Friday, August 22, 2014

SPaMCast Question #2: If the large adopters continue to change agile, will agile become just a shell of a word?

[NOTE: Over the coming weeks, the CMMI Appraiser will be sharing snippets from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.] 

Jeff, If the large adopters continue to change agile, will agile become just a shell of a word? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

Tom, that's exactly right. And it won’t be the first time something like this has happened. There once was a day when Waterfall was considered the new, cool thing, and everybody loved it. Life was so simple then!



I am old enough to remember when people were saying, "Let's do this really cool idea, where we can make projects predictable. We can make people more productive. We can get everybody to understand and we can collaborate.” All of these words were being used back in the 1970s and 80s. Unfortunately, large adopters of the method have turned Waterfall into a shell of an idea. If this continues, there's no reason that agile won't go the same way.

I'm a big fan of history. I believe very strongly that history continues to repeat itself over and over and over again, and always has and always will. And for the science fiction fans among us, you saw this on Battlestar Galactica, where they always said over and over again, "What's happened before will happen again." 

This problem of taking a great concept and turning into a shell has all happened before. It will all happen again. And the same thing will happen with agile unless we take steps now to strengthen and make it more resilient.

What is resilience, anyway? The formal definition says resilience is power or ability to return to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. It is also described as the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity or the like; buoyancy.

I believe these are two very apt definitions of resilience, given what is happening in our market and the influence of some of the newer players – such as the federal government, and big defense contractors – who are demanding that their vendors “go agile.”

In my opinion, this why we need a resilient model.

Check the Broadsword web site (www.broadswordsolutions.com) for our next webinar on Agile Resiliency.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Register for "CMMI - Everything You NEED to Know!"

Dear Readers,

Coming soon to screens near you!   If you have been tasked with, or interested in, transforming your organization into a high-performing, lean, and productive team, Broadsword is hosting another FREE Webinar for engineering and software professionals like you, on Friday, August 21, 2014 at 1PM EST.  We hope you can join us.



Watching this Webinar and learning everything about CMMI is an excellent choice for anyone who needs to get a grasp on improving, changing and elevating performance. At the deepest level, the CMMI provides you with an understanding of the way your company behaves, so that you can build better products, win new business and retain the customers you have.

That’s the promise of CMMI. The Model is all about the transformation of the culture of your company. It’s about improving and changing the way your company behaves, so that you create an environment in which the organization can manage its uniqueness in a structured way

So, whether you have been told you need to achieve a so-called “CMMI Certification” or you have been working with CMMI for years, you’ll want to check out the Webinar. You are sure to pick up some new ideas to help you get better at what you are ALREADY doing.


Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec! 

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why you MUST involve the right stakeholders

[Dear Readers, for the past several months, our good friend Pat O’Toole, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, has been collaborating with us on a monthly series of CMMI-related posts, "Just the FAQs." Our goal with these posts is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the CMMI, SCAMPI, engineering strategy and software process improvement. This month Jeff reveals why it critical to identify and involve the right stakeholders. Take it away, Jeff! ~ the CMMI Appraiser]


We’re an agile team and everything we do is “face-to-face.”  You might say we “specialize in collaboration.”  Why should we care about “GP2.7: Identify and Involve Relevant Stakeholders?”  It’s seems like defining a process for this doesn’t deliver any value.

I agree, you shouldn’t care about GP2.7. You should REALLY care about it!

The entire premise of “agile” is predicated on strong collaboration, transparency, and, most of all, being engaged.  So the real question is, why would you even THINK this wasn’t important?
Perhaps the words are getting in the way. The CMMI, rivaled only by a Piers Anthony novel for its esoteric lingo, may not say it in an “agile way,” but the authors meant pretty-much the same thing you do.  Another way to say it might be:

“We need engagement, and where the heck are they?”

Years ago, when I was a CIO of a software company, members of our development team came into my office complaining about team members not participating in important project events:

“He never comes to the meetings we put on his calendar!”

“She plays with her email during every design review!”

“The business customer never shows up!”

“The other developers don’t even LOOK at the code before a code review!”

That sounds horrible!  And we were using Scrum too.  THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! 

Their complaints required some additional investigation.  So I asked them, “how big a problem is this?”  and “which meetings were worse than others?”

Crickets.

Don’t get me wrong, they thought it was a BIG problem, and it REALLY annoyed them, they just couldn’t tell me how big it was.  Or how small, or how much risk it introduced into the project.  Nothing.

Or as I like to call it, whining.  Wah wah wah!

By now my radar was starting to overheat.  “Wait, agile is all about engagement, but you’re saying people are not engaged?” Ouch.  My brain was hurting!

Agile teams are usually pretty good at engaging in “ceremonies” that are defined by Scrum (daily standups, sprint demos, sprint planning, etc), but are similar to traditional projects when it comes to engaging with the other  – no less important – events like design reviews, code reviews, testing, and other valuable, but not specifically “agile,” events.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’ve been writing a lot about Agile Values, and that without them adopting “agile” is bound to end up being a frustrating experience.  This is because agile is really a set of values, not a method or set of techniques.  Agile techniques, like planning poker for instance, were designed in direct support of the values, not the other way around.  In other words, there should be direct traceability between agile values, agile methods and agile techniques. Holding daily-standups doesn’t make you “agile” unless your organization values failing-fast, transparency, and collaboration.  If they punish you for uncovering risks and issues every day, those daily standups will go the way of the buffalo right quick!

So, there I was, listening to my agile team members complaining about their own team … not being agile. Ugh. 

At the time I didn’t know much about GP2.7, in fact I had never even heard of it.  But I did know that in order to understand the risks of lack of engagement I needed information, so I decided to do something about it.   GP2.7 is, after all, all about risk.

A customer I had been working with had been playing around with an idea called “TeamScore” to keep track of stakeholder attendance for status meetings.  I thought that since “agile” is ALL about engagement, why not apply TeamScore to all events (as identified by the project’s defined process) and use it as a primary indicator of agile project health?  If engagement is a pre-requisite for agile projects, it seemed like understanding this data was a pre-requisite for running a successful agile organization.  It turned out to be a good guess that paid dividends well beyond the investment.

We first implemented Release One – an estimate vs. actual record of attendance at all ceremonies and events.  This revealed three facts:
  1.  At most of the events the attendance was not what was planned.
  2.  That wasn’t all bad, because we discovered that teams often clogged up people’s calendars with meetings they didn’t need to attend (which explains why some of them were not showing up).
  3. Some of the people attending didn’t need to be there, but they showed up anyway and ignored everyone (hey, it beats working!).

As soon as we started posting the scores in public team members came out of the woodwork! Those who were supposed to be there started showing up, and those whose attendance was superfluous self-selected out, removing waste from the value chain and increasing the bandwidth of the organization.

SCORE!  Instant improvement!

Having successfully spiked TeamScore in Release One, Release Two of our little experiment introduced a multiplier for engagement at each event.  If someone was unprepared, played with their phone the entire meeting, or constantly vanished to make a call (you know who you are!), we applied it to their portion of the average.  We didn’t report on individual scores, only the TeamScore. This introduced other ways for us to collaboratively set expectations, save money, and reduce our opportunity cost.  All because of GP2.7!

So learn to love it.  It can make the difference between saying your agile, and being agile.

© Copyright 2014: Process Assessment, Consulting & Training and Broadsword Solutions

“Just the FAQs” is written/edited by Pat O’Toole and Jeff Dalton.  Please contact the authors at pact.otoole@att.net and jeff@broadswordsolutions.com to suggest enhancements to their answers, or to provide an alternative response to the question posed.  New questions are also welcomed!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What are the warning signs that our CMMI program will fail?

Dear CMMI Appraiser – I really got a lot out of your Webinar last month, “Everything You Need to Know about CMMI.” For my boss, if we decide to take on a CMMI adoption, can you repeat the warning signs we need to watch out for? ~ Rajib D.

Dear Rajib,

Thanks for following up from the Webinar. You know, the question of CMMI adoption is a serious one – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with the answer! In honor of David Letterman’s decision to retire next year, I’d like to answer your question with a Top 10 Countdown, CMMI-style!

Here are the Top 10 Warning Signs that your CMMI adoption will fail:


Top 10 Warning Signs that your CMMI adoption will fail:

10. You tell your team to go “get a level” by Tuesday
9. You say, “We need to go right to Level Five (or Four, or Three)
8. Immediately after achieving Level Two, you say, “How soon can we get to Level Three?”
7. You look for a consultant to “do CMMI” to you
6. Your so-called CMMI consultant says, “The CMMI Institute makes you do it.”
5. Your so-called CMMI consultant says, “The CMMI makes you do it.”
4. Your so-called CMMI consultant talks about “implementing” or “complying with” CMMI
3. No one has any idea why you’re “doing CMMI,” but you’re doing it anyway
2. No one can articulate what the company is trying to achieve with the CMMI

… And the Number One warning sign that your adoption is destined to fail …

1. You’ve bought a tool that promises “CMMI in six months or less”

There you go ladies and gentlemen!  Don’t go away. We’ll have more fun right here for you when we come back.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Visit www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy,performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We want to improve as engineers and as a company – where do we start?

Dear CMMI Appraiser,  my boss told me to put a CMMI Appraisal Team together for our first CMMI appraisal, and am looking for good a CMMI Training course to help us improve as engineers and as a company. Where do we start? ~ Sam C.

Sam, welcome to CMMI! It’s great that you know that your goal is to improve, both individually and organizationally. What better place to start?



A lot of beginners come to the CMMI thinking they need to “get a CMMI level” or “achieve a CMMI Maturity Rating” – but that’s not really the point. Yes, you’ll achieve those results with a proper adoption of the CMMI. But it’s far better for your company and your career to approach the CMMI as a tool that can help you improve and change the way your company behaves, so that you can get better at what you’re ALREADY doing. 

Now, as you know, the first step in your CMMI journey is CMMI training. There are good CMMI Training courses available through the CMMI Institute. You can also take a CMMI Training class with a CMMI Institute Partner, like Broadsword (www.broadswordsolutions.com).

The advantage of taking the CMMI Training with a CMMI Institute Partner like Broadsword is pretty clear cut. We are real-world practitioners of CMMI. We use real-life stories, examples, exercises, and case studies as we go. We even cover dynamic concepts like CMMI and agile, and the cutting edge approach of agileCMMI that we pioneered, which can help you accelerate your career.

I'd love to have you and your Appraisal Team in our upcoming CMMI training class, Sam. It's always a pleasure to have participants who are motivated to adopt CMMI for the right reasons.

Register HERE for “Introduction to CMMI-DEV,” September 24-26, 2014, in St. Louis, MO.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, August 11, 2014

SPaMCast Question #1: Why is it important to toughen up agile?

[NOTE: Over the coming weeks, the CMMI Appraiser will be sharing snippets from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about whether agile is resilient – i.e., whether it will be able to spring back into shape after being bound or compressed by the pressures of development and support – and how frameworks like the CMMI can be used to make agile more resilient. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 296.

Jeff, why is it important to toughen up agile? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast 

In my work with engineering and software professionals from a wide variety of companies, large and small, in industries like aerospace, defense, finance, transportation, energy, and manufacturing, I see a lot of the same problems repeated over and over that can be eliminated by strengthening agile or "toughening it up," as you say.


But let's take a step back for a second.  One thing I started to notice a few years ago was that agile was really starting to exponentially multiply across many of my clients. As a huge advocate of Scrum and XP, I am really interested in how it delivers better software. This widespread adoption of agile is a good thing that we all want to see.

But there’s something going on with these companies that’s not so good. Even though the adoption of agile is multiplying rapidly across the industry, it is doing so in a very low-level way. The adoption of agile has been broad, but not tall.

In other words, project teams all over the world are adopting agile, but their management is not engaged. Their management is not understanding why agile is a good thing. So while organizations everywhere are adopting agile techniques, the businesses themselves are not changing to be agile.

This is a problem. In some areas of the company, there are software teams using Scrum and XP and other methods. In other areas of companies, they are not using those methods. Instead, they are using business methods that are in conflict with agility.

Why does this matter? A lot of big, large-scale adopters – such as the DOD, the federal government sectors and many of the big contractors – are starting to request more projects be run using agile, because they have heard it's a good thing. But if you take a look at their procurement or marketing and sales or senior management, they have no concept of why agility is a good idea.

They haven't figured out what it is, but they think they want it. So they give their suppliers mixed messages, such as: "We want you to be agile. But instead of doing this daily standup thing, can't you do it once a month? Because you're wasting my time by making me come to this. And can't you give that Microsoft Project work plan with 900 lines in it? All I ask is that you plan this project out. And be agile.”

So, while we hear these large adopters saying, "We want you to be agile," what they are really saying is: "We want you to work faster and cheaper. Truthfully, we don't really understand what this agile thing is, but we want you to be it.”

This is a problem. Organizations like this are driving change into the agile community. Unless we get serious about making agile resilient, the changes they impose will be detrimental to the future of agile.

For those who would like to know more about toughening up agile and making agile resilient, we invite you to sign up for our August 7, 2014 Webinar: Agile Resiliency: Scaling Agile so that it Thrives & Survives.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Who can be CMMI certified, an individual or a company?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, we’re confused about CMMI certification. Who gets CMMI certified, an individual or a company? ~ Lou F.

Hey, Lou – until recently, my answer would have been, “neither.” That’s because, until recently, the CMMI Institute has not used the phrase “CMMI certified,” “CMMI certificate” or “CMMI certification.” This term is commonly used in "certification environments" (companies who must earn and keep various ISO and/or US Government certifications).  In this case, CMMI is sometimes thought of as "just another certification." We have always thought that focusing solely on certification is a misguided interpretation of what actually needs to be done, which is to drive the transformation of the culture of your company.

So while companies don't get "certified" in CMMI (they get "rated"), there has been a change on the individual front. Finally, individuals CAN now be CMMI certified!



The CMMI Institute has recently announced a new certification: the Certified CMMI AssociateTM. This certification helps individuals committed to excellence in process improvement to identify themselves for professional career growth and advancement. The CMMI Associate certification also allows organizations to be confident in hiring credible practitioners.

There are thousands of job listings that list "CMMI" as a desirable skill, and this certification can be used to help match applicants with hiring organizations, much like the PMP or CSM certifications do. That’s what’s cool about the CMMI Associate certification – it helps both individuals and the organizations that hire them. The CMMI Associate certification is a win-win.

For individuals – the CMMI Associate certification provides confirmation of your knowledge of basic and intermediate concepts of CMMI. When you are a certified CMMI Associate, you are demonstrating your dedication to elevating organizational performance.

For organizations – the CMMI Associate certification helps organizations that are looking to hire experienced employees and partners.  You will be able to rely on the new accreditation to help identify those who are best qualified to help you cultivate and enhance internal strategies for process improvement.

How does it work?

You are eligible to apply to become a CMMI Associate after completed an official offering of the Introduction to CMMI course or the Fundamentals of CMMI elearning course. Once you have completed the course work, you can take the CMMI Associate exam. The 30 question, 1-hour examination is composed of multiple choice, true/false, and multiple select questions.

How much does it cost?

The CMMI Institute offers the CMMI Associate exam for $250.  In order to meet the training pre-requisite,  you can attend one of our "Introduction to CMMI" training courses in cities around the country, and we'll even provide a discount code that allows you to take the exam for less.

For more information about the CMMI Associate role and requirements, please contact us at info@broadswordsolutions.com.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What would happen if an extra small company got a CMMI rating and won a government contract?

Dear CMMI Appraiser – we are a small Northern Virginia company of 7 engineers that designs the best wide area surveillance equipment on the market. Because we’re tired of missing out on government contracts to huge companies like Northrop Grumman, we are looking into getting a CMMI rating. But if we do get a CMMI rating and win some of these contracts, would we need to start acting like a Northrop Grumman? ~ Doc F

Dear Doc,

Not just “no” … HECK no! Your strength as a small business is in your agility and your ability to quickly adjust and adapt to your customers’ needs. Don’t change that! The CMMI is a scalable model that was designed to be molded around your business goals and objectives. It works the way you work, regardless of the size of the organization. The only limitation you face is your own imagination.


In terms of company size, Doc, bigger is not necessarily better. There is nothing about large companies like Northrop Grumman that makes them inherently “better” at delivering the type of engineering solutions that you do. Likewise, there is nothing about the CMMI that requires the infrastructure that only a large company can afford. Those are myths that sprang up due to a lack of credible information available to small companies.

Not to say you are unaffected by the history that customers have with the big companies. Large buyers like the federal government have come to expect this type of framework from their suppliers. By adopting the CMMI, you won’t be doing what they do. You’ll be doing what YOU do! (Only better.)

One of the ways you’ll be better with the CMMI is you will be able to anticipate your clients’ needs in a predictable way. Large-scale buyers like the federal government or automotive companies anticipate their need for this. One of the ways they are able to differentiate among the most qualified suppliers is to use CMMI as a tool that, in its simplest form, provides a model for how great product and service companies perform – that’s why you see so many large companies adopting the CMMI.

But that doesn’t mean every small company needs to act like Northrop Grumman. No, my friend, that's not advisable or even possible. Instead, adopt the CMMI with a goal of becoming a better version of you!

For more information about how the CMMI works for companies with fewer than 20 people, feel free to visit www.cmmixs.com, and download our white paper, “Shattering the Myths about CMMI and Extra Small Companies."  You'll see why it's better to act like the company you are than one you'll never be.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How much bidirectional requirements traceability is enough to satisfy REQM SP1.4, and do we have to include both vertical and horizontal traceability?

[Dear Readers, our good friend Pat O’Toole, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, is collaborating with us on a new monthly series of CMMI-related posts, "Just the FAQs." Our goal with these posts is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the CMMI, SCAMPI, engineering strategy and software process improvement. This month Pat talks about bidirectional requirements traceability. Take it away, Pat! ~ the CMMI Appraiser]

Requirements Management (REQM) SP1.4, the practice that focuses on bidirectional traceability of requirements, is like the obnoxious sibling that demands to be the center of everyone's attention, to the detriment of that very special child who is much quieter and certainly much better behaved.  In the case of REQM, the well-behaved child is SP1.5 - Ensure Alignment Between Project Work and Requirements. So let’s pause for a moment and give that angelic child the attention she so rightly deserves…

There are essentially two ways for things to get out of alignment with requirements.  First, since most of us are human, every once in a while we make mistakes. Perhaps the designs/test cases don't cover a requirement or two, and perhaps they include a design element/test case that isn't directly tied to any of the requirements – thereby representing defects of both omission and commission. Typically such issues are detected through peer reviews or some other verification technique.  To rectify such issues, the designs/test cases are simply corrected or otherwise knocked back into alignment with the requirements.

The second case occurs when everything is in glorious alignment with the requirements (cue the harp), but then that blasted requirement change is accepted.  Given the change, something now has to be realigned with this updated set of requirements.

The specific goal supported by these sibling practices is, “Requirements are managed and inconsistencies with project plans and work products are identified.”  That latter half of this goal statement – the bit in bold – is the “glass half empty” view of the SP1.5 practice statement: “Ensure that project plans and work products remain aligned with the requirements.

So here’s the punch line – although SP1.4’s expectation of “bidirectional traceability” gets all the attention and, with its discussion of “horizontal and vertical traceability,” more than its share of angst, it is merely the ENABLER of SP1.5 – the “maintain alignment” practice.  The thinking is that by establishing such traceability, the engineers are much more likely to cover all the requirements in the first place or, if not, to have their peers use the traceability mechanism to uncover errors of omission and commission when reviewing their work products.  In addition, bi-directional traceability enables more efficient analysis of candidate change requests, as well as more effective realignment of any and all affected work products with the new set of requirements.  And THAT’s why the model suggests we implement traceability – it’s simply a tool to help us keep things aligned.

And which project work products should be kept aligned with the requirements?  Absolutely EVERYTHING – after all, if it weren’t for the requirements we wouldn’t have a project!  So the project plan, schedule, issues log, risk list, emails, use cases, prototypes, design elements, code, test cases, deployment plans, etc. etc. should all be targeted at meeting the project requirements.  However, although everything the project team does should be focused squarely on satisfying the requirements, not all of the work products they generate will gain efficiencies by being traceable to them.  Which ones do?  Ah, now THAT depends!

So if you only focus on the obnoxious problem child, you may establish a bi-directional requirements traceability mechanism so intricate and academically beautiful that it warrants a patent, but one that may not best serve its intended purpose.  The engineers, who abhor doing non-value-added, administratively burdensome busy work, may begrudgingly use the thing, but their hearts won’t be in it.

