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.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

“Go agile?” Huh?

Mr. CMMI Appraiser – as a mid-sized engineering firm in Northern Virginia with a small Agile team, we are primarily using CMMI for our projects.  Our largest government customer recently told us they want to “go Agile,” and that they need us to staff up to serve them. When a federal agency says they want to “go Agile” how do we respond? We’re just trying to build great products, same as always. ~ Dean C.

Hey, Dean, we are hearing this note of concern quite a bit lately. It seems that many companies are being told the same thing from government and large corporate clients ranging from the Department of Defense to Medicare and Medicaid to Ford and Chrysler. Like you, many of them are saying, “What does that mean? Do they want to fail fast? Do they want daily standups? Do they want to start working in sprints?”

What I’ve found is that clients themselves often don’t often know what they mean, or how to articulate it. That’s why their requests can be quite puzzling.



One thing we can be sure of: Customers want to be reassured that we have a plan for scaling Agile in a way that can help them get improved results. I’ve done a lot of work over the years with companies that have embraced the CMMI and Scrum in an effort to get better and meet customer demands, and I believe I can point you in the right direction.

In my opinion, the clearest way to think about Scrum and CMMI is in terms of process improvement, not running teams or projects. That keeps us focused. After all, there is only one project that we really care about, and that’s the one called, “Making our company great.”

So it’s a good thing you are already using CMMI and Agile approaches. You can scale Agile by strengthening it through the application of the lessons of the CMMI. And conversely, scaling Agile will help you improve your approach to CMMI. The CMMI framework and the Agile philosophy work beautifully together to make each other better.

This is an idea I’m really passionate about. I believe all organizations can benefit from rethinking the CMMI and Scrum and how they work. It boils down to three simple concepts:

1) The CMMI is a behavioral model, not a process. It was intended to help make things better, a guide to continuous improvement. It describes how great companies perform.

2) As such, the CMMI doesn’t tell you HOW to get better. In fact, the CMMI doesn’t tell you how to do anything. It says, “Here’s what great companies have told us that they do.” Your job is to apply these lessons to what you are doing in your context. Tricky? Yes, but well worth it.

3) The truth about CMMI and Scrum is that they are both designed to help you pursue the same business goals. Both are tools to help solve business problems. They help us improve requirements churn and volatility, for example. They help us meet schedule and budget, and they help us perform the work that we do every day. That’s why we say CMMI and Agile are not overhead - they're "underhead."

So, yes, you can scale Agile and “staff up” to meet your customers’ needs to “go Agile.” That’s really all they want to hear at this point. Tell them, “Sure, we can do that, but here are all the ways we are going to work, and here are all the ways the software will deliver. We have standards, and ways to improve on that method.”

For more information about the details behind those answers, I invite you to register for the Agile Development Conference West. The conference will be on June 1-6 in at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas. I will be speaking on "Agile Resiliency: How CMMI Will Make Agile Thrive and Survive." 

Hope to see you there!

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, April 29, 2014

The #1 Reason I'm Going (Back) to the CMMI Conference This Year: To Build Stronger Relationships with Key CMMI Institute Leaders

Dear Readers,

Pack your bags! It’s almost time to head out to the Washington, DC area for SEPG North America 2014 for two solid days (May 6-7) of learning about using the CMMI to elevate organizational performance! But before we go, I have one final thought to help you make the best use of your time at the CMMI Conference. Our countdown of the Top 5 Reasons to Attend is all the way down to #1.

Here's the countdown so far:

Reason #5: To learn about elevating organizational performance.
Reason #4: SEPGNA is a great place to talk about things that matter to your business. 

Today we wrap things up with Reason #1!




Drum roll, please! The #1 Reason to Attend the CMMI Conference this year is …

To build stronger relationships with CMMI Institute leaders.

Whether you’re new to the CMMI Conference, or are a regular attendee of our industry’s premier event on process improvement and the CMMI, introducing yourself to your hosts is not only the polite thing to do, it is one of the best reasons for going to the SEPGNA. Especially this year, when key CMMI Institute leaders will be in attendance.

