Monday, September 16, 2013

Why are customers asking us to adopt the CMMI?

Dear CMMI Appraiser – our biggest customer wants all of their providers to “look into the CMMI.” I don’t understand why they think this is important. In your experience, why do customers ask their vendors to adopt the CMMI? ~ Bill P.

Bill, as you look into the CMMI, one of the things you’ll discover is that the CMMI is the tool for driving process improvement and performance innovation across organizations. This is probably the reason your customer is asking you to look into the CMMI – but don’t be insulted. Being told you can improve is not necessarily a bad thing.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a large company. They were good, but not great. One of the company’s executives, Xavier, knew that they could be a great company, and wanted to inspire his suppliers to help him get there. So he issued them a challenge.

These suppliers were alike in nearly every way. They built their products with cumbersome, poorly understood processes, which were largely ignored, cost more, produced lower quality and made people unhappy. Everyone was losing.

“I’m tired of this,” Xavier said to his top suppliers. “I want everyone to look into getting CMMI certified.”

Upon hearing the request, the companies’ leaders all Googled “CMMI Certified” and “CMMI Maturity Level 3,” and quickly found out about SEPGNA, the industry’s premier software process improvement conference. Fortunately for them, this year’s SEPGNA was coming up. Unfortunately, for them, they assumed it wasn’t worth their time.

Everyone, that is, but Bob. Bob was intrigued by the idea of becoming a better partner to Xavier by making his company better, so he signed up for SEPGNA.

At the SEPG CMMI Conference, Bob found himself in the company of hundreds of professionals from around the world who had come to learn, network and explore solutions to their performance problems. Bob started thinking and talking about using the Model for process improvement and performance innovation. He heard first-hand accounts from CMMI Users who were experiencing much better quality, increased productivity and fewer project delays. His mind started to open to the possibility that, when properly adopted, the CMMI could put his company on the path to greatness – but he also became aware that there were far too many examples of companies that pursued CMMI adoption just to get a “CMMI certificate,” and failed.

As soon as he returned to the office, Bob called Xavier and said, “We took your advice about the CMMI. We are going to adopt the Model.”

“So you decided to get CMMI Certified?” Xavier asked.

Bob smiled. Thanks to the conversations he'd had at the conference, he understood that you can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. He knew that, when you put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors, and you miss the point of the CMMI entirely.  But he comprehended what Xavier meant.

“Yes, a CMMI Maturity Level Rating will come at the end of our successful appraisal journey,” Bob said. “But the real reason we want to adopt the Model is not to get a certificate or plaque. Instead, we want to get the most value of the CMMI, which comes from the transformation of the culture of our company. See, when properly adopted, the CMMI will help us change the way we behave, so that we build great products for you, and help you reach your goals.”

Xavier said, “I look forward to working with you more.”

The moral of the story?

Your clients want you to be better for reasons that should inspire you to want to be better. The reason they think it’s important because it IS important.

So be like Bob. Educate yourself. Go to conferences; read blogs; participate in Webinars – and talk to your customers about what they can expect from you. You’ll find that adopting the CMMI for the right reasons is a win-win.

It’s not too late to sign up for SEPGNA 2013! Register here. 

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, ScrumMaster, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff pioneered agileCMMI, the leading methodology for incremental and iterative process improvement. He 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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