Thursday, March 15, 2012

SPaMCast Question #4: Is CMMI compliance getting in the way?

[NOTE: Over the past several days, the CMMI Appraiser has been sharing snippets from a recent conversation with Tom Cagley on SPaMCast about how the CMMI is fully compatible with Scrum, and can be used to improve agile methods, making the investment in agile both powerful and productive. Listen to the full interview at SPaMCast 176.]

Hey, Jeff, is the word “compliance,” as it relates to the CMMI, getting in the way of these two frameworks (Agile and CMMI) being more than the sum of its parts? ~ Tom Cagley, SPaMCast

Tom, on the issue of CMMI “compliance,” I have a different perspective than some of my peers.

I believe that people should worry first and foremost about being a great company. That’s what their focus should be, and that’s certainly what our focus is. I am very passionate about shining an uncomfortably hot spotlight on professional level-seekers.  By that, I mean any company or so-called CMMI consultant that is only interested in getting a so-called CMMI certificate. They don’t care about understanding the true spirit of the CMMI or improving as a company. They only care about compliance so they can get a rating. I believe they are doing a disservice to themselves and their clients.

At the same time, unlike some of my peers, I fully acknowledge that the need for achieving CMMI Maturity Levels exists in our industry. It’s a reality. Many small and large businesses must achieve a Maturity Level in order to bid on work. In some cases, we’re talking about millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.

So the question of so-called CMMI compliance and CMMI certification, while of secondary importance in our view, is still is a reality.  CMMI consultants need to make sure we acknowledge that reality for those clients whose business will rise or fall on whether or not they are both great at what they do and reach the level of CMMI rating.

This perspective is in contrast to some of my CMMI consulting peers who are out there saying, “Forget about Maturity Levels. This isn’t important.” I philosophically agree with that. But at the same time, we have to make sure that companies don’t go out of business because they don’t reach a particular goal that was arbitrarily set for them.

It's a constant mantra for me: I want our clients to worry about being a great company. And I want them to let me worry about helping guide them toward their CMMI goal. We’ll meet at the end.

So, yes, from a philosophical standpoint, I absolutely agree with you. Companies must focus on learning how to be a great company, and not let compliance or anything else get in the way of that. With learning as their goal, they will stay on the path to greatness. Achieving a CMMI Maturity Level and being so-called CMMI compliant are just byproducts of the journey. 

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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