Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Does the CMMI require documented process?

Dear CMMI Appraiser, I am part of the management team of an engineering firm in New York that is in high growth mode. We are just starting to research the CMMI and already there are concerns. Does the CMMI require documented processes? ~ Frances V.

Dear Francis, rest assured, the CMMI does not require anything - it's merely a set of guidelines. The CMMI recommends,  in CMMI Level 3, that processes be defined at the project level based on a set of standards processes. But what it doesn't ask for is an immense amount of detail. This is one of the great misunderstandings about the CMMI. People often  think they have to have "binders full of processes."  They tend to treat every project – even projects as small as mapping a desktop computer to a printer – as though they were building a space shuttle.

The good news is, you don’t have to do that. You just have to provide the appropriate level of guidance for your situation.  "Space-Shuttle" process is appropriate for the Space Shuttle, but not for building a website.

Engineers are really smart people that don’t always need a step-by-step process for everything, although many people will  try to create one anyway.

Ultimately, Frances, adopting the CMMI is all about solving business problems. It’s not about documents. In fact, the more we use the CMMI, and the more we work with companies that are using the CMMI, the more we realize that this is a model that's about how great companies perform.

Once you grasp this distinction, you can take a different approach to the CMMI. You can think of it as a tool that you can use to help define “The Way” you do business.

I'm passionate about encouraging companies to think about establishing “The Way”  – as in “The NASA Way” or “The (Insert Your Company Name) Way.” Your “Way” becomes the way you do things as an organization and as a group. You establish your “Way” not to document your processes, and not even to achieve a CMMI Level. You establish your “Way” to consistently be the great company that you are.

The CMMI is the perfect tool to do that. So if you do decide to adopt the CMMI, don't waste time with overly-detailed process documents - make it appropriate for your business.

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 www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation , software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.

To download eBooks about CMMI, visit Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.

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