Thursday, April 11, 2013

Don't run your projects using Process Models!

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, our projects use multiple process models, including CMMI, ISO9000 and ITIL to name a few. How do we audit these projects? ~ QA professional at DC SPIN meeting

Dear Readers,

At a recent DC Software Process Improvement Network (DC SPIN) event, where this CMMI Appraiser was speaking on "Agile Resiliency: How CMMI Will Make Agile Thrive and Survive," I took a question from a QA professional on how to "audit" projects that use so many process models like CMMI, ISO, ITIL, etc. Below is a CMMI-TV video clip with my answer, followed by a synopsis of my response. Enjoy!


There is a philosophical difference between companies that identify their projects by process model, and companies that have identified and defined their company’s "Way," the Way their work gets done, they Way their values are demonstrated, and the Way they are successful with their customers. Having a well defined Way helps you evaluate and improve all areas of the business, and reach your goals faster.


Many companies apply different software process improvement models for different projects. That is often perfectly acceptable and useful. But what is not useful is segmenting and defining the projects by process model. For example, the Head of Corporate Quality of an award-winning federal contractor recently told me, “We have our Agile projects over here, our ISO9000 projects over here, and our CMMI projects over here.” He did not realize he was missing an opportunity to help make his highly successful company even better.


My advice to companies that are segmenting their projects by process model is to stop, take a step back, and consider that there may be a better approach. Rather than thinking of projects by process model, they should think of projects by the Company Way, as in “We’re a great company and here’s how we work.” They should apply this definition to everything the company does. No longer do they say, “Our agile projects are over here.” Now they say, “We run all of our projects in accordance with our Company Way.”


For this philosophical shift to take hold, QA people should be trained in the aspects of the Company Way, and you should be able to evaluate your projects based on those aspects.

That doesn’t mean you all do everything the same way. Some projects will be Waterfall. Some will be Agile. Some will be R&D and won’t be using any process model. It just depends on what the goal is.

But regardless of process model, the approach you use to evaluate them should come from the same place. That is: “We are a great company, and here’s how we do projects.”

So stop thinking about models and standards and all of those things. Models and standards are good inputs into defining how you do your work. But don’t let them define how you run your projects.

For more insight into defining your Way and using tools like the CMMI to help you establish the type of environment that can make you a great company, check out our upcoming learning opportunities:

April 26, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan @ PMI Great Lakes 2013 Symposium – “Agile Resiliency” and "Process Innovation at the Speed of Life"

May 8, 2013, in Fairfax, Virginia, in partnership with CC Pace – "Agile CMMI Learning Day"

May 28, 2013, in San Diego, CA, in partnership with Epsilon Solutions.  Learn about CMMI, process models, and how to use them to be 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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