Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's with the new "Data Collection Strategy" in SCAMPI v1.3

Dear Appraiser, 

I appreciate your take on the rule changes in the new SCAMPI release [v1.3].  I admit, as a Lead Appraiser, a lot of this has me baffled.  For example, the new requirement that Lead Appraisers have to define a data collection strategy.  I don’t know about anybody else, but I've always thought about how to collect the data.  Are we supposed to do something different? ~ Charles T.

Hey, Charles,

I don't get too many questions from fellow Lead Appraisers (although some should ask more . . . ).

You’re right.  For the best Lead Appraisers, this "new activity" outlined in SCAMPI v. 1.3 isn’t new at all.  If you care about helping companies get better, not just on getting a CMMI level, you'll have a data collection strategy that serves your client in the most useful way.

The difference?  Now there is a formal deliverable associated with it.  And formal deliverables are reviewed, audited, and managed.  The data collection strategy outlines the overall scheme for data collection, declaring more explicitly than ever before how we are going to capture data. 

The creation of this deliverable isn't a mere paper exercise.  It helps us think through the strategy with our clients, and supports the latest (more complex) sampling requirements in SCAMPI v1.3.

If you were not doing this already, this will represent a fairly significant impact on how appraisals are conducted.  The preparation for the appraisal has become more robust, which will increase the amount of skill, time and effort it takes the Lead Appraiser to conduct an appraisal.  It will also become increasingly more difficult for "appraisal mills" to operate on the edges - pimping our 25 or more "successful" appraisals per year.  And this is a good thing!  

Proper appraisal planning takes weeks, if not months.  And that's the way it should be.  Appraisals are not only complex, with many moving parts, but they can impact a business in profound ways.  We don't skimp on this!

The specific changes around data collection strategy include:

  • The choice of data collection approach (discovery, managed discovery and/or verification)
  • When the data will be collected (e.g. preparation phase or conduct phase)
  • What data collection techniques (e.g. demonstrations, presentations, interviews and questionnaires) will be employed for both objective evidence types (artifacts and affirmations)
  • A detailed definition of what data will be collected and from what sources or events
  • The organization responsible for collecting the data
I've been addressing data collection issues in my last few posts, and will do more in the future.  But for now, a lot of folks are asking why the rules have been made so explicit.  I believe the philosophy driving the change is appropriate and think it's about time the SEI has addressed it.

The SEI does not want Lead Appraisers to perform appraisals that have not been appropriately planned and prepared for.  They want appraisals to be useful and professionals - and I'm right there with them on this.  This might be bad news for professional level-seekers, but it's a good thing for our industry.

Don’t take it personally, Charles.  They weren’t thinking of excellent Lead Appraisers like you when they made this rule.  The best Lead Appraisers have been planning and re-planning all along, because we want to see the client win.  Most of us care more about that than so-called "CMMI Certification."

As General Eisenhower famously said during World War II: “No battle was ever won without a plan, and no battle ever went according to plan.”  Good advice for any appraisal.

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

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