Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What happens to our agile evangelists if the company gets a CMMI Level?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser, our execs are talking about having the company CMMI certified for the marketing advantages, and we’re not in love with the idea. We are a Scrum team of true agile evangelists.  We don’t bother with process models or BPUF. How is it going to impact us if the company gets a CMMI Level? ~ Albi W.

Hey, Albi,

You don’t have to be in love with the idea of CMMI+Scrum for it to work for you.  But in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let's get this conversation started with a conversation heart.

Don’t worry – I’m not getting sweet on you! All this means is that CMMI+Scrum really can and do coexist. No doubt your executives would really love it everyone could get on the same page about the benefits of this approach, because it helps everyone. Taking an agileCMMI approach can actually transform performance across the board, for management and Scrum teams alike.

Here are a few things about CMMI and Scrum that you may not be aware of:

You say, “We don’t bother with process models,” but did you realize that Scrum is a process model also? When you look at all of the different techniques of a Scrum team, all the "Scrum Elements," every one of them is a process. They are not the same processes that maybe you think people want to make you use, but they are still a process. And they're pretty darn good ones too! And every one of them is in the CMMI! For example, Planning Poker is represented in the CMMI's Project Planning Specific Goal One. Refactoring is in Requirement Management, Pair Programming is part of Verification, Velocity is part of Measurement and Analysis, and Test-Driven Development is part of Requirements Development. And so on.

You say, “We don’t bother with a BPUF (Big Plan Up Front).” That’s OK! I don’t either. To be clear, the CMMI is not a methodology. It does not have to be BPUF. That’s a perception based on implementation, not a perception based on fact. Are you saying that because the CMMI is most often used in BPUF types of organizations, therefore the CMMI is a BPUF process model? To that, I say, correlation is not causation. The real meaning behind CMMI is that it looks to make anything that you are doing better. So why not use CMMI to make a Scrum better?

You say, “How is it going to impact us if the company gets a CMMI Level?” Well, the beauty of Scrum teams is that they tend to be fiercely independent. Unfortunately, that perception is one reason why most companies are using Scrum for only a small subset of their projects. Part of the challenge with using Scrum is sometimes upper management doesn’t understand it. It’s well suited for bottom-up implementation, but not so much for "top-down." But because everything in Scrum is on-time and on-budget by definition, Scrum teams can boast to their management, “things worked really well. We are on time and on budget with every release.” But you don't hear so much is whether they met the full number of features they committed to delivering. Their velocity may be lower than they expected. If that happens to you, CMMI can help.

Keep in mind, Albi, there has always been this sort of antagonistic relationship between the Agile and CMMI communities. So much so that that I co-wrote a white paper called "CMMI or Agile? Why Not Embrace Both?" for the SEI along with several of my peers on why that perception is hurting the software community, and why the CMMI is an excellent fit for agile environments.

That’s the history and philosophy, Albi. Embrace CMMI+Scrum as a tool to make your organization a great company. Every framework, including Scrum, has weaknesses, and you can use CMMI to make it even stronger.

What’s not to love?

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.

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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