Friday, November 8, 2013

Can the CMMI help us do more than write better software?

Hey, Jeff, we recently achieved a CMMI Maturity Level 3 rating as a result of learning to ask challenging questions about the way we do our work, and understanding how to apply the CMMI as one of the tools that can drive behavior change and performance improvement in our organization. Now we’re writing much better software – but is there more we can do with the CMMI? ~ Terry U.

Terry, great question. It sounds like you were working with a good CMMI Appraiser who helped you realize that the CMMI is more than documents, forms and achieving a so-called CMMI certification. Adopting the CMMI is about the transformation of the culture of your company.

Now you’re writing good software, but you want to do even better.

Clearly, you are pointed in the right direction. I might add that, along with asking challenging questions and adopting the guidance of the CMMI, you have been developing a new engineering system for the company. And even beyond that, you were engaged in building an architecture that is multifaceted and organizational in nature. This architecture involves a process infrastructure, a performance infrastructure, a financial infrastructure – all the company’s business systems.

Did you realize that? Let me re-state this, because it’s important. As a result of your adopting the CMMI, you’ve now got two drivers of performance improvement: an architecture and an infrastructure. The architecture is the performance improvement model, and the infrastructure is the physical instantiation of that model. This is YOUR infrastructure, developed by you, and based on an architectural model with which to run your business.

To get more out of your investment, your goal now should be to integrate your engineering system with your other business systems. This includes your finance system, HR system, sales and marketing, and all the other systems in your company. They all have to work together to help you maximize your investment in the engineering system you’ve developed.

Examples? HR has to measure performance. Sales and marketing have to demonstrate an ROI. Finance has to budget the operation of the new infrastructure.

So you see, building the architecture and infrastructure for process improvement and performance improvement goes beyond engineering. It’s beyond CMMI. For the architecture with which to run your business to be successful, all other business systems have to be in place and aligned.

It comes down to operationalizing your engineering strategy.

So how do you do that?

First thing to do is to have a funding model that supports the infrastructure. In other words, you need ways to pay for your engineering system as an operational funding model. This includes charge codes and a budget set aside to operate the infrastructure you’ve invested in developing. Part of it is a continuous improvement model. This is a loop, made up of components like requests being submitted, approved and implemented. It includes training, policies and procedures for revving the process. This infrastructure item needs to be funded, resourced, and to have time provided for it, or it won’t be successful.

As you know, the experience you’ve just gone through as a company was about more than just getting a level. It was about more than filling out forms or checking a box. It was about creating an infrastructure for helping your company operate like a great company.

You are operating that infrastructure now. You need to continue operating that infrastructure in order to continue to improve. Operationalize your strategy across the entire organization is the next logical step toward getting better at everything you do -- not just writing better software.

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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