Apply CMM Thinking to the Service Desk

Take a page from the CMM model and apply its escalating levels of control to help the service desk run more smoothly.

January 25, 2019

4 Min Read
PSA, professional services automation

By Harmony PSA's Steve Duckworth

CMM (Capability Maturity Model) is a taxonomy that was developed to help organizations understand where they are in terms of the evolution of process quality and efficiency. Historically, it has been related to the software development processes.

But the method is also useful when considering what sort of professional services automation (PSA) system you need depending on how mature your processes are, or where the organization wants to advance to in its process maturity.

CMM is similar to ISO 9001 definitions of repeatable and assured delivery.

5-Level Model

The standard CMM model has five levels, described as:

  • Level 1: Initial: Processes are disorganized, even chaotic. Success is dependent on individual efforts and isn’t considered to be repeatable.

  • Level 2: Repeatable: Basic procedures are established; successes could be repeated because they have been established, defined and documented.

  • Level 3: Defined: An organization has developed its own standard process through greater attention to documentation, standardization and integration.

  • Level 4: Managed: An organization monitors and controls its own processes through data collection and analysis.

  • Level 5: Optimizing: Here processes are constantly being improved through monitoring feedback from current processes and introducing innovative processes to better serve the organization’s particular needs.

This five-level model can be easily applied to service desk capability and the required PSA capability as shown in the table below:


Process Maturity

PSA Service Desk Capability


None: problems handled by individuals as they are received based upon personal knowledge only

No service desk required: issues tracked on email and/or spreadsheets. Billing by incident at the time of fix.


Tracked: issues sit in a central queue for people to deal with, model still lacking process definition, prioritization or SLAs, no structured institutional knowledge

Basic service desk: no ticket activity time recording. Billing based on approximate but undocumented time estimate. Simple ticket status Open/Active/Close only.


Operational Break-Fix: ticket queue manually managed to focus on staff utilization, “My Tickets” list, SLAs offered and measured, fix process still largely driven by individual expertise

Time-aware service desk: time bookings are recorded for all ticket actions. Billing based using time spreadsheet on elapsed time as single standard rate.


Managed Services: ticket types have workflow, relationships to assets under management, multiple queues based on priority or ticket type manually maintained, knowledge base creates enterprise knowledge model, ticket performance against SLAs measured and reported

Contract-aware service desk: time is recorded against tickets and service contracts so billing can be driven directly from PSA using ticket activity and rates. Assets mapped under contract for reporting, customer portal permits self-service.


Agile Service Delivery: mature ticket type development and auto-creation/parsing/routing created self-maintaining queues, custom (personal and team), path-based workflows combined with conditional and nonconditional checklists provide quality assurance underpinning to processes, mature knowledge base accessible on portal empowers client self-service, custom notifications alert users to SLA breaches and automatically maintain customer communications, tickets pulled from queues by expert watchers based on criticality and knowledge, issues managed driven by distributed re-direction. Ticket and SLA performance analysis used to amend and improve ticket workflows and checklist completeness on a continual process-improvement basis. Scheduled preventative actions including patch-management and security threat pre-emption. Business goal is to reduce incidents, not just speedy resolution.

Financially-aware service desk: flexible and multiple SLA modeling with overrides down to asset level, close coupling between assets contracts, knowledge base and tickets; Kanban-driven queues automatically maintained; period revenue on service contracts automatically related to ticket activity and effort to service the contract. Contract and client profitability accurately recorded in real-time facilitating price optimization. 360-degree view of customer and automated billing straight through to cash.

Winning Formula

But here’s where it becomes even more interesting. Agile service delivery maps well to the traditional definition of an optimizing CMM level as applied to software development. Here, process maturity, repeatable processes, strong user-maintained institutional knowledge and active process improvement allows accurate pricing models for all-you-can-eat recurring contract models.

As the industry moves toward further optimization of contract-based preventative maintenance replacing historic break/fix-based revenue, the companies embracing agile service methods at CMM Level 5 will naturally emerge as the winners. Those companies will find they need greater sophistication in their PSA tooling, and they can now more easily find it in the market.

In a career that began in offshore engineering, migrated into investment banking and ended up with the co-founding of a software company 10 years ago, Steve Duckworth, CEO of Harmony PSA, has devoted his career to developing solutions solving project, accounting and business process problems. Follow him on LinkedIn or @HarmonyPSA.

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