An Introduction to Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)

March 29, 2012

No matter how a company’s processes are defined, whether they are strategic, tactical, project specific or part of a project
methodology, every company looks for ways to improve its processes. When management asks, “How can we make our company better?” The answer almost always lies in improving its processes.

Process improvement in any organization is important because when done correctly, it can result in increased product quality, improved customer satisfaction, lower costs or increased revenue. In short, continuous process improvement to a business is like the “fuel” required in an automobile: Without fuel an automobile won’t travel very far. Likewise, without process improvement, a company won’t go very far either. But even more importantly to recognize, is that fuel has to be repeatedly added to an engine. It is not a “once and done” scenario. Process improvement is ongoing, ever seeking better results.

One approach to continuous process improvement is to adopt a Capability Maturity Modeling Integration (CMMI) strategy. Simply defined, CMMI is a “process improvement approach that helps
organizations improve processes in order to improve their overall organizational performance.”

Introduced in 2002, CMMI was developed by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in conjunction with individuals from both government and private industry.

(Now, before I go further into an explanation of CMMI, please understand that CMMI is body of knowledge is vast! There is way too much material, definitions, and intricacies to cover in a single blog post. Quite frankly, to mention every detail would overwhelm the reader. There is plenty of CMMI material on the Web where one can learn more specifically about CMMI and how an organization can adopt a CMMI approach. The purpose of this post is to introduce the concept. Paint with a broad brush, give an overview. You get the idea.)

CMMI enables organizations to integrate Capability Maturity Models (CMM)—the precursors to CMMI. CMMs deal with process improvement in specific areas such as software and systems development, and acquisition processes. CMMI combines these previously separate CMMs together and allows integration across an enterprise. The result is that organizations now have the ability to integrate processes involving people, systems, software, etc.

Currently, there are three CMMI models in the areas of:
1. Development – processes, best practices related to software and system development
2. Services – processes, best practices related to service and product delivery during an entire product lifecycle.
3. Acquisition – covers the processes of procuring products/services from suppliers during complex projects and efforts.

Each CMMI model contains numerous process areas (too numerous to tally here). But it is important to note that common to each of the three models are sixteen core process areas:

Causal Analysis and Resolution
Configuration Management
Integrated Project Management
Measurement and Analysis
Organizational Process Definition
Organization Process Focus
Organizational Performance Management
Organizational Process Performance
Organizational Training
Project Monitoring and Control
Project Planning
Process and Product Quality Assurance
Quantitative Project Management
Requirements Management
Risk Management

These process areas are fundamental to every process improvement activity, no matter which CMMI model is chosen—Development, Services or Acquisition.

Drilling down even further into CMMI definition, there are two representations of measuring process improvement within each of the three CMMI models. These representations are called “staged” and “continuous.” Now we’re getting to where the “rubber meets the road.”

In a staged CMMI model, there is a defined path of improvement for each organizational process. This defined path is represented by five maturity levels. Each maturity level (1-5) improves the process improvement of the previous level. Maturity levels can be visually represented by stair steps or a pyramid with sections that fit one on top of the other. The maturity levels are defined as follows:

1. Initial – process is poorly defined, unpredictable and reactive in nature. 2. Managed – processes perhaps defined for a specific project and are often reactive
3. Defined – processes defined for an organization and are proactively managed 4. Quantitatively Managed – organizational processes are measured and controlled 5. Optimized – the focus of an optimized process is continuous improvement

In a continuous CMMI model, process improvement is more specific to a process area, rather than across an organization. Since its focus is on a particular process area, it can be represented using “swim lanes” or a bar chart. A Continuous representation is defined by capability levels (rather than maturity levels in staged) 0-5 as follows: 1. 0 –process is not performed or partially performed
2. 1 – process is performed but is unstable and uncontrolled 3. 2 – process is planned for and managed
4. 3 – process is defined as an organizational standard practice 5. 4 – process is measured and controlled
6. 5 – process is performed and continuously improved

Capability Maturity Modeling Integration is a broad subject with many levels of details, definitions, twists and turns. It cannot be completely understood without intense study and experience.
Nonetheless, implementing a CMMI in an organization can improve processes and help organizations prosper.



One Response to “An Introduction to Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)”

  1. Ron Ramsey said

    This was posted by Ron Ramsey.

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