Saturday, February 1, 2014

9 Things Your Consultant Won’t Tell You about CMMI (But I Will)

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – we have recently been mandated by a customer to achieve a level of the CMMI. We started conversations with a CMMI consultant to help us think about going through the SCAMPI-A appraisal, but at this early stage, we aren’t confident about our needs. Can you give us a checklist? ~ Emory A.

Hey, Emory – wow, that’s important. If your CMMI consultant hasn’t been able to help you identify your needs, then the first thing on your checklist should be to find a new CMMI consultant!  Consulting is about WAY more than just content.  If all they have is the CMMI content, they're a contractor.  If they can give you sound business advice, in a cohesive and useable way, maybe they are a consultant too.

In the meantime, here are nine things you need as you prepare to adopt the CMMI:
  1. You need confidence. Look for a Certified Lead Appraiser who is a credible CMMI Institute Partner as well as an organizational performance improvement expert. CMMI is only the beginning!  You need them to have broad, diverse base of experience and a consistent success rate. When you call on their references (you DO call consultant references, right?), find out if they added value beyond the appraisal, and if they are a Lead Appraiser, be sure they took meticulous care in conducting the appraisal documenting and submitting the formal appraisal records.
  2. You need to get stronger. You need to be serious about performance and process improvement, and your CMMI consultant needs to focus on making your company even stronger than it is today. The focus should NOT be on getting a CMMI level as quickly as possible.
  3. You need hands-on involvement. Whether you are a large or small organization, your CMMI Consultant needs to give you sound, hands-on advice that moves you forward and guides you towards the useful adoption of CMMI.
  4. You need coaching and training in more than just CMMI. For your CMMI adoption to be successful, it is important that sponsors and practitioners understand the depth and breadth of systems/software engineering in addition to the basics about the CMMI model, and what their roles and responsibilities are for implementation. CMMI training is a must for at least a core team, but there is so much more to than that.  Planning, estimating, unit testing, backlog grooming, spring planning, and more!
  5. You need an ROI. Be sure your CMMI consultant will do a complete job, and not cut corners. CMMI is about changing your company to radically improve performance. This is a difficult task, and your CMMI consultant needs to be committed to doing it right, so that you receive the best ROI possible.  It's not about's about you and your company doing what you do, only better.
  6. You need a multi-disciplined partner. You are an expert at software development, service delivery, engineering and project management – and your CMMI consultant should be too! Don’t settle for consultants who can only demonstrate an expertise in the CMMI. There’s a whole lot more to your business than the performance improvement model you use.
  7. YOU need to succeed with your CMMI appraisal (your CMMI consultant can’t do it for you). That’s right, “passing” an appraisal is entirely up to you, while adhering to the rules that pave the way to acceptance is up to your CMMI Lead Appraiser. Don't listen to someone who guarantees you will get a "level.".  That's unethical. Again, make sure you find one who knows your business.
  8. You need a mature process. Ask your CMMI consultants whether they have a step-by-step, well defined process to help you through the process.  You don't want someone who just shows up saying "dude, can I get a login ID to Sharepoint?"  You’ll get a better outcome if you take an approach that works the way you work. For instance, our AgileCMMI methodology helps organizations incrementally decrease risk and ensures their success.
  9. You need to enjoy the journey! The CMMI is more akin to a behavioral improvement model than an engineering process improvement model. As such, your CMMI adoption is an ongoing quest to be a great company, as opposed to an end in itself. Achieving a Maturity Level of the CMMI will be just one byproduct of your journey.  And it's not even the most important one!

Hope this helps you identify your needs, Emory. And remember, if you need to find a replacement for that CMMI consultant, let me know. I just may know a guy.

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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