On the other hand, if you encourage the engineers to exercise professional judgment by establishing mechanisms that ensure that the key work products stay aligned with the requirements, they’ll get it, they’ll build it and, more importantly, they’ll USE it!  I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have smart engineers do smart things to help themselves than to force them to do something they don’t want to do just because some model tells them that it’s good for them – whether they believe it or not.  Remember – when it comes to engineers, improvement is best done with them and for them, not to them!

© Copyright 2014: Process Assessment, Consulting & Training and Broadsword Solutions

“Just the FAQs” is written/edited by Pat O’Toole and Jeff Dalton.  Please contact the authors at pact.otoole@att.net and jeff@broadswordsolutions.com to suggest enhancements to their answers, or to provide an alternative response to the question posed.  New questions are also welcomed! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where can I get CMMI Training in Virginia?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – I need PDUs towards my PMP Certification, and I want to learn about CMMI.  I understand I can get them by taking one of your CMMI training classes. Where can we get CMMI training in Virginia? I am looking for an introductory level course. ~ Bonnie P.

Hey, Bonnie – we have a CMMI training class in Northern Virginia on July 16-18. As of this posting, there are only a few slots open. But before you rush to sign up, I’m going to ask you to do a little self-reflecting.



The Introduction to CMMI training class is designed for software and engineering professionals who are interested learning about CMMI, process models, and how to use them to be a great company.

It’s true that you can earn 21 PDUs towards your PMP Certification (or 2.5 CEUs) while learning to improve software and engineering performance with the CMMI. But keep in mind, the reason engineering and software executives participate in CMMI training is because they are looking for ways to make their companies better. Whether it is software improvement, finance, product development, marketing or HR, they can use their CMMI training to make immediate, lasting improvements in their companies.

Taking an Introduction to CMMI training course is an excellent choice for anyone who is tasked with, or interested in, transforming their organization into a high-performing, lean, and productive team. If this is your intention then, yes, sign up for CMMI training today:

INTRODUCTION TO CMMI TRAINING
Click here to register for: the Introduction to CMMI training in the Washington, DC area

By reading this post, you have already experienced a taste of the biggest different between this CMMI Training and the other guy’s. We help you learn to use the CMMI to set the right goals and objectives, and keep asking the right questions, starting with “Why are you doing this in the first place?”

With learning as your goal, you’ll stay on the path to greatness, and external reward, such as earning PDUs, and achieving a Maturity Level of the CMMI, will be just byproducts of your journey.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“Achieve ML3” – what is THAT?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – We are a small company of about 20 full time people that is trying to bid on government work. Recently we’ve been asked to “achieve ML3.” We’ve heard of “levels,” “LAs” and “SCAMPI” in connection with the CMMI, but what do they all mean? ~ Peri C.

Peri, usually when a large organization or the federal government asks your company to “achieve a level,” they are referring to a level of the Capability Maturity Model Integration, commonly known by its acronym, CMMI.

You are probably also well aware that engineers love their acronyms.  Consequently, there are many three-, four-, five- and six-letter acronyms in the CMMI to digest. Don’t stress! We’ll explain them to you in small, right-sized bites, so that you can understand them and put them in context.


SCAMPI is an acronym that stands for the Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement. There are three different kinds of SCAMPI appraisals: A, B and C. Your customers (the federal government for intense) will ask you to conduct a SCAMPI A -- that’s the most formal version of an appraisal.

Appraisal – While not an acronym, it’s important to understand what an appraisal is. Some call it an audit, but it’s less like an audit, and more like a waypoint on your journey to become a great company (that's the reason your customer wants you do to it). An appraisal is an event that verifies your performance against the practices in the CMMI.

LA stands for Lead Appraiser. An LA is a licensed, trained and experienced individual who conducts your appraisal.  It’s one of the things I do to help companies improve, and there are about 200-250 of us active in the world.

ML3 – Sometimes you hear customers asking for Level 3 or ML 3 or L3 . They are referring to the level of the CMMI at which you have been rated. You can be rated at Maturity Levels 2 through 5 in the CMMI, or Capability Levels 1 through 3 in a specific area. Sometimes they ask for a "Level 2,"  but almost always, they are asking you for Maturity Level 3.

Here’s another acronym. You may not have heard of it, but can be worth understanding for extra small companies like yours that want to bid on federal contracts:

CMMIxs – or CMMI extra small – is an approach we take to CMMI that shows that achieving a level is not just for large companies. That’s a myth!  ANY company, regardless of size, that wants to be great can learn to use the CMMI as a framework for improving delivery.  When you take this approach, achieving a level will be an inevitable part of your journey.

Learn more by signing up for your FREE copy of our white paper, “Shattering the Myths about CMMI and Extra-Small Companies,” at  http://eepurl.com/PaTmb.

Thank you for submitting a question to "Ask the CMMI Appraiser,” Peri!  Please keep 'em coming!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Is CMMI certification just the flavor of the month?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – lately our industry is seeing CMMI in a lot more RFPs. Why are customers asking their vendors to be CMMI certified? Is this just another "quality the flavor of the month?" ~ Wally F.

Wally, as you look into the CMMI, one of the things you’ll discover is that the CMMI is the best  tool for driving process improvement and performance innovation across organizations. This is the reason your customers are asking suppliers to adopts the guidance of a Model or framework for performance improvement. CMMI is the most popular flavor in the market, it’s true – but don’t let this throw you.



Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a large company. They were good, but not great. One of the company’s executives, we’ll call him Sam, knew that they could be a great company, and wanted to inspire his suppliers to help him get there. So he gave them a challenge.

On a conference call, he said, “Hey guys. You are all alike in nearly every way. You build your products with cumbersome, poorly understood processes, which are largely ignored, you cost more, produce lower quality and make people unhappy. Especially me. Everyone is losing here.”

There was silence on the other end of the call.

“I’m tired of this,” Sam continued. “I want all my suppliers to look into adopting the CMMI.”

After the call, the vendors all scrambled to the keyboards and Googled “CMMI Certified” and “CMMI Maturity Level 3.”

As you would expect, they found volumes of information. Too much for any one person to digest. So almost all of the suppliers looked or a short-cut, a quick fix, a so-called “CMMI implementation tool” or a consulting firm that would “do” CMMI to them.

But one company was different. Let’s call the owner Bob. Bob was intrigued by the idea of becoming a better partner to Sam by making his company better, so he followed a different search path. He Googled phrases like “organizational change and CMMI” and “performance improvement with CMMI”.

Bob found some excellent content following this path. He discovered some interesting conferences, and got connected to a community of hundreds of professionals from around the world. Solving performance problems started to be something he could imagine doing. Bob read blogs, watched videos and downloaded ebooks about using the Model for process improvement and performance innovation. He participated in Webinars and learned how CMMI Users were experiencing much better quality, increased productivity and fewer project delays. His mind started to open to the possibility that, when properly adopted, the CMMI could put his company on the path to greatness. Also he became aware that there were far too many examples of companies that pursued CMMI adoption just to get a “CMMI certificate,” and failed.

After thoroughly sifting through all the material he could find about using the CMMI to help transform the culture of his company, Bob called Sam and said, “We took your advice about the CMMI. We are going to adopt the Model.”

“So you decided to get CMMI Certified?” Sam asked.

Bob smiled. Thanks to all of his research, he understood that you can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. He knew that, when you put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors, and you miss the point of the CMMI entirely.

But Bob was a smart fella. He comprehended what Sam meant.

“Well, CMMI doesn't really offer a 'certification,' but yes, a CMMI Maturity Level Rating will come at the end of our successful performance improvement journey,” Bob said. “The real reason we want to adopt the CMMI is not to get a certificate or plaque. Instead, we want to get the most value out of our team, which comes from the transformation of the culture of our company. See, Sam, when properly adopted, the CMMI will help us change the way we behave, so that we build great products for you, and help you reach your goals.”

Sam said, “I look forward to working with you more.  And while I have you on the phone, let's talk about some other work you can do for us . . . ”

The moral of the story?

Your customers want you to be better for reasons that should inspire you to want to be better. The reason they think it’s important is because it IS important.

So be like Bob. Educate yourself. Go to conferences; read blogs; participate in Webinars – and talk to your customers about what they can expect from you. You’ll find that everyone wins when you adopt the CMMI for the right reasons. And that’s why it’s a flavor that everyone likes.

Looking for more info on CMMI?  Check out some of our most popular resources:

#1 CMMI-TV – If you are looking for short, informative video clips about Agile, CMMI and performance innovation, we invite you to subscribe to our CMMI-TV channel.

#2 CMMI eBooks – Like to get your CMMI info on screen? Check out the highly useful and always entertaining eBooks we’ve written about CMMI.

#3 @CMMIAppraiser on Twitter – Could you use a daily tip on CMMI, engineering performance and software process improvement? Follow us on Twitter.

#4 Broadsword Client User Group on LinkedIn – Interested in joining a community of like-minded engineering and software professionals for discussion and CMMI info? Join our group on LinkedIn:

#5 www.broadswordsolutions.com – For your all-around information source about CMMI, performance innovation and process improvement planning , join us on the Broadsword website.

#6 Cutter IT Journal and Software Development Times -- For our recent interviews with mainstream media.

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Are SCAMPI Appraisals really too expensive?

[Dear Readers, for the past several months, our good friend Pat O’Toole, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, has been collaborating with us on a monthly series of CMMI-related posts, "Just the FAQs." Our goal with these posts is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the CMMI, SCAMPI, engineering strategy and software process improvement. This month Jeff reveals whether SCAMPI appraisals are too expensive. Take it away, Jeff! ~ the CMMI Appraiser]

I love a good game of “bunchball.”

I mean, who doesn’t? You know, a dozen little Pele’s chasing a soccer ball down the field trying to score a goal and win one for the team.  Finally, one fast kid breaks out for the big kick, and ’’yippeeee!” the hero saves the day with that single goal of the game. Not bad, but hardly the stuff of league championships.

Meanwhile, far removed from the action, there is always one kid who decides not to chase glory that day but to stay back, just in case the ball were to make its way back down to their end of the field. Call it good coaching, training, or just pure talent, but that kid is going places. He plays his position, and he plays to win.

At the last few CMMI events I have attended there has been a lot of talk about how expensive appraisals have become, and that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! Stories are told of the thousands of hours of work required to “prepare” for an appraisal, and that, in some cases, the cost far exceeds the benefits. If that’s true, then they’re right – we should do something.

But are some of these organizations just playing bunchball while attempting to win the league championship? Is their difficulty in achieving “goals” a signal that the game is too complex, or is it a signal of their level of capability?

