You Don`t Need an Official Maturity Level Rating to Reap the Benefits of CMMI

I think, it is time we stop seeing CMMI as a means to get “certified”  or going through the hassle of a tedious and expensive appraisal and start seeing it for what it is, a process improvement framework to improve your organization`s performance.

Before I go further, I`d like to remind that there is no “getting certified” with CMMI. Yes, there is an appraisal –if you choose to get appraised-  but the result is a Maturity Level Rating. An organization that has successfully completed an appraisal becomes a MLx organization, not a CMMI certified organization. Now that we`ve got this ongoing misunderstanding out of the way, we can move on to the real topic of this article.

So first of all, look at your organization. Are you developing products or services? Are you acquiring products or services? Or, is your main business about delivering services? There are three different CMMI models that you can choose from based on your organization`s business, CMMI for Development, CMMI for Acquisition, CMMI for Services.

In each of these models, you would find Process Areas that focus on specific subjects such as Risk Management, Requirements Management, Project Planning, and provide practices that you can use to achieve improvement in these areas. Process Areas are also grouped under 4 categories as: Project Management, Process Management, Support, and Engineering -if you are using DEV model- .

The good news is, unless you are planning to go through an official SCAMPI appraisal, you don`t have to think about using each and every process area within your target maturity level. Not that you wouldn`t benefit from using them, but because not all of them may be on your top priority list or you don`t have enough resources at the moment.

Let`s say, you have some pain points in your Project Management capabilities. You can select the Project Management category from the model and start considering incorporating the practices provided under the Process Areas in that category into your processes. Take a look at the below figure from the CMMI-DEV model for the Process Areas under the Project Management category.

You can even choose to consider the practices in only one Process Area, let`s say Project Planning. There is no harm in doing that, but when you think about it, processes do not execute in a clear cut, completely separate way in any organization. There are interfaces and communication between them. So, if you want to improve your project management processes, you`ll most likely prefer to look in a broader way.

For example, since you have a project plan in place now (or at least you decided to have one), you would need to monitor it to make sure that you are on track, right? By the same token, managing your requirements and changes to them in an effective way will have an impact on your project`s success. Therefore, you would want to consider checking out practices under PMC and REQM too. Do you think you have a trouble managing your risks? Then don`t hesitate to dive in to the practices under RSKM for some inspiration that is backed up by many companies from the industry. Mind you though, if you prefer to jump into Risk Management before you can actually plan a project, you might not get the exact benefits you are looking for because then you will be trying to establish your building without a strong foundation. Hence, the reason why PP exists under maturity level 2 and RSKM under maturity level 3; you first lay out the foundation then start moving up the stories.

Against the misperception out there, the CMMI model is flexible and strong enough to support your organization to build a continuous improvement structure. You can start using the practices in the model today to start gaining visibility and efficiency as well as preventing loss of valuable organizational memory.

Before I let you go, I do have one recommendation to consider. Take a look at the Generic Practices of the model. The practices you will find there can make or break your process improvement efforts for increased performance even if you don`t use any model. Let`s leave the details of them to another post.