Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“Achieve ML3” – what is THAT?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – We are a small company of about 20 full time people that is trying to bid on government work. Recently we’ve been asked to “achieve ML3.” We’ve heard of “levels,” “LAs” and “SCAMPI” in connection with the CMMI, but what do they all mean? ~ Peri C.

Peri, usually when a large organization or the federal government asks your company to “achieve a level,” they are referring to a level of the Capability Maturity Model Integration, commonly known by its acronym, CMMI.

You are probably also well aware that engineers love their acronyms.  Consequently, there are many three-, four-, five- and six-letter acronyms in the CMMI to digest. Don’t stress! We’ll explain them to you in small, right-sized bites, so that you can understand them and put them in context.

SCAMPI is an acronym that stands for the Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement. There are three different kinds of SCAMPI appraisals: A, B and C. Your customers (the federal government for intense) will ask you to conduct a SCAMPI A -- that’s the most formal version of an appraisal.

Appraisal – While not an acronym, it’s important to understand what an appraisal is. Some call it an audit, but it’s less like an audit, and more like a waypoint on your journey to become a great company (that's the reason your customer wants you do to it). An appraisal is an event that verifies your performance against the practices in the CMMI.

LA stands for Lead Appraiser. An LA is a licensed, trained and experienced individual who conducts your appraisal.  It’s one of the things I do to help companies improve, and there are about 200-250 of us active in the world.

ML3 – Sometimes you hear customers asking for Level 3 or ML 3 or L3 . They are referring to the level of the CMMI at which you have been rated. You can be rated at Maturity Levels 2 through 5 in the CMMI, or Capability Levels 1 through 3 in a specific area. Sometimes they ask for a "Level 2,"  but almost always, they are asking you for Maturity Level 3.

Here’s another acronym. You may not have heard of it, but can be worth understanding for extra small companies like yours that want to bid on federal contracts:

CMMIxs – or CMMI extra small – is an approach we take to CMMI that shows that achieving a level is not just for large companies. That’s a myth!  ANY company, regardless of size, that wants to be great can learn to use the CMMI as a framework for improving delivery.  When you take this approach, achieving a level will be an inevitable part of your journey.

Learn more by signing up for your FREE copy of our white paper, “Shattering the Myths about CMMI and Extra-Small Companies,” at

Thank you for submitting a question to "Ask the CMMI Appraiser,” Peri!  Please keep 'em coming!

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.

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