Space on this blog is limited, so I’d like to call attention to five of the many important and influential people that you’ll want to be sure to meet at the Conference. They are:

  1. Kirk Botula, CEO of CMMI Institute. Kirk is a team-builder, visionary and just an all-around terrific guy. Meeting with Kirk will give you peace of mind that the CMMI is alive and well and has a strong future. You’ll get insight into his vision for how the CMMI will grow, evolve, sustain and be successful over time.
  2. Dan Torens, COO. Dan’s in charge of managing product releases and executing strategy, and can help end-users get a feel for how the CMMI Institute operates, how its future products will be released and what some of the major internal projects might be.
  3. Rawdon (“Rusty”) Young. Rusty is a key player and an invaluable resource. He is involved in the hands-on creation of new products and next-generation releases of the CMMI. Talk to Rusty about your questions on CMMI, DMM, and SCAMPI.
  4. Lisa Masciantonio, Director of Strategic Relationships. As every CMMI Partner learns, there is no better person to connect with at the CMMI Institute than Lisa. Lisa is all about listening. She loves to reach out to Partners and end-users for their suggestions and ideas on making the CMMI Institute even better.
  5. Eileen Forrester, Certification and Training Director. A lead author of CMMI for Service and the learner-centered approach, Eileen has a broad range of skills, research interests and areas of expertise. You’ll find Eileen a joy to know!

As key representatives of the CMMI Institute at SEPGNA, Kirk, Dan, Rusty, Lisa and Eileen are a big part of the face of a product lines that we use every day. If you are a CMMI user – or are considering adopting the Model – you’ll want to get to know them and tap into their vast expertise. If you are a CMMI Institute Partner, it’s important to meet with these leaders, so you can join us in working more closely with them on reinforcing the brand. The CMMI Conference is the perfect place to do that.

While I don’t have space to write about ALL of the great people at the CMMI Institute, I’d also encourage you to connect with Alex Stall, Darlene Moore, Chavonne Hoyle (Marketing Director), Katie Tarara, Geoff Terrell, Deen Blash, and everyone else on the team.

Other great folks you don’t want to miss at SEPGNA this year are the leaders of the many general sessions and workshops of the Conference. These CMMI users are on the front lines of process improvement and performance acceleration, so you get practical, relevant and valuable learning experiences straight from the ones who know!

And that’s it, my friends! Those are my Top 5 Reasons to Attend SEPGNA – and there are many more reasons that you are sure to discover on your own. I’m looking forward to hearing about YOUR experience.

See you in our nation’s capital!

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, April 28, 2014

The #2 Reason I'm Going (Back) to the CMMI Conference This Year! To spend quality time with customers

Dear Readers,

The greatest conference on the planet is almost here! The CMMI Conference (a/k/a SEPGNA 2014) is coming to Tyson's Corner, VA on May 6-7 and, if you’re just joining us, we’re counting down my Top 5 Reasons for being there.

Here's the countdown so far:

Reason #3: To gain control of process

Today we’ve arrived at Reason #2!


Drum roll, please! Reason #2 is …

To spend quality time with customers.

We all know that one secret to success in business is building strong relationships with the customer. This is especially true in the context of CMMI, where we are focused on helping companies improve performance, drive Process Innovation, and be the great companies they are striving to be.

If you are a CMMI practitioner or a supplier of CMMI services, the CMMI Conference is more than an opportunity to acquire knowledge that can help you be a better resource for your customers. It’s a rare chance for you to spend quality time with customers off-site in a dedicated learning environment. So consider the following question as a personal challenge:

Will you take the opportunity to build stronger relationships with your customers by bringing them to the CMMI Conference?

As part of my commitment to the CMMI, I always invite my customers to the Conference. Here’s why I am encouraging my fellow CMMI Institute Partners, consultants and suppliers to do so as well:

Where else do you get to spend quality time with your customers? So often in our day-to-day work, we are on-site to solve problems. There are subgroups to be evaluated and artifacts to be collected. But during the 2-day Conference near Washington, DC, you’ll be able to connect with your customers on a personal level. You’ll dine together, attend sessions together and – with networking events scheduled in the evenings – you’ll be able to hang out and just talk.

Where else do you have the opportunity to guide your customers through the learning process? Think about it. Would you rather have your customers try to grasp the real meaning of CMMI on their own, or with you by their side? Would you rather leave them in the dark about the long-term value the Model provides, or help them see the light? Clearly, you want to be there in the sessions with them. You want to ask them about what they are learning. And when questions inevitably come up, you want to be right there to answer with real-live examples from their current projects.

Where else can you introduce your customers to the leaders of the CMMI Institute, as well as other adopters of the CMMI? For me, this is one of the most rewarding experiences at the CMMI Conference. I love to see new friendships form when I connect my customers to others who have overcome the same problems they’ve been facing. Plus, this will be my first opportunity to introduce several of my customers to the smart folks from the CMMI Institute, the sponsors of the CMMI Conference.

In my opinion, missing the chance to invite customers to SEPGNA would be a mistake. You’d only get half the value. Sure, you’ll learn plenty of strategies, tips and techniques that can make you a better CMMI consultant or CMMI supplier. But you will have bypassed the opportunity to integrate customers with each other, so that they can have a support system of their own. And that would be to deprive them of something extremely valuable that they can’t get anywhere else.

