Sunday, June 15, 2014

Is CMMI certification just the flavor of the month?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – lately our industry is seeing CMMI in a lot more RFPs. Why are customers asking their vendors to be CMMI certified? Is this just another "quality the flavor of the month?" ~ Wally F.

Wally, as you look into the CMMI, one of the things you’ll discover is that the CMMI is the best  tool for driving process improvement and performance innovation across organizations. This is the reason your customers are asking suppliers to adopts the guidance of a Model or framework for performance improvement. CMMI is the most popular flavor in the market, it’s true – but don’t let this throw you.

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, we’ll call him Sam, knew that they could be a great company, and wanted to inspire his suppliers to help him get there. So he gave them a challenge.

On a conference call, he said, “Hey guys. You are all alike in nearly every way. You build your products with cumbersome, poorly understood processes, which are largely ignored, you cost more, produce lower quality and make people unhappy. Especially me. Everyone is losing here.”

There was silence on the other end of the call.

“I’m tired of this,” Sam continued. “I want all my suppliers to look into adopting the CMMI.”

After the call, the vendors all scrambled to the keyboards and Googled “CMMI Certified” and “CMMI Maturity Level 3.”

As you would expect, they found volumes of information. Too much for any one person to digest. So almost all of the suppliers looked or a short-cut, a quick fix, a so-called “CMMI implementation tool” or a consulting firm that would “do” CMMI to them.

But one company was different. Let’s call the owner Bob. Bob was intrigued by the idea of becoming a better partner to Sam by making his company better, so he followed a different search path. He Googled phrases like “organizational change and CMMI” and “performance improvement with CMMI”.

Bob found some excellent content following this path. He discovered some interesting conferences, and got connected to a community of hundreds of professionals from around the world. Solving performance problems started to be something he could imagine doing. Bob read blogs, watched videos and downloaded ebooks about using the Model for process improvement and performance innovation. He participated in Webinars and learned how CMMI Users 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. Also he became aware that there were far too many examples of companies that pursued CMMI adoption just to get a “CMMI certificate,” and failed.

After thoroughly sifting through all the material he could find about using the CMMI to help transform the culture of his company, Bob called Sam and said, “We took your advice about the CMMI. We are going to adopt the Model.”

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

Bob smiled. Thanks to all of his research, 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 Bob was a smart fella. He comprehended what Sam meant.

“Well, CMMI doesn't really offer a 'certification,' but yes, a CMMI Maturity Level Rating will come at the end of our successful performance improvement journey,” Bob said. “The real reason we want to adopt the CMMI is not to get a certificate or plaque. Instead, we want to get the most value out of our team, which comes from the transformation of the culture of our company. See, Sam, 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.”

Sam said, “I look forward to working with you more.  And while I have you on the phone, let's talk about some other work you can do for us . . . ”

The moral of the story?

Your customers want you to be better for reasons that should inspire you to want to be better. The reason they think it’s important is 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 everyone wins when you adopt the CMMI for the right reasons. And that’s why it’s a flavor that everyone likes.

Looking for more info on CMMI?  Check out some of our most popular resources:

#1 CMMI-TV – If you are looking for short, informative video clips about Agile, CMMI and performance innovation, we invite you to subscribe to our CMMI-TV channel.

#2 CMMI eBooks – Like to get your CMMI info on screen? Check out the highly useful and always entertaining eBooks we’ve written about CMMI.

#3 @CMMIAppraiser on Twitter – Could you use a daily tip on CMMI, engineering performance and software process improvement? Follow us on Twitter.

#4 Broadsword Client User Group on LinkedIn – Interested in joining a community of like-minded engineering and software professionals for discussion and CMMI info? Join our group on LinkedIn:

#5 – For your all-around information source about CMMI, performance innovation and process improvement planning , join us on the Broadsword website.

#6 Cutter IT Journal and Software Development Times -- For our recent interviews with mainstream media.

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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