I’m a visual thinker and anyone that has worked with me knows how much I love to draw on a whiteboard. Pictures help me think through an idea that I may not otherwise be able to convey using only words. My artwork won’t be fetching any top bids at Sothebeys, but my absolute favorite drawing is of a cliff with a set of (poorly drawn) stick figures.

One set of stick figures is clawing their way up the cliff, hanging off the edge by their fingernails while yelling “whooo hoooo, we MADE Level Three!”  The other set is standing ON TOP of the cliff, lifting barbells over their head, stretching, and quietly saying to themselves “we ARE Level Three.” Which appraisal do you think was “too expensive?”

The antidote to expensive appraisals is for organizations to actually be performing at the target level before they even start working on them! If a team is spending too much time and money locating evidence of process performance, working on PIIDs, and creating “artifacts” to “fill the gaps,” (the expensive part) then perhaps they’re not quite ready for the appraisal that the boss wants to have by Tuesday. That doesn’t mean they’re not doing great things, it just means they are not quite ready for the league championship.

If a bunchball coach were tasked by a school principal to “win the league championship before the end of fiscal year 2014,” what would he do? Well, he might: 
  • bring in consultants to tell them how they won the last game and teach them that one technique they used
  • hire ringers to kick the ball, QA the team, and serve in important roles (like goalie for instance)
  • have the consultant follow each player around and question every move he makes, “writing him up” in red‐pen on a clipboard if he or she does something wrong
  • lobby the league’s governing body to use referees that are known to be friendly to their team

You get the idea.

The team might actually win some games, but after it was over they would just be the same bunchball team.

On the other hand, a wiser (and braver) coach might:
  • advise the principal that his request was not possible, but you COULD have a winning season this year if we:
    • trained and practiced with the team regularly
    • coached the players to play positions, thereby transforming the team from a bunchball team to a soccer team
    • brought in some expert help to assist the team in improving their game, not just advice on winning the league championship
    • evaluated each player for their skills and put them in the right positions
    • made sure we were getting honest feedback from unbiased referees

In other words, we’ll win when we’re ready to win. And we’ll do it by being a great team.

And that’s the point. Appraisals, like league championships, should be challenging but they don’t have to be really expensive. The CMMI is an international benchmark for great performance and if we want the “stamp” to mean something, we should aspire keep them that way. However, an organization that is ML3 will have little trouble proving that they are, and one that isn’t will have tremendous difficulty (and have tremendous costs) doing the same.

“But what about PIIDs ("Process Implementation Indicator Documents") and document inventories?” asked a new Lead Appraiser at the conference.  “Don’t they take a lot of time and effort to complete?”

Hmmmm…. Do they?

PIIDs and document inventories are interesting indicators of appraisal readiness, and might even be useful sometimes. But an ML2‐worthy organization will demonstrate strong, positive control over their work products (“evidence”) through solid Configuration Management and Data Management behaviors. These behaviors make locating artifacts pretty easy, reducing (or eliminating) the overhead associated with an inventory altogether. And THAT makes appraisals a whole lot less costly.

As I’m fond of saying to prospective clients:  “it’s cheaper to be great than it is to fake it!”

©Copyright 2014: Process Assessment, Consulting & Training and Broadsword Solutions

“Just the FAQs” is written/edited by Pat O’Toole and Jeff Dalton. Please contact the authors at pact.otoole@att.net and jeff@broadswordsolutions.com to suggest enhancements to their answers, or to provide an alternative response to the question posed. New questions are also welcomed!

Monday, June 2, 2014

When the boss says process is overhead, how do I respond?

Dear CMMI Appraiser: I asked my boss about adopting the CMMI, because I’ve heard it’s useful for performance improvement, but he shot me down. He says he doesn’t want to pay for process because “it’s just overhead.” Now you know what it’s like working in this fun house. How should I respond? ~ Al G.

Hey, Al. Wow, he shot you down and you’re still coming back for more! I admire your persistence. It does seem slightly off-kilter that management would make you fight for improving the organization’s culture, but that’s how some companies are. You need a sense of humor to work there!


All kidding aside, let’s assume your boss is not COMPLETELY off his rocker. I once started working with a customer who said pretty much the same thing. I told him what would be involved in adopting the CMMI, and he said, “I want to have the application and nothing more. I don’t care if we have a process, if we are CMMI compliant, if there is documentation, if there are minutes of the meetings. I am not interested in how things are done. The only thing I care about is having the application as soon as possible in my environment. I am only paying for that. Everything else is overhead!”

After letting him rant, I gently reminded him of the Y2K debacle. There were some lessons to be learned. If the organizations that had to spend millions of dollars fixing that problem had done MINIMAL design and requirements documentation, then COBOL programmers would not have to be paid $250/hour to fix it, and IBM (and dozens of other firms) would not be billions of dollars richer for the effort.

In your firm, what is the true cost of developing software if you consider re-work, defects, mistakes, misunderstandings in requirements, endless test cycles, production fixes, etc?

These are the result of having a process that is poorly understood or underutilized, or having “no process,” which really means having a process that consists of everyone doing their own thing. Talk about overhead!

