Sunday, December 30, 2018
Why do CMMI Appraisal costs vary so widely?
"Your price is 120% higher than the last guy that was in here!" the potential client cried, "what's up with that? Shouldn't a SCAMPI A be the same from each Lead Appraiser? I mean, IT'S A STANDARD for heaven's sake!"
Not being my first rodeo, or nearly the first time I'd heard someone say this, I just sat back, smiled, and asked her " What are you trying to accomplish, really? I'm not talking about the 'level," I mean what are you really trying to do here?"
That caught her a little off guard. "What do you mean, 'accomplish?' None of the other guys asked me that. They just gave me a price."
There are a lot of reasons for differences in pricing. Quality of service, obviously, is one. Experience. Credibility. Timing, size, and most importantly, business goals. That last one is a little harder to predict.
"But I thought my business goal was to get ML3?" my potential (and future) client stammered. "My boss told me I needed to get it by the end of the year or else I wouldn't get my bonus." The poor lady seemed pretty frustrated with me, and appeared as if she was about to throw me out and hire the cheap guy from Appraisals-R-Us.
"Why do you think your boss wants you to get this? I asked.
"So we can bid on government work!" She answered.
"And the government wants you to be CMMI ML3 because.....?" I quickly added.
"uhhhh. I'm not sure, It's just an RFP requirement" she replied.
"Look, I'm sure the government's reason for asking you to do this has nothing to do with yet another plaque on your wall in the lobby ('Plaque Buildup'), but has EVERYTHING to do with ensuring that your company can handle what's about to happen should you win one of those sweet IDIQs. They want to make sure your process systems can handle the stress, and deliver results."
"OK," she said. "But how does creating a bunch or process and documents help me do that?"
BINGO! They don't!
They only help you pass an appraisal (maybe), but it's not nearly enough. For true performance improvement, you need an expert in BOTH CMMI and Performance on your side. The appraisal itself is perfunctory - a single event, a moment in time, a gate to get through. The harder, more valuable stuff comes long before the appraisal. But the time the appraisal comes you should have already won.
It's kind of like that movie "Rocky." You could have skipped right to the fight with no manager (which Rocky considered), participate in the fight, and get beaten badly (worse than he was!). Or you could be more like the famed "Italian Stallion," who took his training to heart, made the hard choices, ran all his steps, and savored victory while bounding up the steps of the Philadelphia Library and doing his victory dance.
He had already won by that point! We knew the rest.
And that's what you need to do with CMMI. Work with someone who will take you to victory long before the appraisal event occurs. The appraisal should be a non-event for you, not something you prepare for. It should be more "bring it on" than "I hope we pass!" "Passing" should never be part of your aspiration or goal - greatness should be. Of course you're going to pass - you're now an awesome company!
There are some Lead Appraisers who don't get this - too many, actually. They're satisfied to leave it to you, just conduct an appraisal, give you a certificate, and walk away without providing any valuable advice or insights. But a great Lead Appraiser is an advisor and counselor, as well as a mentor, coach, and teacher who knows that the path to greatness lies on the far side of innovation, hard work, and discipline - and has the ideas you need to make it happen.
Don't waste your time with someone who doesn't get that. That's WHY they're so cheap.
By the way, here's what to look for in a great Lead Appraiser:
- Has proven Experience
- Understands your methods, tools, and domain
- Understands your business
- Is comfortable interacting with Senior Management, as well as all levels of the company
- Freely offers ideas and techniques for improving working conditions and processes
- Is a teacher, coach, and mentor - not just a "consultant" who tells you what they think you should do
- Takes time to brainstorm ideas and solutions to your biggest problems
- Offers other valuable insight and ideas for business problems you are having
Best of luck to all of you, and here's to a great 2019!