Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can we skip steps from the CMMI for maintenance projects?

Dear Appraiser,

Our company has several projects that have been already developed. Now, our activity regarding those projects is corrective maintenance. We have defined a very complete process, since an issue on the incident is opened to the issue is closed. It passes through the following states: new, assigned, planned, agreed with client, developed, solved and closed.

My doubt is referred to small incidents, in which making the plan takes longer than solving them. We thought on defining a reduced process for incidents that can be solved in less than 8 hours. This process skips some steps from the complete one. Do you think it would be right? To what extend do we have to follow the standard defined processes in situations where its management becomes a bureaucracy?

Great question!

The CMMI is not a "standard process" but it is a set of guidelines for designing a SET of standard processes.  This means that you can have a set of processes for "new development" and a set of processes for "maintenance," and a set of process for . . . . . well, you get the idea.

All the CMMI really is is a set of reminders for us to do what's right for a given situation.  So, if it's new development, perhaps a detailed requirements spec is required, with a lot of oversight and review.  It it's maintenance, maybe it's a work order with very little oversight.  Both could be "CMMI compliant" but each would be unique to the needs of the organization using it.  It's "right-sized."

The "states" you’ve described are like "life cycle phases" on a development project and should be treated as such – just smaller.  The time to NOT follow a process is when it is only a "bureaucracy."  That is a good sign that the process doesn't "fit" for your project.  In that case, do something different!  

I don't think it's a matter of "skipping" as much as it is a matter of doing the "right thing" for a given type of work.  I would recommend you ask the company to provide you with a "lite process" for these types of work, but still one that accounts for all of the required steps.  It's easier than you think – simplify, simplify, simplify – and don't do ANYTHING because the "CMMI says so!"  Do it because it's good for business.

Good luck!

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