To get your boss to see the benefits of CMMI, ask him to consider what life would be like with the following performance improvements:

  • Fewer defects
  • Software that more likely meets your needs
  • A smaller support/maintenance organization
  • Projects being on time more often
  • Projects being on budget more often
  • The ability to manage multiple releases at the same time easily
  • The ability to revert back to any release when needed
  • Fewer mistakes during deployment (like the wrong code going into production)
  • The ability to re-use code for future projects (saving up to 50% of effort)
  • The ability to reuse architecture designs in the future (again saving up to 50%)
  • The ability to use resources across a wider array of projects, making more people available
  • The ability to more quickly deliver projects (more Agile!)

That’s CMMI.

In fairness, your boss probably has good reason for being skeptical about performance improvement models like CMMI. We’ve all suffered through too many forms, meetings, reviews, and sign-offs. We’ve all groaned under the weight of heavy-handed quality audits and too much oversight.

But that’s not the CMMI. The CMMI is not about certificates, plaques, and ratings. It’s not a test you need to pass.

Adopted properly, the CMMI is about supercharging engineering performance, increasing productivity, reducing risk, and doing what you do, better. It’s about transforming the company culture and begin joyful on the path to greatness.

Now, that’s what I call a fun house!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What are the five CMMI Maturity Levels and why is there no Maturity Level 1?

Dear CMMI Appraiser,

I am the administrative assistant in a 10-person software development shop, and I have been tasked with finding out about getting a CMMI Maturity rating. You are the only blogger talking about how emerging companies like us can adopt the CMMI, so thank you! My question is about the five Maturity Levels. What is each level about, and why is there no rating for Level 1? I assume, since we’re new to all of this, we’d want to start at Level 1. Please explain it so that a non-engineer (like me) can understand. ~ Pam S.

Hi, Pam – thanks for finding us! I’m glad that our posts are useful sources of information for emerging (or “extra small,” as we say) companies like yours that are interested in adopting the CMMI.  I will explain the levels below, but to answer your second question first, the reason there is no rating for Maturity Level 1 is because that’s kind of where you already are. Everybody starts someplace, and in the CMMI, that place is ML1. In other words, ML1 is kind of like "doing stuff."  It’s where you go from here that determines whether or not your company will be a great company.

So let’s get to the definitions!


“Maturity Levels” refer to the level of the CMMI at which you have been rated after successfully completing a CMMI appraisal (also known as a SCAMPI A appraisal). The appraisal verifies your performance as described in the CMMI.  Appraisals can result in a rating of Maturity Levels 2 through 5.

Maturity Level 2 – ML2 is the rating achieved by a company that has very much of a project focus. An ML2 company lets each project figure out exactly how they are going to get the work done, but they have good solid processes and they are performing well to plan, to expectations, to estimates, to budget and so forth. A Level 2 company uses what is called a “managed” process.

Maturity Level 3 – ML3 is the rating for organizations that have taken the effort to transform themselves and put some standard behaviors in place. For an extra small company like yours, Pam, we are talking about just 10 people, so it is a little simpler than for a company with 50,000 employees. In transforming their company, an organization has developed a standard set of processes from which people can choose. They have ways for the process to be modified for different kinds of projects, and they have an infrastructure in place. That’s why the federal government and large manufacturers often asks for ML3. They want to know that they will get consistent behaviors, regardless of the group of people on the contractor’s project team. A Level 3 company uses a "defined" process.

Maturity Levels 4 and 5 – ML4 and ML5 are a little less common, especially here in the US. They focus primarily the use of statistical technique, statistical process control (or other "Six Sigma" techniques).   A Level 4 company is a “quantitatively managed” organization, and a Level 5 company is an “optimizing” company.

Hope this helps, Pam! For more information about how an extra small company like yours can transform into a great company and achieve a CMMI rating, please visit our product site, www.cmmixs.com.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Where can I find out everything I need to know about CMMI – with ZERO budget?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, I am a software developer from a large Michigan-based automotive company (you’ve heard of us) and I have orders from my boss to find out about getting "certified at CMMI ML3.” He said there is "zero budget" for me to take a class at this point, so can you point me to free but useful information about CMMI? ~ Sarah H.

Sarah, your question is timely. On May 22nd, we are hosting a FREE webinar that will help you understand the real value of CMMI, and how to communicate it to your boss. Click here to register for our May 22, 2014 Webinar: CMMI - Everything you Need to Know!



What will you learn on the Webinar?

For starters, you will learn that there is no such thing as “CMMI certification” for companies seeking Maturity Level 2 or Maturity Level 3. CMMI is not about certificates, levels and ratings. Rather, adopting the CMMI is about taking on a large-scale business transformation initiative. By the end of the Webinar, you will have what you need to help your boss understand just how big his request really is.

By the way, the source of his confusion is understandable. The CMMI does indeed have “levels” associated with it, which in retrospect may have been a mistake because it’s too easy for companies to say, “Three is more than two so Level 3 is better than Level 2,” which does a great disservice to the organization.

What your boss really should be saying is, “I want to completely change the way people behave in our company,” which is the same as asking for a massive re-engineering of the organization. Getting “CMMI certified” has nothing to do with that outcome.

After participating in the webinar, you’ll be able to help your boss understand that CMMI is a model that's about how great organizations perform. Adopting the CMMI is about solving business problems, which – despite what he asked for – is what he REALLY wants to do.

Register here:


Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.