Sunday, October 9, 2011

What kind of projects should be included in our appraisal?

Dear Appraiser

Our team has been discussing (and haven’t agreed upon) what kind of development projects we should consider suitable to be candidates to go into the appraisal.

We all agree that software development projects should be included in our scope, but what about maintenance?  Is it possible to include these kind of “projects” in our “appraisable” portfolio?  I know this seems like simple question, but we really need help! ~Allan


I love your question!  The reason this is such a cool question is that it drives many OTHER questions!  And you know what they say about a good consultant - they have no answers but all the right questions . . . 

The question of "appraisable portfolio" is a complex one.  So let me break this in to a few sections:

Organizational Unit: In most cases, project selection is tied to "organizational unit," a term in SCAMPI that refers to 1) the "group" to be appraised and 2) the group that gets to claim they're "Maturity Level Two."  Organizational units are further broken down by "sampling factors" like who the work is being done for, who controls the budget, the type of work being done, and so on.

So this means that (potentially) your Organizational Unit could EXCLUDE maintenance projects and, even though you should consider using the CMMI to help make those processes stronger, they would not be part of your appraisal.

If you choose to do this, make sure you've spoken with a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser (a qualified one . . . ) to review your decision - just in case.  If this is what you decide then jump to the end of the post.

Sampling Factors:  I alluded to them earlier, but these are the factors we as Lead Appraisers MUST consider when determining what the sample is WITHIN your organizational unit.  So if you choose to include maintenance projects in your OU, then the application of sampling factors would affect the number and analysis of projects within each "sub-group" are sampled.

Data Sufficiency Rules:  OK, so we've made the decision to include your maintenance group, and the sampling factors tell us how many of those "projects" need to be included.  The data sufficiency rules tell us what data gets collected from which projects.  This means, by definition, that not ALL the projects in the sub-group ("maintenance" in this case) have to be able to provide evidence for the full scope of the model.

On including maintenance projects in an appraisal

Sure, why not?

The real question here isn't whether you include them, it's whether you realize that the CMMI can help you just as much for maintenance projects as it can for development projects.  I've heard many a "consultant" and Lead Appraiser say that the CMMI is only a good fit for development projects.  ahem.


What we have here Allan, is a failure of imagination.  In a maintenance project a "requirement" becomes a "ticket," a "plan" becomes a "backlog" and an estimate is almost always based on history.

It's this transference of concepts that trips most people up.  Don't let that happen to you.  Put your maintenance team on the Path to Greatness just like everyone else and don't leave them behind.  You'll be happy you did.

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.

Learn more about CMMI Appraisers at

No comments: