Saturday, November 30, 2013

How can CMMI give us more visibility into Scrum projects?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – I run a CMMI Maturity Level 3 rated IT firm in Fairfax, Virginia. We recently made the shift to start using agile methods on certain projects, but it is very difficult for me to see what was going on. The teams all tell me "don't worry," and fortunately, Scrum seems to be working. But how can I get more visibility to make the results more sustainable and repeatable? ~ Ryan H.

Hey Ryan,

I feel your pain.  As a former CIO and VP of Engineering I suffered from the same problem when Scrum first started to come online.  I wish more executives of companies using traditional software development methods had your open mind to solving business problems. Your desire for more visibility is the right question to ask.

But first let’s understand what you’re up against. Like most obstacles in business, it comes down to the inability to get good information. You can’t make good business decisions without good information, and right now, it sounds like your Scrum teams are leaving you in the dark.

Why is this happening?  It's not that they are cruel and unusual -- well, maybe some are a BIT unusual.  But the real reason is that Scrum teams operate very differently from the rest of the company. They tend to be self-organizing, independent, process-light, and quick to adapt. They have an iterative and incremental way of getting work done, which typically does not include things like weekly status reporting and weekly meetings. Most of them don’t even have a project manager (Eeeek!).

So how do you get the information you need to run the business?

Since you've already adopted the CMMI at your company, one solution is to integrate Scrum and CMMI. At my company, Broadsword, we do just that. We strengthen Scrum with the CMMI, based on the needs of our company.

For example, let’s take one popular aspect of Scrum, the Daily Stand-up. As you know, Scrum Teams opt for Daily Stand-ups as opposed to the traditional sit-down status meetings. We don't want to change that because it's a powerful construct for communications and risk management. Instead, we want to use the CMMI as a framework to make sure we are talking, in a very light and agile way, about things in the Daily Stand-up that are really important. And most importantly, that we are sharing that information with the right people in the company!

Applying the guidance of the CMMI to the Daily Stand-up gives us two major advantages. One, by using the simple Daily Stand-up mechanism, we get a really crisp, robust view of the project, so we can understand what’s going on in real-time. We understand it early, and we understand it often. And two, by adopting some of the best practices that the CMMI provides, we get more value out of the Daily Stand-up, allowing us to make it even stronger than it already was.

Let me be clear. If you like your daily stand-ups you can keep them. Period.

The CMMI doesn't change that. But it can make them a little better - and everyone wants that.

This is just a glimpse of all you can do with agile and CMMI, Ryan. For more information on getting CMMI and Scrum to work together, I encourage you to check out my article, "CMMI vs. Scrum? NO! CMMI + Scrum!" The article, originally published in the Cutter IT Journal last year. It is now available for download to all of our loyal readers.

Click HERE to access the article – and good have fun scaling agile!

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

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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