor ability to write. I will supplement the misunderstandings by hurriedly throwing together today’s article. At a future time I will post an update to the model, incorporating some of the ideas from your comments and attempting to correct some of the problems you’ve identified.

Today, let me address a couple of the concerns raised about the proposed GMM.

I’m OK, You’re OK

It is OK to have a maturity model for genealogy. The Capability Maturity Model (CMM) created by IBM’s Watts Humphrey at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) may be the best known,1 but other maturity models exist. Some are outside the realm of process improvement. Most are outside the realm of software development.2 For example:

  • The Stages of Growth Model is a maturity model from the 1970’s that models use of information technology (IT) by businesses. The six stages are: initiation, contagion, control, integration, data administration, and maturity.3
  • The Services Integration Maturity Model (SIMM) by IBM, consists of seven levels: silo, integrated, componentized, simple services, composite services, virtualized services, dynamically reconfigurable services.4
  • The Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3) by the Project Management Institute (PMI) applies to project management in any industry.5
  • The Business Technology Management (BTM) Maturity Model by the BTM Institute defines five levels of maturity scored across four categories: process, organization, information, and technology.6
  • The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Maturity Model by Progress-Sonic Software is one of several different SOA models, including the aforementioned SIMM.7

Maturity Models

The definitions of the words mature (the verb) and maturation include the ideas of “natural growth and development,” “the emergence of personal and behavioral characteristics through growth processes,” and “attain[ing] a final or desired state.”8 The word maturity can also refer to the level of maturity on the continuum towards that final, desired state.

Maturity models, by their very name, are only models of the real world. The reduction from a real world maturity continuum to a model’s discrete number of maturity levels is arbitrary, although we’ll see some good reasons to do so. The number of levels varies among maturity models. Five may be the most popular number, but as we’ve seen, other numbers exist. Having more levels makes the effort to move from one up to the next smaller, which has motivational value. However, broad levels makes it possible to combine multiple, independent input variables while maintaining a totally ordered set of levels.

That’s a little abstract, but it’s late and I’m off to bed. Stay tuned for responses to more concerns. In the meantime, continue to post your comments.

     1. Wikipedia contributors, "Capability Maturity Model," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed 11 November 2009).

     2. Lee Copeland, “The Maturity Maturity Model (M3), Guidelines for Improving the Maturity Process,” ( : accessed 11 November 2009); this satire on maturity models contains a list of 34 serious models.

     3. Wikipedia contributors, "Stages of growth model," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, ( : accessed 11 November 2009); citing Richard Nolan, "Managing The Crisis In Data Processing," Harvard Business Review 57 (March-April 1979): 115–126.

     4. Ali Arsanjani and Kerrie Holley, “Increase Flexibility with the Service Integration Maturity Model (SIMM),” IBM developerWorks ( : 30 September 2005). See also the Open Group Service Integration Maturity Model (OSIMM).

     5. “Organizational Project Management Maturity Model,” Project Management Institute ( : accessed 11 November 2009).

     6. Wikipedia contributors, "Business Technology Management," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, ( : accessed 11 November 2009).

     7. Sonic Software, “SOA Maturity Model,” Progress Sonic, a website of Progress Software( : accessed 11 November 2009).

     8. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( : accessed 11 November 2009).


  1. It appears that the models you cite are of how organizations (principally businesses) work, with implicit aim of achieving the operation mode of the "highest" level . . . of effectiveness? Efficiency? Not, say, ethical conduct.

    AI, as presented your model is about evaluating individuals' place on a path to "highest" level of proficiency.

    Do you intend to compare your model to the organizational models?

    If so, for what purpose?

  2. Dear Geolover,

    No, I have no plans to compare the GMM to CMM or any other organizational model.

    -- A.I.