As I said in a previous post, the CMMI Conference is a chance to talk about things that matter! You and your customers are going to have a blast together. What could be better for your relationship?

So let’s be generous and share the knowledge. I urge each of you to invite at least one customer, whether they be internal or external, to come to our nation’s capital and take part in the conversation. And don’t forget to register here.

The countdown continues! Check back soon for Reason #1.


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, April 23, 2014

The #3 Reason I'm Going (Back) to the CMMI Conference This Year! To gain control of process

Dear Readers,

It’s hard to believe, but this year’s CMMI Conference is mere weeks away! For those who haven’t decided to register yet, I hope to give you something to think about with the countdown of my Top 5 Reasons for being in the Washington, DC area on May 6 and 7 for SEPG North America.

If you are just joining us Reason #5 was: To learn about elevating organizational performance.

Reason #4 was: SEPGNA is a great place to talk about things that matter to your business. 

Today we’re down to the final three reasons.


Drum roll, please! Reason #3 is …

To gain control of your process

Given this year’s high powered line-up of speakers, workshops and events, SEPGNA 2014 promises to be another excellent opportunity to come together and talk about continuous improvement and making our teams more productive using the CMMI. I’m looking forward to hearing about real-life issues that organizations are facing every day in their quest to be a great company.

Like what?

By all indications, the biggest problem many companies are STILL facing is a lack of control over process. They are dealing with late projects, over-budget projects, unpredictable results and unhappy customers. In many cases, they have made small improvements, but nothing has given them greater control for the long-term.

Does that sound familiar?

If so, I can promise you, you’ll have your eyes opened up at SEPGNA. This year, the sharpest minds in the industry will be discussing how to maximize the impact and business results of CMMI and performance improvement. You’ll get new ideas for applying best practices for adopting the CMMI as a tool that can help you set up an environment that makes improvement possible. And you’ll have the opportunity to discuss strategies with other leaders who learned to leverage the CMMI to establish a useful level of control over their process.

Great companies know that the key to process improvement and performance innovation is to “know how you know” the process works. Adoption of the CMMI can give you the data you need to do that. It can show tell how the process is performing, whether you are getting the results you expected, and how you can make it better.

Why is this true? Because the CMMI is a framework for learning. It helps you learn about yourself, your company and the way you do your work. And there are practices within the CMMI that can help you apply what you’ve learned to make that even better.

The value of a great conference like SEPGNA is that it helps you learn about keeping these things on the top of your mind, so that you always know how things are going, and how they can be made better.

So join us! Come on out for the great learning experience, powerful conversations and new insights on how to gain control of your process!

The countdown continues! Check back soon for Reason #2.

Register for the CMMI Conference.

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, April 22, 2014

The #4 Reason I'm Going (Back) to the CMMI Conference This Year! To talk about things that matter.

Dear Readers,

Have you heard the buzz? Everybody’s talking about the CMMI Conference (a/k/a SEPGNA 2014, a/k/a “The Greatest Show on Earth”). This year’s conference is coming to the Washington, DC area on May 6 and 7 – and it’s going to be better than ever!

As a veteran attendee, sometimes speaker at SEPGNA conferences, and longtime practitioner of the CMMI, I love talking with people about using the Model for process improvement and performance innovation. I’ve found no better place to do that than at the SEPGNA Conference every year. That’s why I put together this list of Top 5 Reasons to attend SEPGNA 2014 – to share all the ways you, too, may come to think of North America’s premier CMMI experience as YOUR number one conference of the year!

For those who are just joining us, Reason #5 was: To learn about elevating organizational performance. Now let’s continue the countdown, and Reason #4.


Drum roll, please! Reason #4 is …

To talk about things that matter

Yes, SEPGNA is THE place to talk about things that matter to your business. Things like reducing defects, improving quality, increasing the speed of delivery, and creating predictable, repeatable results. If it has to do with changing behaviors and doing what you need to do to be a great company, it’s open for discussion.

Do you enjoy a good, spirited conversation about process improvement and performance innovation? Of course you do! And you’ll get a lot of that at the CMMI Conference.

Every year, the SEPG North America conference draws a wide variety of engineering, project management, and software professionals, who come from a vast array of disciplines. Some are organizations that are getting started with CMMI, and are interested in hearing user stories that offer applicable lessons. Some are experienced in using the guidance of the CMMI and are looking for ways to take the next step in performance improvement. And some are industry experts who are excited about sharing some new and powerful ways the CMMI is being used by companies small and large around the globe.

