Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why do we need CMMI Certification?

I just started at a 8(a); Small Disadvantaged Business who is also ISO 9001:2008 Certified.  We were just recertified in Sept ‘10.  One of the tasks at hand I have is to investigate CMMI Level 2 certification for our company.  

Our business bid on Federal contracts.  These contracts are usually multi-year events and sometimes we are the Prime contractor, and sometimes we are a subcontractor.  In most contracts wins, we keep existing talent and transfer them to our payroll.  We have about100 employees at this time.

My question is:  why would we need to spend the time and money to obtain such a certification?  I understand it’s not cheap.  Is it another feather in our Marketing cap, or will it really make a difference for us?  Help me understand. 

First of all, congratulations on your ISO recertification.  If you did it right, this is something to be proud of (of course, if you just wrote docs that everyone ignores, then you've wasted your time . . . ).

The reason Federal agencies (and many commercial businesses) ask you for CMMI is that the CMMI is a "behavioral model" that represents the best-practices of many successful organizations.  CMMI is much broader and deeper than ISO 9001, and concerns itself with how you act, not what documents you produce.  So it's not about "certification" (btw, it's not really a "certification"), it's about acting like a professional company.

I read a Twitter quote today that partially sums it up: "Configuration Management is a discipline, not a tool."  In similar fashion, estimating is about using a reliable method to produce and estimate, not filling out an estimating deliverable.  The CMMI seeks to help you define your behaviors, and then tests to see if your behaviors are "world-class" or not.  Like ISO, it's possible to "implement" CMMI and totally waste your time, but if used wisely it will produce a substantial (50% or more) increase in quality and productivity. 

Undoubtedly your sales staff sees CMMI as a marketing "feather" that will open the door to some RFPs they can't respond to today.  That's a reasonable position and it's all fine - assuming your response is to "do it right."  Yes, the CMMI journey can be quite expensive (I won't quote a price here, but you know how to reach me . . .. .wink wink), but the cost is TINY compared to the benefit (4:1), and a company in your space, of your size, should be embracing it.

The real question is: "how do I start?"  That's another post.

That's what I think anyway.  Thanks!

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