Thursday, August 3, 2017

CMMI: Do you know what "done" looks like?

Check out this video to see it all drawn out for you

About once a week my phone rings with a request to "get a level" of CMMI "as soon as possible."

Some of my friends in the CMMI community would chastise me for even entertaining the question and engaging these callers in a helpful conversation - one in particular (you know who you are)  might even slam down the phone (do people even still do that with cell phones?) while yelling "DUMMY!"

It goes without saying that the true purpose of CMMI is to serve as a model for performance improvement, and many say that companies who chase a certificate or plaque (we call this "plaque buildup") are doing nothing good for themselves, and probably damaging their company in the process.  

But I'm not with them on this.  Here's why.

These callers, often company owners, are in a very tight spot. Often they are qualified for the work, sometimes they're even ALREADY doing the work, but then the government (or customer) throw the CMMI requirement at them as a pre-requisite for keeping their revenue coming in.  Many of them have never even heard of CMMI.  I can excuse them for thinking this a tactic meant to unfairly exclude them from winning work for which their are qualified.

Frankly, asking how fast they can get to CMMI MLx is a fair question.  Especially since they don't really have a good feel for what CMMI even is.  They deserve an answer for how to "get it done."

So what does "done" look like?

We recommend starting with an independent, unbiased assessment.  This is a great way to get at the "single source of truth" and bypass all of the emotions, opinions, and roadblocks.  The CMMI has hundreds of nooks and crannies where performance weaknesses can hide, and we want to make sure you understand exactly what is in front of you and what needs to be done.

Once you have that under you belt, you'll have everything you need to put together a "plan-to-achieve." The data tells us that it's not a short process, but if you treat it like a project, and take a deliverable, purposeful approach, it can be done by any company.  Duration depends on a lot of factors: where you are today, resources commitment, sponsorship, and company culture.  I've seen companies take 5 years to get to ML2, and others take 6 months to get to ML3.

As we like to say in our business, "it depends." It's impossible to know without getting into the details.  Anyone who tells you otherwise ("sure, I can get you there in 2 months...") is lying.  Or unethical. Or both.

Once the plan is defined, there's some work to do.  You'll design some processes, develop some training, deploy both, and have your projects adopt the improvements.  In some cases, you may change the way you're working altogether.  Along the way we usually provide some training (Introduction to CMMI), workshops, and consulting, and when you're ready.....

We plan your appraisal(s) by selecting projects and people to sample, developing a schedule, documenting the plan, and reviewing/approving it with key stakeholders.  In the background we'll register your appraisal with the CMMI Institute, and make other key preparations.

About 30 days before your scheduled "onsite," we'll conduct some Appraisal Team Training with four or more of your team members, and conduct a Readiness Review.  That's where it all starts.  From there there will be same data collection in preparation for the big day arriving!

The "onsite portion of your appraisal (known as "Phase II") will take place over a week or more, and will include interviews, artifact reviews, and characterization of practices (a kind of "scoring"), all leading up to the development of a final findings report that will spell out the result.

Did you "pass?"  Well - that's up to you.  Good luck!

Check out this video to see it all drawn out for you:

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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