Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's the CMMI "sweet spot?"

Jeff, CMMI Maturity Levels are a competitive advantage in our industry.  As the CEO of a North American IT Outsourcing firm, I want us to be right in the sweet spot where all of our competition is.  How do we figure out where that is? - Dorothy V.


Great question.  And great problem.  The challenge of the CEO is to add just enough and not too much improvement to every aspect of the business.

Just so our readers are clear, the CMMI is a model that’s guides us on how to be a great products and engineering company. It is not intended as a rating or ranking system.  There is no inherent competitive advantage to being Maturity Level 5, for example.  But there is tremendous value in being a better organization.

To answer your question, Dorothy, this chart from the SEI shows that the “sweet spot” for companies like yours is Maturity Level 2 and 3.

It’s no coincidence that the majority of companies that reach out to me are most in need of Maturity Level 2 or 3.  A question I often hear first is “Should we go to Level 5?”

If you’re just learning how to spell “CMMI” this is the wrong question.  A better question is “should we become a great company?”  And the answer to that is YES!  You may achieve Maturity Level 2 as a great company, and you may achieve something higher.  But either way, focus on that, not on levels.

The question of ML4 of ML5 is best put on the back-burner until after you are a solid, consistently performing ML3 company for a period of time.  Rushing to ML5 is usually counter-productive.

Like you, Dorothy, I want to know what the competition is doing before offering a solution also.    We’ve analyzed the data, and more often than not, we tell them, “focus on being a great Maturity Level 3 company – and, for now at least, Level 5 is probably not where you need to go.”

If you’re still in the ML2 or ML3 category, it’s just not worth the investment to shoot right for ML5.  In North America, at any rate, it may not give you nearly the return you think it will.

In your case, Dorothy, I’d suggest focusing on making your company a really great company that is performing at  Maturity Level 2 or 3.  Get the value of CMMI – not the certificate.  Good luck!

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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