Friday, June 29, 2012

What was your motivation for adopting the CMMI?

Welcome back to Ask the CMMI Appraiser for today’s installment of CMMI User Stories.

If you are like the majority of CMMI practitioners, you've heard the SEI’s recent announcement about the (to be named) new business unit that will be operating the CMMI. The announcement has sparked a desire for more information about how people are currently using the CMMI in their businesses. We here at Broadsword decided to answer the call by sharing excerpts of our new study of what CMMI users really think about the CMMI.

Since our first post on this topic (“What do companies THINK about using the CMMI?”), we’ve received lots of great feedback and requests for more excerpts. So here is the sixth question we asked in our report of CMMI users:

Were you initially motivated to get a “certificate”? 

Now, before anyone gets upset by our choice of words, we do know that the SEI does not recognize the phrase “CMMI certificate.” However, a vast majority of adopters DO use that phrase, whether we like it or not, and it's become part of the lexicon in the community.  As the great Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart.”  So, that's the word we chose.

By the way, the correct term is "CMMI Rating" or "Appraised at CMMI Maturity Level x."  'nuff said.

Word choice aside, there is much debate in our industry about the motivations behind adopting CMMI. Some adopt the Model strictly for marketing reasons. Some are responding to mandates from their customers. And some focus on following a proven set of guidelines for becoming a great company. We wanted to understand the motivation driving those who adopted CMMI.

We found that less than half said, yes, they were primarily motivated to get a “CMMI certificate.” However, for those in this group that was focused only on "the piece of paper," the promise of marketing advantages did not necessarily translate to new business. One sponsor revealed the irony of his situation by answering, “Yes. Everyone hated it and we didn’t even win the deal.”  But that doesn't tell the whole story.

What does this tell us? It confirms what we here at "Ask the CMMI Appraiser" have been saying all along - "STOP FOCUSING ONLY ON A CERTIFICATE!" The reasons companies choose to adopt the CMMI are fairly evenly split. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap. Several companies told us they were initially motivated to achieve a “CMMI level,” or to “get CMMI certified,” but that they also valued continuous improvement. Others told us that they were initially motivated to be a great company – but that they planned to take advantage of the competitive advantages associated with being “CMMI certified.”

Based on this anecdotal evidence, it seems that regardless of the motivation behind initially adopting the CMMI, those companies that desire to be great are more likely to reach their goals.

For more CMMI User Story analysis, check back soon right here on Ask the CMMI Appraiser.

We’ve also made the information available in an eBook. If you would like to receive the complete set of user stories all at once, simply subscribe at the top of this page to receive eBooks. Provided that you are using a valid company email address (not a Yahoo, AOL or Gmail account), we will be happy to add you to the distribution list, and send you the eBook, along with others, in coming weeks.

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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