Monday, April 22, 2013

Pilot Testing: A Tale of Two Companies

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, in my last company, we tested all of our new processes before deploying them. My new boss doesn’t think piloting is necessary, and I don’t have any hard data or evidence to fall back on. What can I say to change her mind? ~ Kim L.

Hey, Kim– great to hear that you are being an advocate for pilot testing in your new company! Helping people transform company culture with CMMI is an area of expertise of Laura Adkins, a Senior CMMI Consultant with Broadsword. Laura does amazing work with companies who are trying to institutionalize new processes within the Agile and CMMI frameworks. Take it away, Laura! ~ The CMMI Appraiser 

Thank you, CMMI Appraiser!

Kim, hard evidence can be gathered to prove the value of piloting in your organization. But rather than trying to convince your boss with a lot of facts and data, I’d recommend telling her a story.

I call it, “The tale of two companies …”

Once upon a time, there were two companies: The Foolish Company and the Wise Company. The Foolish Company believed they needed to achieve CMMI Maturity Level 3 right away. So their quality group got to work designing the Foolish Company’s new CMMI-based processes. They didn’t have time to consult process users. Instead, they went forward designing large volumes of process assets, and immediately deployed them to all of their process users.

The Foolish Company chose to build their process on a foundation of sand because it was much quicker.

Now the Wise Company had a different approach. The Wise Company was a good company that wanted to be great. After learning about CMMI, they selected it as their process framework because they believed in the model’s best practices. The Wise Company commissioned small groups of employees to define processes that would improve their performance. These small groups designed processes iteratively so they would be “Just Enough, Not Too Much”. Before deploying their new processes, the Wise Company tried them out on projects of varying sizes and types.

The Wise Company chose to build their process on a foundation of rock because it was much stronger.

Let’s fast-forward several months and see what became of the two companies’ very different process improvement planning efforts.

The Foolish Company, which chose to build its process on a foundation of sand, because it was much quicker, didn’t take the time to pilot test their processes before releasing them. The team tried to use the new processes, but found defects and areas that they missed. After just a few weeks, the Foolish Company realized that their processes were not designed for small software maintenance projects. Since the Foolish Company is primarily in the business of performing software maintenance, they had to go back and re-design their processes to meet the needs of small projects. Months later, they were still in the rework mode …

The Wise Company, which chose to build their process on a foundation of rock because it was much stronger, spent time pilot testing their new processes on projects of varying sizes and types. The Wise Company listened to their pilot participants and made the changes they suggested. The Wise Company caught some areas that needed to be changed, implemented the change, and are going forward with the deployment, releasing the new processes with confidence that they will work.

Ask your boss: Which company are we going to be?

The real value of pilot testing is it helps accelerate the institutionalization of new processes. By planning and conducting a process pilot, your company can use the feedback from pilot process-related experiences to update your assets … and be a Wise Company.

Encourage your boss to look back through our blog posts on pilot testing, Kim. We hope we’ve shared enough tools, tips and guidance on validating process that the value of testing will be clear. If you need any more help convincing her, you know where to find us!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Laura Adkins is a Senior CMMI Consultant with Broadsword Solutions Corporation. She has years of real world experience using pilot testing strategies and tactics to help her clients achieve their goals. Laura also uses the CMMI, in partnership with her clients, to set-up, monitor, and sustain process improvement programs.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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