Sunday, August 5, 2012

How should we present evidence to our Lead Appraiser?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, how should we prepare to present evidence to our CMMI Appraiser? We’ve always had an Agile software environment, but my partners and I have decided to adopt the CMMI for the structure and improvement it provides. Naturally, because of the cost, we want to do everything we can to assure we will pass the SCAMPI A Appraisal. ~ Joe C.

Hey, Joe,

Good decision to adopt the CMMI as a way to improve upon your agile software development practices. Some people claim the two are incompatible, but those people don't seem to understand that the CMMI is all about making what you ALREADY do, better, so it's a natural fit with agile (or any other projects).  Want to make the "Daily Standup" more effective?  CMMI can help you.  Want to get better results from "Planning Poker?"  CMMI can help.  You and your partners are correct that CMMI will help you add structure. But the value of the CMMI goes much deeper than passing a CMMI Appraisal. If you follow the intent of the CMMI, it can actually help you become a great(er) company.

Now, there are lots of ways to provide evidence to your CMMI Appraiser that you are doing great work. Here’s my favorite: Just show it to the guy!

What evidence should you show the CMMI Appraiser? How about a Scrum team room? They use “information radiators” for good reason - to share information! Look around you. Information is radiating everywhere. A well-run Scum team room can "radiate" information about 50+ practices from the CMMI!

Look at your white board. On that white board you’ve got sticky notes everywhere, with risks identified, carefully prioritized ('what keeps you up at night') with their sources associated with them.  Is that evidence?


It’s OK to be creative in how you show evidence to your CMMI Appraiser. Photographs work. Tours work. Drawings work.  Even tattoos could work, if your team is so inclined (of course, getting a tattoo can cause infection, so always use a reputable artist).

This CMMI Appraiser likes to have companies give me detailed presentations about their projects before we even start. I tell them to go through and show me things so I can get the whole context. They show me white boards. They show me the comments in their code. Sometimes they even show me scanned napkins (please only use clean ones....).

That’s cool! The purpose of gathering evidence is not so you can check a box and say, “I have a document.” The purpose of evidence is so the Appraisal Team can reasonably (not beyond the shadow of a doubt, but reasonably) verify that you are indeed doing something like what is described in the CMMI book.  Of course, extra bonus points if you use a medium that OTHER people can benefit from.  A napkin is fine, as long as it can be stored, retrieved, shared, and used to make other projects better.

Bear this in mind as you get ready for your SCAMPI-A. You are not designing processes. You are creating environments to be productive. You are designing the way you want people to behave.

So do a little strategic thinking here.  How do you want people to behave? What are you trying to do as a company? Your CMMI Appraiser is asking you these questions too – at least this one is.

Being a great company is what you should focus on, Joe, not what you need to do to pass an appraisal.  Do THAT, and a nice certificate will likely be hanging on your wall.

Now that you know it – show it!

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.


Unknown said...

Hey Jeff! I really liked this comment of yours: "Bear this in mind as you get ready for your SCAMPI-A. You are not designing processes. You are creating environments to be productive. You are designing the way you want people to behave." Makes a lot of sense - if the team has the environment and atmosphere down, a lot should naturally fall into place! Shawn Rapjack

Jeff Dalton said...

Right on Shawn!

People focus much too much on "Process" and not enough on "The Way" of doing business. The process, without "the way," is an empty shell that buys you no value.