Thursday, May 17, 2012

Can we use CMMI-DEV on short projects?

Dear Appraiser,  we're an IT Services firm in Ohio.  We need to know if it possible to use the CMMI-Dev model on projects that start and finish within 2 to 3 months?  It seems like a lot of work and documentation efforts to use the model for a 60 or 90 day effort?

If these are the only type of projects we have for an appraisal- will that suffice? ~Larry M.


I understand your concerns.  You've heard that the CMMI requires TONS of documents, and a "full-lifecycle" data-dump in order to succeed with an appraisal.  Lot's of people have heard this too.  I'm sorry, you're beyond help.....NOT!

I could just tell you that you're wrong, but since I'm a teacher at heart let me try to help you understand WHY this nasty impression about CMMI exists in our industry.

Years ago there were some early adopters of CMMI.  These companies were working with, mostly, the Department of Defense, and they were building large, complex systems.  Back then, "agile" was just a rainbow and unicorn in Ken and Jeff's eyes, and was not nearly as popular.  And companies with 90-day projects didn't have much interest in process.  But the big-boys who adopted this model, the CMMI, did have a lot of interest.  They needed ways to manage their Engineering processes, and the CMMI was just the ticket.

Funny thing about these companies though . . . they ALREADY were doing work that required lots of documents, long phases, gates, audits, and measurement.  They ALREADY were top-down, command and control, and "low-trust."  So it stands to reason that this is the context that they adopted the CMMI with.  They set the standard - and boy did they!

Fast-foward a few years to short iterations, agile methods, fail fast-fail early, planning poker, and daily stand-ups.  What a difference!  The way information is managed is much different now.  

The unicorns have landed!

On a Scrum project, for instance, the entire Scrum team room is one massive "information radiator" where a simple visit provides evidence of dozens of CMMI practices.  Sure, some things end up in documents and in databases, but some things are just visual.

In some ways, the frequent iterations of agile projects produce way MORE evidence than those in a traditional "waterfall" project - it's broader, deeper, and constantly being improved.  What appraiser wouldn't like that?  Well....don't get me started on that one....

The practices in the CMMI do not indicate sequence, volume, or physical weight of deliverable.  The key is to do WHAT IS RIGHT for your company, and then find a Lead Appraiser that understands it.  I've appraised companies that backed a truck up full of documents, and I've appraised those who rode up on a scooter with an iPad.

It just depends....

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

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead AppraiserCertified 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:

Jeff Dalton said...

Not long after I wrote this post about short projects, CMMI and Agile, I started working with one of the pre-eminent Agile consulting firms in the nation. On the first day there they proved to me that their rigorous implementation of Scrum could very easily align with the CMMI, and they use 2-week sprints!