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 Unmanned Vehicles Division
. . .. and so on.
Sometimes it makes sense to de-scope the unit, sometimes it doesn't. Consult your friendly Lead Appraiser