Thursday, August 31, 2017

What is the value of an agile organization adopting the CMMI?

Hey CMMI Appraiser – Our software engineering organization is the only one in our company that uses agile. But now we’re being asked to adopt the CMMI. Other than satisfying a customer requirement, is there any value for an agile organization to have a SCAMPI appraisal? ~ Jason A.

Hey, Jason,

For an organization like yours that cares about agile, another way of phrasing your question might be: “How do we maintain and scale our agile approach, while having the resilience to withstand the intense pressure to change as we get larger?”

Because THAT’S the value of an agile organization having a SCAMPI appraisal. Adopting the CMMI allows you to strengthen and scale agile, and make agile resilient to outside forces that would try to force you to change.

You may not have heard this before, but agile and the CMMI are 100% compatible. In fact, CMMI is an important tool for helping agile scale. So the real value of having a SCAMPI appraisal is that it’s a great way to test the strength and resiliency of your agile values, methods and techniques.

I would recommend that agile organizations adopt CMMI, even if your customers weren’t requiring it.  But you have to do it right.

As far as the market, you are correct that most software organizations at defense industry contractors are not agile. Some agile adoption is taking place,  with some experimentation at the small team level. But most have not embraced an agile approach to software development, and I’d say a big reason has to do with their customers.

True, we have seen the federal government show some interest in agile, but it is still a long way from true agile adoption - especially when it comes to agile values like “high-trust,” “collaboration,” and “fail-fast.” As a result, we’ve seen some contractors adopting ceremonies from frameworks like Scrum and XP, but they are more “Scrum-But” than Scrum.

I'ts not the adoption of ceremonies or techniques that makes you agile. It’s whether or not the business has embraced agile values.

Adopting the CMMI will help you find clarity in this regard. During your SCAMPI appraisal, your Lead Appraisal Team will be asking questions that will help define agility in your organization, including:

Are you really agile? What are your values?  How does the team demonstrate them?  Who attends sprint demos?  Your Lead Appraiser will be looking to find out if you're doing it well - or if you're Agile in name only.

Agile is something that you are. It’s a philosophy; it’s a way of thinking; it’s a way of life. To be agile is to adopt agile values, the values of collaboration of personal responsibility, of having the right team members, of failing fast, and the other agile values from the Agile Manifesto.

By contrast, the CMMI is not something you are. The CMMI is something you use to strengthen what you are. In the context of agile, the CMMI helps you strengthen what you are by helping you build a resilient framework. And by embracing lessons of CMMI with agile (or Waterfall or Spiral – or whatever your methodology of choice is) you move closer to being a better company.

So it’s a good thing your customers are asking you to adopt CMMI. Take it as an opportunity to align your agile organization with 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.

Visit for more information about running a successful CMMI program.

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