Saturday, December 13, 2014

Is CMMI certification a “necessary evil”?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – To compete for bigger contracts, we need to achieve a CMMI Maturity Level, which we see as a necessary evil because we are an agile shop, and I am clear that I don’t want CMMI dictating to us that we do various things. What’s the painless way to get a CMMI certification? ~ Dale W.

Hey, Dale, quick note for clarification: The commonly used phrase “CMMI certification” is a misnomer. Upon a successful CMMI appraisal, you’ll achieve a Maturity Level, such as ML2 or ML3. But the real value of the CMMI is that it helps us learn about the way we work, so that we can get better. With learning as your goal, you’ll stay on the path to greatness, and achieving Maturity Rating will be just one byproduct of your journey. 

So here's my question for you: How can we call ourselves great if we see performance innovation as a “necessary evil”?

Now, there is nothing wrong with being interested in capitalizing on the marketing value of achieving a CMMI rating – and there’s nothing unnatural about wanting to avoid pain – but I’m concerned that you are in danger of missing all the value that the Model promises.

You say you don’t want CMMI “dictating” to you? No problem. CMMI doesn’t do dictation. Here’s what the Model does do: CMMI helps you demonstrate how great you are. That’s the reason large corporations and government customers want you to have the CMMI rating in the first place: It allows them to understand how you know you’re good at solving their problems.

So the CMMI is a “necessary evil”? Does that mean agile project are full of rainbows, unicorns, goodness and light? Well, I don’t dispute that the agile community has got great ideas, but Purism is dangerous and damaging in any form. Whether you are a Tea Partier or an anarchist, Puritanism is dangerous because it chokes off the flowering of new thought. It eliminates the possibility that new, better ideas are out there. Isn't that kind of an agile "anti-pattern" in itself?

There has always been this sort of antagonistic relationship between the Agile and CMMI communities. So much so that that I co-wrote, along with several of my peers, a white paper called "CMMI or Agile? Why Not Embrace Both?" for the SEI. We examine why that perception is hurting the software community, and why the CMMI is an excellent fit for agile environments.  To this day, it remains the most downloaded white paper in the industry.

My advice, Dale, is to drop this us-versus-them mindset.  Embrace CMMI+Scrum as a tool to make your organization a great company. After all, every framework, including Scrum, has weaknesses, and you can use CMMI to make it even stronger.  

Rather than "necessary evil," you may come to see it as recommended greatness.

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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