Saturday, January 7, 2012

Do I need to be a Certified CMMI Assessor to lead my company's process improvement program?

Like most engineering executives, I wear a lot of hats.  Recently I’ve been assigned the task of leading the company’s CMMI-based process improvement effort, primarily because I was on the CMMI Assessment Team in my last job.  Do I need to become a certified CMMI Assessor to do this?  ~ Sylvia O.

Sylvia, wow, I’m not sure if congratulations or commiserations are in order!

Leading the CMMI effort is an opportunity for you to have a real and lasting impact on the direction of your company.  Of course, that direction might be straight off the cliff – so let’s proceed carefully.

First, to answer your question, there is no certification required to lead a CMMI-based process improvement effort.  If you go forward, you will not hear a knock on your door one night from the process police who want to rifle through your files looking for "objective evidence" So wear that CMMI assessor hat without fear of criminal prosecution.

BUT . . . .

Your effort would be more successful if your team had at least the basic Introduction to CMMI training class, and if possible, the Intermediate Concepts of CMMI training course as well.  And of course, if you want achieve CMMI Maturity Level Two or Three, you will need to engage a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser.

See, the CMMI is a complex set of interdependent practices.  Even though I've taught over 100 CMMI training classes, I still learn something new each time.

Furthermore, it sounds as though things may have changed since your last trip down the CMMI process improvement highway.  For one thing, the SEI does not call it a CMMIAssessment anymore.  The term now-a-days is CMMI Appraisal.  And a CMMI Assessor is now a CMMI Appraiser.

The terminology change is significant.  To be a CMMI Appraiser, and conduct a formal SCAMPI appraisal, you will need to engage a certified CMMI Appraiser.  I would not recommend that most engineering executives abandon their lucrative careers and become a certified CMMIAppraiser – unless they feel the fire burning inside them that it is their moral duty to help companies get on the path to greatness.  Such was the case for me – but that’s another story.

By the way, the CMMI book won't tell you anything about how to successfully lead an initiative like this.  It will merely give you a view into what other successful companies have done with their processes (i.e.; "best practices").  That’s why I really, truly, strongly, passionately, urge you to take a CMMI training course before you risk everything you’ve worked so hard for.

A good CMMI Instructor will not only teach you about CMMI, but will also help you learn about how to develop a useful set of processes for your company - and how to deploy them without bringing the company down!

Check out the CMMI training classes offered by an SEI Partner like Broadsword Corporation for opportunities near you.

Good luck!
Like this blog?  Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

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

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Sylvia, as you start your process improvement journey, I just wanted to remind you to avail yourself of all the learning and mentoring opportunities you can.
Here are some thoughts:

1)Best Practices – These documents can serve as the foundation for your future process documentation – don’t reinvent the wheel. Best practices can be found on the internet ( They could also be located in the deep hidden archives of your current company – perhaps other divisions or organizations within your company devised positive CMMI / process improvement strategies you could benefit from. Is there a comprehensive Program Management Plan out there? What about some well-organized Meeting Minute templates? The CMMI book itself has little ‘blue sections’ highlighting CMMI-practitioner experiences.

2)Lessons Learned – Again, these could come from within your company, but there are other sources as well. Blogs are a great tool to learn how other people in your community have faced obstacles.

3)Mentorship – If possible, avail yourself of any people who have experience with the CMMI and process improvement. A quick phone call to one of these gurus could save you weeks of time.

4)Process Team – You are probably establishing a process team to help you with your company’s positive transformation. Be sure to incorporate a large representative swath of your company in this team – and then, listen to their inputs and delegate appropriate responsibilities to them. You are not alone - your process team is your resource to help you out!

5) As Jeff mentioned – Training is indispensable. With training, you start understanding how the CMMI’s process dependencies work. You recognize (and appreciate!) nuances that you never knew existed.

Shawn Rapjack
Process Improvement Manager