Friday, April 20, 2012

Is it possible to be CMMI Level 3 and not 'do' CMMI?

Hey, CMMI appraiser, we are a successful Virginia engineering company with an agile approach to software development. We want to be CMMI Level 3, to help us answer RFPs and win deals, but we don’t really want to do CMMI. Is that possible? ~ Lucas L. 

Hey, Lucas,

Absolutely. You should ALWAYS achieve CMMI Level 3 without “doing” CMMI. In fact, I’m never really sure what it means when people say they want to “do” CMMI. The CMMI is all about helping you improve upon whatever it is that you are already doing.  So, if you are currently attracting and retaining business, the CMMI helps you be an even more powerful customer magnet.

Let me give you a personal example. Even though I am the CMMI Appraiser, CMMI is not really what I am all about. Yes, I’m a certified CMMI Lead Appraiser and CMMI instructor. Yes, my company Broadsword has helped other companies achieve CMMI Levels through our CMMI consulting and CMMI training. Yes, I’m known as a CMMI expert and sought-after CMMI speaker. But this does not define who I am.

I define myself an airplane builder, pilot and musician. I’m a Scrum master and software developer. I also happen to be the chair of the SEI’s Partner Advisory Board, and President of the Great Lakes Software Process Improvement Network (GL-SPIN). In everything I do, I use the CMMI to help me do things better.

I’m happy to say that the airplane I am currently building is coming together very nicely, with very few defects, because I’ve used the CMMI to help make that process better.  But it's not a CMMI process.

I’ve been able to improve my performance as a musician, too, by using the CMMI to make that process better.  We use different words, and a different language, but it's all the same thing.

And I’ve used the CMMI to increase the quality of software on the Scrum teams I’ve led. The CMMI helps make me better at all these things I do. Kinda geeky, I know, but it’s true.

In terms of growing the business, Lucas, it goes far beyond merely achieving CMMI Level 3 so that you can check the box on RFPs.  You don't need to get better at checking boxes. You need to get better at delivering software, and attracting and retaining customers, and the CMMI helps you do that.

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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