Friday, March 29, 2013

How long does it REALLY take to get a CMMI Level?

Hey CMMI Appraiser, I got a kick out of your response to the reader who wanted you to know if you could tell them how to get a CMMI Level 3 rating in three weeks. You said, “No.” All kidding aside, getting better by adopting the CMMI is a priority for us as well.  How long does it really take? ~ Jim F.

Dear Jim,

I'm glad you saw the humor.  I like to save my breath for readers like you who have a clue what they are asking. The timing of your CMMI-based process improvement program comes down to one simple concept:

Great companies know how to focus. Arbitrary time frames hardly matter when you are focused on being a great company. Being a great company means focusing on doing things as well as you can do them, and being better than the companies you are competing with. Because if you learn to use the CMMI as one of the tools that can keep you focused on producing the best products and being the best in your industry, then your CMMI level will surely follow, regardless of how long it takes.

On the other hand, if you focus on getting a CMMI Rating and achieving a Maturity Level as fast as you can, and you don’t care much about being a great company, you will spend a lot of time and money producing a lot of overhead that will not result in business value.

The moral of the story: Focus on being a great company, and a nice CMMI certificate will follow. That’s just the way it works.

Still, people ask me all the time, “How fast can I get a CMMI certificate?” And my answer is, “How fast do you want to transform and change your company to be a great company?”

Because if you understand that question, you’ll understand it’s not something you can do in a couple of weeks or months. It’s a major undertaking to be a great company. As I say to my clients, this is a journey, not a race. You focus on being a great company, I will focus on helping you achieve a Maturity Level, and we’ll meet at the end.

So, you ask, “How long is it going to take for us to get to CMMI Level 3?” That depends on you, Jim. There is no magic formula here. The time it takes to get a Maturity Level is largely dependent upon your company, your culture, your desire, your process improvement planning, the way you prioritize your software process improvement projects and the amount of resources (both financial and human) that you are willing to apply. But more than anything, it depends on your focus.

How focused are you on being a great company?

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 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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