As a certified Lead Appraiser, I always enjoy to talking about the amazing results I’ve seen companies achieve with the CMMI. I know that if you adopt the CMMI you will likely experience improved performance, increased productivity and fewer project delays. You’ll be on-time and on-budget more often, and your workforce will be happier and more productive.

Whatever your interest, this year, you’ll have plenty of chances to join the conversation, as the CMMI Institute is planning an even richer, more interactive CMMI conference experience. Some of the hottest topics in the industry are slated for discussion, including:

  • Getting results with CMMI
  • Making the most of your metrics
  • ROI and CMMI for Services
  • Agile and CMMI for Acquisition
  • Drawing insights from stories aggregated from dozens of CMMI users

With this year’s theme of Elevate Organizational Performance, the 26th annual SEPG North America conference promises to give companies even more to think about. There is a full slate of high-quality, proven speakers, workshops and break-out sessions to choose from, with opportunities to discuss both principle and practice that we can all take home to our organizations.

What better place for conversations about the power of process improvement than at SEPGNA, with people like you and me, who get it?

So come on out to the Washington, DC area, and join the conversation! 

Register here.

The countdown continues! Be sure to check back soon for Reason #3.

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, April 15, 2014

Top 5 Reasons to Attend SEPG 2014 Is BACK!

Friends,

Once again, the CMMI Institute has been gracious enough to host my annual countdown of the "Top 5 Reasons I Am Going (Back) to SEPG 2014" this year on their site. You can link to the initial post here: http://sepgconference.org/im-going-back-sepgna-2014/


Join us in the Washington, DC area on May 6-7 to hear User Stories from other companies, cutting edge tips on how to use the CMMI to make your company as great as it can be, and to establish or continue the connections made at North America's premier conference for Performance Improvement and the CMMI.

Broadsword will be there, and I will be presenting my theories on “making values operational” by leveraging the CMMI’s strength as a “values-based architecture” that links Values, Methodologies and Techniques. The goal is to learn how to trace a direct link between your company’s values and how work gets done, so that you can operate like the great company you've always known you can be.


Enjoy - and see you soon in our nation’s capital!

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He 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.

To download eBooks about CMMI, visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.

The #5 Reason I'm Going (Back) to the CMMI Conference This Year!

Hey, CMMI Appraiser!  Why should I make the trip to SEPGNA 2014? ~ friends met at other conferences this year 

Hey, friends!

It’s that time again! The CMMI Conference (a/k/a SEPGNA 2014) is coming to the Washington, DC area on May 6 and 7!

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Whether you are just starting to consider adopting the CMMI for your organization, or already have extensive experience with the Model – you’re probably wondering whether this year’s CMMI experience is right for you.

Wonder no more! As a veteran attendee, sometimes speaker at SEPGNA conferences, and longtime practitioner of the CMMI, I feel so strongly about the value of the Conference that I’ve developed a list of Top 5 Reasons to attend SEPGNA 2014. And here we go!



Drum roll, please! Reason #5 is …

It’s all about helping you elevate organizational performance.

As you know if you’ve attended the Conference in the past, SEPGNA is the premier organizational performance improvement conference. Hundreds of professionals come from around the world come to learn, network and explore solutions to their performance challenges. It’s such an amazing event that I like to call it “the greatest show on earth!”

This year, the show will be even better! Our host, the CMMI Institute, has been working hard to make sure this year’s Conference has something for everyone who attends, wherever you are in your professional journey. Following a theme of “Elevate Organizational Performance,” the Program Committee has created two days of content focused on positively impacting the way you do your work.

Now in its second year, the re-imagined format is designed to help you explore using the CMMI to improve performance through first-person case studies, interactive workshops, and powerful presentations that can help you to get started with CMMI or take your organization to new levels of success.

Whether your interest is multi-model, practical process improvement, high maturity, agile, DevOps, Services, acquisition, or any other discipline, you will find ample opportunities to dive into the principles and practices that can help your organization better harness the power of performance improvement with the CMMI. Check out the CMMI Conference schedule.

The variety of learning opportunities alone is incredible. You can expect to come away with real life, practical and implementable ideas. For full details about the Conference logistics and to register, navigate around the SEPG Conference site.

The CMMI Conference is an great opportunity to spend two days focusing on how you can get better at what you do. For some, this will be reason enough to attend this year’s conference. Others may be preparing for their SCAMPI Appraisals, want to learn how to scale Agile, or just want to learn more about CMMI. Why will YOU go?

The countdown continues! Be sure to check back soon for Reason #4.

Register for the CMMI Conference.

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.