Friday, June 14, 2013

CMMI Certification doesn't exist? Whaaaat? But customers are ASKING for it!

Dear CMMI appraiser, we need to look at CMMI certification because we’d like to bid on certain government contracts. I just got off the phone with a Virginia CMMI appraiser who said there’s no such thing as CMMI certification. How can there be “no such thing” as CMMI certification when clients are specifically asking for it? ~ Rudy J.

Dear, Rudy, yes, CMMI certification exists … in our industry’s vernacular ONLY. But not officially. So the Virginia CMMI Appraiser was right. The concept of CMMI certification is not recognized by the SEI or the CMMI Institute.  We use the term "Rating" in its place.

But don’t be upset that you can’t actually get a CMMI certificate, because you kinda-sorta can. Something far more valuable is available to you. If you decide to not focus on CMMI certification, you end up getting all of the value of the CMMI. In other words, don't end up chasing the paper instead of the performance.  Chasing paper just gives you “plaque buildup.”

So what is the real value of the CMMI? Adopting the CMMI is about the transformation of the culture of your company. It’s about changing the way we behave, so that we build products that are better than other companies that are building similar products.

That’s what your clients really want. They don’t want you to be a “good” company. Good companies typically have lame processes that cost more, produce lower quality, and make employees unhappy. No, what your clients want from you is to be a GREAT company. And that means, most likely, you will need to transform.  But it's all good.

You can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. When we put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors.

So why do clients ask for CMMI certification, if it doesn’t exist?

It started with our friends in the federal government sector, who created an environment where a CMMI mandate feels and looks like a certification. By extension, many engineering and software companies in the commercial sector are routinely inserting requirements in their RFPs and contracts that suppliers be at a certain CMMI Level.  Pretty much the same as the feds.

But focusing on CMMI certification is a misguided interpretation of the value of CMMI.

Instead, focus on getting better at what you are ALREADY doing - using the CMMI as a guide,

That’s what your clients are really asking for. They want you to be better at what you do. And, honestly, what could be more appropriate? We all want to improve, and to be in a continuously improving environment.

And that’s what the CMMI is all about.

Now, you said you want to win their business. I get that. I fully acknowledge many small and large suppliers in Virginia and elsewhere must achieve a CMMI Maturity Level in order to bid on work. In some cases, we’re talking about millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. It's a business reality we all share.

But CMMI certification can’t be your only goal – or you will not get the results you were hoping for.

To help make my point, let’s go back to the Virginia CMMI Appraiser you mentioned. If he was a good CMMI Appraiser, he might have asked you “Why are you doing this to yourself?” That might have led to discussion about the possibilities of adopting CMMI as model to be a great company - not a model to get a plaque.

Had you called me, you may have been surprised by my approach. I would have tried to talk you out of having CMMI appraisal altogether. I’d do that to try to figure out just how important it really was to you. That would help me understand how much you have thought it through.

Then I would have tried to help you understand that having a so-called CMMI Certification isn't what’s most important. It’s far more important to put your company on the path to greatness.

That’s what makes the CMMI so valuable and useful. Adopting the Model puts you on the path to greatness by getting you to think about things like how well you are running your company, how well you are delivering products, and how happy your customers are.

It’s not about what’s hanging on your wall.

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.

No comments: