Monday, October 8, 2012

How do I develop a pilot plan for our new CMMI-based processes?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, we are getting ready for our first SCAMPI-A appraisal, and have differing opinions among the managers about how to develop a pilot plan for our new CMMI-based processes. What do you recommend for a mid-sized life sciences product company in Dayton, Ohio? ~ Hersch E.

Dear Hersch, great question! The answer will apply not just to Ohio-based life sciences product companies like yours, but for any company seeking information on developing a pilot plan for any new CMMI-based processes. Of course, we don't like to think of them as "CMMI Process," but your own processes super-charged by the CMMI . . .but I digress.  Let me pass it along to Laura Adkins, a Senior CMMI Consultant with Broadsword, who does amazing work with companies who are piloting processes that are strengthened by the CMMI, in Ohio and throughout North America. Take it away, Laura! ~ The CMMI Appraiser

Thank you, CMMI Appraiser!

Hersch, at Broadsword we pilot all of the processes we develop as part of our agileCMMI methodology, before deploying them. The reason? You’ll hear us saying over and over that CMMI is not about “getting a CMMI rating.” It’s about changing your company to radically improve performance. The advantage of using an agileCMMI approach to radically improve performance is that it incrementally decreases risk and ensures your success.

As you go about developing a pilot program for your new CMMI-based processes, we recommend that you create a formal, written Process Pilot Plan that clearly spells out what your expectations are and who is included.

Here’s an example Table of Contents from a Process Pilot Plan:

As you see, beyond the agileCMMI methodology, we also recommend that your Process Pilot Plan includes the following elements: Scope, Approach, Duration and Timing, and Pilot Testing Participants.

SCOPE -- The Scope is to determine which processes were recently developed, which ones will be piloted, and which ones won’t. For example, sometimes you are developing processes that don’t necessarily have to be piloted, for example, an annual process, which is hard to do in a pilot scenario. After considering what was developed and what is applicable to be piloted, you then need to determine who will do the piloting whether it is user groups or projects.

It’s possible for a SEPG or user group to pilot a process. Some processes are tailored at the organizational level. More commonly however, Scope deals with projects, not user groups. Pilot testing at the project level must include a project that is going to be executing the processes that you are piloting in the next six weeks. In other words, look for projects that align with the processes that are being piloted.

APPROACH – After determining Scope, you’ll define your Approach. This includes documenting how to train and mentor pilot program participants, and how to collect feedback, as follows:

  • To train pilot participants, you don’t necessarily need formal training. Often a dry run on your training will suffice for your first time presenting it. 
  • To mentor pilot participants, you’ll need to select mentors and assign them to pilot projects. Your expectations to them need to be clear. 
  • To collect feedback, it’s important to talk about how you are going to collect feedback. It can be done via email, or feedback can be captured in a document. Some companies allow participants to post feedback in blog posts. Your Approach defines how you will collect those experiences: where the feedback will be stored, what format it will be in and what medium will you use to collect it are all things that should be considered.

DURATION AND TIMING – On the topic of duration and timing, we recommend that you focus on being really specific. When is the pilot test starting? When is it ending? What is your duration? When is training going to occur? You must be clear on that, and break the pilot down into specific tasks.

PILOT TESTING PARTICIPANTS – The last aspect of defining your Process Pilot Plan is to identify in detail who will participate. You need to select your project(s) and list out all of the people that are involved in the project. These are your primary contacts. If you’ve identified groups or departments, you would list them out here. Even if they are playing a supporting role, you would want to identify them. Anyone who could potentially impact the pilot or provide any kind of feedback, you would want to identify them here, as well as your mentors from the process side of it.

These are the elements of your Process Pilot Plan. Good luck, Hersch! Let me know how it goes.

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

Laura Adkins is a Senior CMMI Consultant with Broadsword Solutions Corporation. She has years of real world experience using pilot testing strategies and tactics to help her clients achieve their goals. Laura also uses the CMMI, in partnership with her clients, to set-up, monitor, and sustain process improvement programs.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

Labels: CMMI, CMMI Appraisal, CMMI Assessment, CMMI Assessor, CMMI Certification, CMMI Consultant, CMMI Consulting, CMMI Training, Scrum, Scrum CMMI, Pilot testing, CMMI Ohio, CMMI Appraisal Ohio, life sciences product company Ohio

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