Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm confused about whether a Lead Appraiser can be our consultant. What gives?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, you did great job leading our CMMI Training last month.  Unfortunately, some of us are still confused about the roles of the CMMI consultant.  Can my CMMI consultant also be my CMMI Lead Apppraiser? ~ Pal

Paul, it was great to have you in the CMMI Training, and thanks your follow-up question.

Yes, there is a lot of confusion around the roles of CMMI consultant and Lead Appraiser.  The truth is, anybody who knows how to spell “CMMI” can claim to be a CMMI consultant (and do!).  As a result, many companies think they are hiring CMMI consultants, but in fact they are hiring contractors, folks who may not qualified to even be on the appraisal team, let alone be Lead Appraiser.

You would not believe the pretzels some of these clowns have turned their customers into!

This problem is so common that even some “real” CMMI consultants can get confused over the issue.  

Several times I’ve heard CMMI consultants, who are not Lead Appraisers, tell their clients, “The SEI will not allow you to do this!  You need to have a separate person play the roles of Lead Appraiser and CMMI Consultant.”  Not True!

Hint #1: Anyone who says "The SEI will not allow . . . " is a putz.

So to answer your question with authority, Paul, yes: Your CMMI consultant can also be your Lead Appraiser – with a few caveats.   There is no specific rule stating that the roles have to be separated. However, it is widely understood that the kind of consulting they do as a consultant has an impact on whether or not they can also be your Lead Appraiser.

To understand the differences, consider what people can provide in their roles:

  1. Lead Appraisers (who also act as consultants) can:
·       Teach you how to deploy processes
·       Teach you to use methods like AgileCMMI that help you create processes
·       Help you guide your program
·       Facilitate strategic decisions
·       Build consensus amongst executive in the business
·       Convince your executives to take appropriate action 
·       Help put a communications strategy together and execute it
·       Conduct training
·       Motivate your management and engineers to reach for great behaviors

  1. True CMMI Consultants
·       Facilitate discussions
·       Build consensus
·       Manage groups of people and conversations
·       Help you communicate with your executives
·       Clear the path for the future so you can be successful 
·       Judge whether people are using the process effectively
·       Belong on the CMMI Appraisal Team

  1. Contractors
·       Perform tasks at the direction of their customer
·       Call themselves consultants, but aren’t because they are defacto employees
·       Work inside the client’s company every day and don’t see what the rest of world does
·       Act like employees, writing the client’s processes
·       Do not belong on the appraisal team because they shouldn’t judge their own work

Think of it this way: CMMI Lead Appraisers will put your company on the path to greatness.  CMMI consultants may or may not.  And CMMI contractors cannot.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell the difference at first.  There are those who position themselves as experts, but give bad advice.  The worst are those who tell companies that they can just ‘get the certificate.’  These folks miss the point entirely.  They may help your company get the paper, but you won’t get the value.  You should stay away from these people!

The right kind of CMMI consultants, on the other hand, know what it takes to get the most value, and can help you reach for it.  They can be effective both as your Lead Appraiser and as appraisal team members.

Stop back again with any questions, Paul.  It’s inspiring to see your team take on the challenge of becoming a great company.

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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