Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's the biggest changes for CMMI v1.3 if we are going to ML2 or ML3?

Our company was appraised at CMMI Maturity Level Two last year, and next year we plan improvements that should have us performing at ML3.  What are the biggest things we have to concern ourselves with CMMI v1.3?

Great question!  A lot of people have been asking that lately on "Ask The CMMI Appraiser" so let's tackle it now.

By far the biggest changes for CMMI v1.3 have been with the so-called "high maturity" (ML4/ML5) process areas.  *** RANT BEGINS*** I say "so-called" because I don't like that term.  There is nothing about "statistical management" or "statistical techniques" that guarantees that the software being written, or products being built, are of higher quality.  This is a myth.  They COULD be, but the notion that if you apply statistics to problems they will improve was created and perpetuated by people who do not actually do it for a living.  Engineering is system that is about behavior, and no measures, charts, control charts, graphs, or Pareto charts will help you if you don't change behavior!  The same goes for Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraisers, some of whom specialize in so-called "high-maturity."  It doesn't make them better appraisers, consultants, or teachers.  It only proves that they can pass a statistics test.  Big whoop.    *** Rant over****.

But if your company is targeting ML3 behavior, you're in luck!  The biggest change is that some of the concepts that used to be contained in "Integrated Process and Product Development" (IPPD) are now practices ("expected") in IPM and OPD.  This is a good thing.  Anything that focuses on making teams better, on making things less confusing, and on defining team norms, is a good thing.

This will be particularly useful for Scrum teams, who already have some pretty good things going for them, assuming they are not of the Scrum-butt variety!

I was very pleased when the SEI came out with this - a change that makes the most important part of IPPD part of the mainstream. A good change that is most welcomed!

Another interesting change is the elimination of Generic Goals Four and Five. This means that you can no longer take just Project Planning (for instance) to Capability Level Five.  This seems like a rip, until you realize the ML4 was never REALLY Maturity Level 4, but CL4 with a couple of PA's.  That masquerade is over, with any luck.

Finally, although SCAMPI v1.3 is not quite yet released, there are a few key nuggets worth talking about.  We're told that the distinction between "Direct" and "Indirect" evidence is now eliminated, with just "artifact" left in its wake.  There are probably a lot of appraisal teams who have slaved over this cursing the SEI right now, wishing it had happened earlier, but it's better late than never and is a good thing.  The other SCAMPI change is in the sampling method.  No more "minimum of 3 projects allowed" (sorry offshore systems integrators, you're going to have to really be ML3 now).  You're going to actually have to provide data so the Lead Appraiser can make an informed decision.

By the way, if you're one of those companies that tried to hand 3 projects to the Lead Appraiser and hide the rest, shame on you.  I love it when an RFP tells us we only get to look at 3 projects, and we can't ask questions about the rest!  A sure reason to run the other way - as fast as we can!

All of this, and more, will be a good topic of discussion for any Certified CMMI Instructor or Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser in the coming months.  You can also tune into one of our free Webinars - the next one will cover this subject - at

Good luck!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser and why do I need one?

Dear Appraiser,

My boss said I need to go find a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser to conduct a CMMI Appraisal.  What is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, and why do I need one?  And why are they so expensive?

Well, you may not! :)  But if you want to receive a CMMI Maturity Level Rating, so that the great work you and your team have been doing can be verified and recognized, then you will need one.

A Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser (or "Lead Appraiser") is someone who is licensed and certified by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) to lead a CMMI Appraisal (technically called a "SCAMPI Appraisal") at your company and lead a team to a consensus on whether you meet the definition of a Maturity Level "x" company.

The method they follow, the Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement, or SCAMPI, is a regulated methodology that is to be performed with integrity for all companies who desire to be appraised.  Lead Appraisers are schooled, tested, and audited for their expertise in performing these appraisals, and about half of them are also CMMI Instructors.

Why are they so expensive?  Well, there are a number of reasons.

Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraisers TEND to be very experienced - many have not only been practicing engineers/software developers/project managers with advanced degrees, but have also been executives, leaders, authors, and successful consultants for many years.  In short, a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser needs to be "super-experienced" to succeed in their roles.  In addition to that, it is quite costly to go through the SEI's Lead Appraiser school, with many courses, examinations, observations, and other requirements that add to the costs.  Lead Appraisers must maintain a level of professional training and participation to keep their certification.  Finally, there are annual fees associated with being a Lead Appraiser, an SEI Partner, fee for conducting appraisals, and with maintaining currency.

For example, I have been a software developer, engineer, project manager, software architect, line manager, Chief Technology Officer, VP of Consulting, and CIO - all before I was a Lead Appraiser!

So they're not always your typical "consultants."  Many of them can add significant strategic value to your company due to their depth of experience.  In the end, the cost of a Lead Appraiser is tiny fraction of the overall cost of your process improvement program, so it's probably less important than, say, how much internal re-direct is going to be required to put your company on the Path to Greatness!

Good luck.

CMMI and SCAMPI are registered service marks of Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What is the difference between a CMMI Appraisal and a TS9100 Audit?

That is a great question!  Can I use it on my blog?

What is the difference between an appraisal (ala CMMI) and an audit (ala TS)?  The answer to that has several parts, so stay with me :)

Part I: Intent

The intent of the authors of these documents (the CMMI-DEV model and the TS Audit Specification) is different.  CMMI is not a spec, it is a collection of "lessons learned" or "best practices" that are suggested by the authors, who were a collection of companies, consultants, and research scientists.  TS is a strict collection of work products and procedure requirements.  TS was intended as an audit method to ensure that organizations were "doing what they say they are doing" and that they comply, at the deliverable level, to the audit requirements.  The CMMI was intended as a tool for helping companies "see" how a great company behaves, and to use it as a way to incrementally make themselves better.   It assumes that companies get to decide what is best for them.  In a way, CMMI is one-level of abstraction higher than TS in it's requirement to adhere to certain behaviors, with CMMI being "more trusting" of the TS of your professionals.

Part 2: Collaboration

The SEI specifically states that since CMMI is something that is collaborative in nature (with the participants being management, practitioners, and the Lead Appraiser) it does not have an "audit" component, but is appraised for further opportunities for improvement by a joint team led by the Lead appraiser, whose job it is to ensure that the appraisal method is followed with full integrity.  To support Part I (above), it is the Lead Appraiser/Appraisal Team's job to simply identify strengths and weaknesses, not to "pass" an organization.  OEMs and the DOD have mis-applied the intent so that the line between "audit" and "appraisal" has been blurred.  But that doesn't mean they are the same thing.

Part 3: Behaviors vs. Documents

The TS audit seeks documents that 1) say what you are going to do and 2) show that you did them.  The CMMI seeks evidence that people understand the behaviors that are desired by management, and that they are using those behaviors, and continuously improving them.  Along the way they collaborate with their lead appraiser for advice and assistance in interpreting the model itself.  The documents are merely one form, among several, of demonstrating what behaviors have been used and what the results are.

Part 4: Interpretation of Evidence (this is probably the most important difference)

For a TS audit, evidence is paramount.  Do the documents exist?  An Auditor is following a checklist . For a CMMI appraisal, the documents are merely one consequence of process, and it is vital that the Lead Appraiser and Appraisal Team have a great depth of understanding about how the organization works, what their business needs are, and what they are trying to accomplish.  They synthesize this to try to determine if what is being done is useful and meets the needs of the organization, and their findings will reflect that.  It's not pass or fail, but strengths and weaknesses.  The fact that OEMs and the DOD are trying to force a Pass/Fail mentality does not mean that it should be treated that way.

If you follow a process and a plan, and you incrementally make the improvements you need to make, then the appraisal will come when you are ready.  This is one reason why it's hard to "jam" it into a short schedule as you might a TS audit.  You need to convince the appraisal team (and the certified lead appraiser) that it truly is useful and an infrastructure exists for continuous improvement . . . . and that they are all being used by everyone!