Sunday, February 26, 2012

We're scientist that want to use the CMMI to support space projects. Will the CMMI work for us?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, our company provides scientific support services for government agencies. We don’t write software or work with engineering.  Can the CMMI help us be a great company also? ~ Snil V.


The beauty of the CMMI is that it can be used to help any company establish an environment that can make you a great company, not just software or engineering organizations. And yes, it even works for companies that provide science support for government agencies.

For example, Broadsword has experience working with several companies that do exactly that at NASA. And who is more science-focused than NASA?

As a matter of fact, one of our clients does provide scientific services to NASA Goddard.  To help them be successful, we’ve had to evolve the way we apply and interpret  the CMMI.  As a result, the CMMI-DEV has been a perfect fit for the work they do. We are able to bend and strengthen the model for their environment, which is a science-support environment, not an IT environment. Our goal has been to interpret the model for them in a way that helps them be successful, as opposed to forcing them down a path that leads to a certificate.

Another company we work with builds Cryogenic Sytems for NASA.  No, they're not sending Walt Disney into space, they're developing products used to cool components needed for space flight. For them, we adapted the CMMI to fit into a small company environment. Apparently, other CMMI consultants whom they interviewed tried to force them to change the way they behave to meet a model. Ours has been a completely different approach. We’ve taken the CMMI and helped them understand how they can adapt the language and the model to fit into the way that they work. This helps them receive all of the benefits of the CMMI related to predictability, time, and budget, without creating a lot of overhead that results in a "paper-chase."

A third science-based company we’ve worked with does a lot of work for NASA also, designing and supplying sensors that are mounted on space vehicles to provide monitoring during launch. This is a large company with many different divisions performing many different functions. The company is now able to harness the efficiencies of using one single model – the CMMI – across its many different divisions, improving their ability to serve NASA and other scientific and aerospace organizations across the country.

What is the common thread? All of these are all scientific support organizations in highly technical environments.  In order to help solve their problems, we've had to bend, twist, and flex the CMMI so that it fit into the environment in which they operate.  And yes, all of them have had successful appraisals in the past.

You don’t have to be a software or engineering company to get the benefit of the CMMI, Snil. You have access to CMMI consultants who have experience with science-support organizations. Broadsword’s consultants are high tech people, not just generic CMMI consultants.

So, yes, Snil, the CMMI absolutely can work for science support companies, not just software or engineering companies. The key is to work with a CMMI consultant who understands your unique challenges, and can provide expertise specific to your environment.

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.

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