Saturday, January 5, 2013

Can we just Appraise one project and then spread it out?

Dear Appraiser,

This year I've been working to arrange a CMMI Appraisal at our company.  We want to appraise a larger group, so we can get the whole picture, but my boss is pushing back.  He says we should just appraise one team, assume everyone else is the rest, and move on from there.  That dog don't hunt with me.  What say you? ~Leroy

Thanks Leroy - I feel your pain.

We always need to separate "implementation strategy" (i.e.; starting implementation with one unit and expanding it) from "appraisal strategy" (getting a clear picture of organizational strengths and weaknesses).  These are two completely different things. 

The implementation strategy is like a product development strategy.  It will determine what order  we implement things in and how they impact one another.  Implementing one team at a time makes sense to a point,  but not without first understanding the needs of the entire group.  But be careful - what's good for software will not all work for systems, hardware, or validation.

Trying to implement something designed for software process improvement in the hardware team will require some amount of process retrofitting -  that's the OPPOSITE of what management thinks will happen. Then who do you think will be left cleaning up THAT mess Leroy?  Yes... you.

On the other hand, the Appraisal strategy is designed to get a broad understanding of the process needs for the next couple of years.  Think of it as strategic requirements gathering.  The data generated from the appraisal will tell us what the strengths and weakness of the entire group are, what needs they have in common, and where their differences are.  It will give us clues about what order to implement in, how to sequence the processes, and how to resource the work. 

The data generated during a CMMI Level 2 Appraisal is largely about project management, measurements, quality, and other "price of admission" capabilities.  The data generated during a CMMI Level 3 Appraisal is focused more on engineering and process improvement. 

The real problem with an appraisal strategy that only looks at one, and then tries to implement based on the results, is that you will probably implement something that won't be useful to the rest of the company - it will be sub-optimized for the one team.  In that scenario the team wins (sort of), but the rest of the team loses . . . and the quality team is left to clean up the mess.

In the end there isn't really much cost difference, so why not just go ahead and do it right?

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.

Download Jeff's eBooks on Amazon: "How to Spell CMMI!"

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