Monday, July 23, 2012

What conclusions can we draw about CMMI Users’ experience?

Welcome back to Ask the CMMI Appraiser for the final installment of CMMI User Stories.

If you’ve been following these updates, you are probably aware of the impetus for sharing them. In May, the industry received a breath of fresh air when the SEI announced that the CMMI would no longer be considered a "research" project, and was now “mature”. While it was exciting to learn that the CMMI would be moved to a new business unit within Carnegie Mellon University, and headed up by former Confluence CEO Kirk Botula, many questions remained about the way CMMI Users were experiencing the Model.

Fortunately, Broadsword was in a unique position to provide some answers. Having recently completed our new study of what CMMI Users really think about the CMMI, we had a lot of interesting data at our fingertips. We were pleased to share excerpts from our report.

What conclusions can we draw about the CMMI Experience?

As a result of this study, we have come to several conclusions:

  • The vast majority of companies that adopt CMMI received value from the experience. According to 90% of CMMI Users polled, the experience was worthwhile. 

  • Only slightly more than half of the CMMI Users said they were motivated by receiving a “CMMI certificate.” Not surprisingly, there were overlapping responses. Many CMMI Users seeking a “CMMI level” told us they also valued continuous improvement. Many CMMI Users who were motivated to be a great company told us they also planned to take advantage of the competitive advantages associated with being “CMMI certified.”  And some said they started with a "certification" approach but as they learned, they transitioned to the more healthy "great company" approach.

  • Calculating ROI continues to be difficult. Almost the same percentage of CMMI Users responded that they had received an ROI as those who did not know. This appears to reinforce what CMMI Appraisers and CMMI sponsors alike have suspected for years: that a direct correlation between cost and value of CMMI is difficult to establish. It’s much easier to draw a connection between companies that intend to use the CMMI to radically improve performance, and those that do not.

  • Adopting CMMI continues to be a difficult, but worthwhile, effort. One of the biggest challenges facing the new business unit will be to continue setting expectations among CMMI Users that it is not easy to adopt the Model, but well worth the effort.

  • Most companies reported a positive experience with their Lead Appraisers. Because the cost of a good Lead Appraiser is a fraction of the reward of a successful process improvement program that puts companies on the path to greatness, it makes sense that most CMMI Users were satisfied.

  • An overwhelming majority responded that they will be renewing their rating when it expires. They said the real performance breakthroughs came when they stopped being concerned with "CMMI certification" and thought more about what it took to be a professional company. By contrast, CMMI Users who did not think this way about the CMMI, we found, were among the 5% who reported that they did not intend to renew.

This concludes our CMMI User Story analysis. We hope this effort provides useful insight to anyone using the CMMI. Whether you are an engineering executive leading the CMMI effort in your company, a Lead Appraiser, an SEI Partner or a member of the new CMU business unit, you are now armed with data that can help make the CMMI a better Model for everyone.

Thank you for following our CMMI User Story analysis. For additional tips, techniques, insights and analysis on a changing industry, be sure to return to Ask the CMMI Appraiser.

We’ve also made the information available in an eBook. If you would like to receive the complete set of CMMI User stories in one report, 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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