Wednesday, February 27, 2013

3 Reasons the CMMI Works in the Health Care Industry

Dear CMMI Appraiser, can CMMI work in the health care industry, or is it only for IT? ~ Larry P.

Larry, the CMMI is a process improvement model that can be adapted to any industry. So yes, it can and does work in the health care industry. Currently the CMMI has broad adoption by organizations that are partnered with the government through Medicare or Medicaid, or with organizations that deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield, because these are two entities that are starting to look to CMMI as a framework for improving service and product delivery.

As in any industry, health care business leaders are responding to many factors that impact their bottom line. Here are three reasons people in the health care industry are adopting the CMMI:


Reason #3: Marketing

Large health insurance providers are often interested in adopting the CMMI strictly for marketing reasons. Some believe that having the so-called “CMMI certification” or achieving CMMI Level 2 or CMMI Level 3 will allow them to level the playing field against their competitors.  It's a strategy, of sorts.

In my opinion, that approach alone will NOT level the playing field. I’ll explain why, below.

Reason #2: Customer Mandates

The CMMI Appraiser often hears from companies who call us and say, “Hey, we need to look at CMMI certification because we’d like to bid on certain government contracts that are requiring CMMI.”

I always respond by asking, “Is that really why you are doing this? I understand that you want to win that business. But the CMMI is so much more valuable and useful than that. Let’s talk about things like how well you are running your process, how well you are delivering, how happy your customers are.”

These are the kinds of questions they should be asking, and learning should be their goal – not achieving a level. The sooner they grasp this concept, the sooner they start to think like a great company. Which leads me to …

Reason #1: To Be a Great Company

I find that more and more organizations understand the value of process improvement and increasing performance. They think about the CMMI as one of the tools that can help them learn how to behave like a great company. And while they know it won’t be easy to do the work necessary to learn the behaviors and transform their culture, they willingly take on the challenge, knowing that the journey can be its own reward.

I tell them, “You worry about being a great company. I’ll worry about helping guide you toward this CMMI goal.

This approach works across the industries. If you focus setting the right goals and objectives, and asking the right questions, you are going to be a great company. I promise.

Now, to return to my comment above about marketing, let’s consider the case of two organizations that are competing for a contract: a Virginia health care organization and a New York health care organization.

The Virginia health care organization does the hard work of focusing on the transformation of the culture of their company, using the CMMI as one of the tools that can help them. Their goal is to improve and change the way their entire organization behaves, so that they deliver a work product of greater value to the customer.

The New York health care organization invests significant time, money and effort to go through a SCAMPI-A appraisal, only to “check the box.” Having done so, they ignore the guidance of the CMMI, and go right back their old culture … complete with late, over-budget projects, heavy process debt, etc.

All other things being equal, which organization would you hire?

I appreciate your taking the time to send in your question, Larry. With a little context and creativity, the CMMI is a powerful solution for any industry that plans, designs, and delivers any type of product or service.

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.

Register for "Introduction to CMMI-DEV," February 11-13 2013 in Fairfax, VA.

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

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Unknown said...

This is possibly irrelevant but if I was to try and design a software development life cycle to be used in the health care industry, should it be designed with the CMMI in mind or would it matter? The CMMI and lifecycle models seem completely independent, other than one being used to improve the other. I'm brand new to this so excuse my ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Danny, the only ignorant question is the one you don't ask...if I hadn't asked a million questions I'd still be dumb as a post like the day I was born.

You're right - the CMMI and Lifecycle Models are completely independent. In my talk "Agile Resilience" (available soon in a video...), I talk about how the CMMI can make Agile strong and durable - but I also talk about how the CMMI is really cool for ANY type of engineering or software development - in fact, for ANY kind of product development - software, hardware, roads, airplanes, and baskets.

Rather than design a model "with the CMMI in mind" use the CMMI as a set of "questions" that have to be answered by the methodology you ARE using. HOW do I estimate? HOW do we plan? WHO performs these roles, etc. All of the 356 practices in CMMI ML3's 18 Process Areas can be turned around into questions that, if you answer them, will make you and your team dramatically more successful, productive, and happy.

The CMMI is not a method, and it's not a lifecycle. It's best used to improve what you are already doing - regardless of lifecycle. Good luck!

Derrick Corea said...

Good Explanation. I learnt something new. Thanks for sharing this.
healthcare product development