Process Excellence 101: Using CMMI to improve performance

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process improvement approach that helps organizations improve their performance, across a project, a division, or an entire organization, writes Ashutosh Pandey, Global IT & Process Manager (Master Black belt) for Nokia Siemens Networks. In this article, Pandey explains what CMMI is and how it works.

The Capability Maturity Model (CMM) was originally developed as a tool to help the US government to objectively assess the ability of given contractor to perform a software project.
It is a service mark owned by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and is a development model created out of real world data that was collected from organizations contracted to the U.S. Department of Defense (which funded the research). It became the foundation from which CMU created the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). Like any model, it is an abstraction of an existing system.
The CMM is based on the process maturity framework first described in the 1989 book "Managing the Software Process" by Watts Humphrey. It was later published in a report in 1993 (Technical Report CMU/SEI-93-TR-024 ESC-TR-93-177 February 1993, Capability Maturity Model SM for Software, Version 1.1) and as a book by the same authors in 1995.
Though the CMM comes from the field of software development, it is used as a general model to aid in improving organizational business processes in diverse areas; for example in software engineering, system engineering, project management, software maintenance, risk management, system acquisition, information technology (IT), services, business processes generally, and human capital management. The CMM has been used extensively worldwide in government, commerce, industry and software development organizations.
The CMM model proved useful to many organizations, but its application in software development has sometimes been problematic. Applying multiple models that are not integrated within and across an organization could be costly in training, appraisals, and improvement activities. The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) project was formed to sort out the problem of using multiple CMMs.
Structure of Maturity Models

The Capability Maturity Model involves the following aspects:
Maturity Levels: a 5-Level process maturity continuum - where the uppermost (5th) level is a notional ideal state where processes would be systematically managed by a combination of process optimization and continuous process improvement.
Key Process Areas: a Key Process Area (KPA) identifies a cluster of related activities that, when performed together, achieve a set of goals considered important.
Goals: the goals of a key process area summarize the states that must exist for that key process area to have been implemented in an effective and lasting way. The extent to which the goals have been accomplished is an indicator of how much capability the organization has established at that maturity level. The goals signify the scope, boundaries, and intent of each key process area.
Common Features: common features include practices that implement and institutionalize a key process area. There are five types of common features: commitment to Perform, Ability to Perform, Activities Performed, Measurement and Analysis, and Verifying Implementation.
Key Practices: The key practices describe the elements of infrastructure and practice that contribute most effectively to the implementation and institutionalization of the KPAs.
Maturity Levels

There are five levels defined along the continuum of the CMM[8] and, according to the SEI:
"Predictability, effectiveness, and control of an organization's software processes are believed to improve as the organization moves up these five levels. While not rigorous, the empirical evidence to date supports this belief."
1. Initial (chaotic, ad hoc, individual heroics) - the starting point for use of a new process.
2. Managed - the process is managed in accordance with agreed metrics.
3. Defined - the process is defined/confirmed as a standard business process, and decomposed to levels 0, 1 and 2 (the latter being Work Instructions).
4. Quantitatively managed
5. Optimizing - process management includes deliberate process optimization/improvement.
CMMI Topics
CMMI currently addresses three areas of interest:
1. Product and service development — CMMI for Development (CMMI-DEV),
2. Service establishment, management, and delivery — CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC), and
3. Product and service acquisition — CMMI for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ).
Levels of CMMI The 5-levels of CMMI have been described in the figure below:
CMMI for Services (SVC)
The service industry is a significant driver for worldwide economic growth. Guidance on developing and improving mature service practices is a key contributor to the performance, customer satisfaction, and profitability of the economic community. The CMMI® for Services (CMMI-SVC) model is designed to begin meeting that need.
CMMI-SVC contains 24 process areas. Of those, 16 are CMMI Model Foundation (CMF) process areas, 7 are service-specific process areas, and 1 is an addition.

All CMMI-SVC model practices focus on the activities of the service provider. Seven process areas focus on practices specific to services, addressing capacity availability and management, service continuity, service delivery, incident resolution and prevention, service transition, service system development, and strategic service management processes.
CMMI – Appraisal & Assessment FAQs
1. What is CMMI Assessment?
SEI: "An assessment is an appraisal that an organization does to and for itself for the purposes of process improvement."
2. What does an assessment deliver?
An assessment delivers: a CMMI assessment report which shows the strengths and weaknesses of applied processes, may include also recommendations. Additionally a Class A assessment can give official CMMI maturity level and CMMI Goal ratings.
3. Who can conduct an assessment?
An official CMMI assessment can be conducted by SEI certified Lead Assessor.
4. What is SCAMPI?
SCAMPI – Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement
1. "Published Appraisal Results". SEI. Retrieved 2009-11-26.
2. Crosby, Philip B. (1979). Quality is Free. McGraw Hill.
3. Humphrey, Watts (1989). Managing the Software Process. Addison Wesley.
4. March 2002 edition of CMMI from SEI
5. February 2009 edition of CMMI for Services from SEI