Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who gets the CMMI rating - The company or the project?

Dear Appraiser,

This may be a simplistic question, but still one that I would like to clarify. Is the CMMI Level achieved based upon “the company” achieving that rating or the contract or project that company manages that achieves this CMMI rating? I was always under the impression that the company receives this rating or is awarded the Level of rating. 

There is no simplistic questions when it comes to CMMI!  Some people call this necessary, some call it job security!

When we begin working with a client (usually 6-12 months prior to their target appraisal date) we negotiate an "Organizational Unit" to be appraised.  This MAY be the entire company (typical with smaller companies) but it also could be a division, a business sector, a particular product line, or a location (among other things).  

The key here is that the Lead Appraiser (who is external) and the sponsor (executive) agree that it is a credible sample.  The Lead Appraiser is likely to be careful about what he agrees to because the organizational unit is scrutinized by the SEI for credibility.

The caveat on this is that the public data (certificates, listings on the SEI website, etc) will reflect that organizational unit.  So you might achieve a level of CMMI and have it displayed this way:

XYZ Company, Richmond location
National Space Company XYZ Goddard Flight
Boing Corporation
Boing Unmanned Vehicles Division
 . . .. and so on.

Sometimes it makes sense to de-scope the unit, sometimes it doesn't.  Consult your friendly Lead Appraiser


Anonymous said...

Does this mean a company can have a tiny and inconsequential division certified and use this certification to get business even though the company as a whole is not certifiable to any CMMI level and has no intention of pursuing it?

Jeff Dalton said...

Now that you put it this way, it does seems a bit unseemly!

A company CAN indeed have an appraisal done on a "tiny" part of their company (the organizational unit), but it doesn't make much sense since the result is that only that part of the company is "CMMI Level X." When you bid on work that requires CMMI, the unit that is bidding on the work will need to be the one that has been appraised at a CMMI level. You can't share a "rating" across divisions.

So if a 2-person "division" that makes weaved baskets was appraised at CMMI Level 42, and a 5,000 person division that makes rockets wants to bid on building the space shuttle, they can't "share" their rating.

The trick you are describing has been tried in the past (don't get me started on the so-called "outsourcers" who do this), and the SEI now lists the unit being appraised as part of the online record, so a smart buyer will look at that (and the Appraisal Disclosure Statement) to verify they are not being tricked.

It's a shame that people have this idea of "cheating" the system. It perverts the process and puts a bad taste in my mouth. Yuck!