Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) in less than 1000 words

Essentials elements of CMMI-based process-improvement

This article and series addresses the CMMI model for systems and software engineering. There are additional CMM that address other disciplines. Understanding the essential concepts presented here enables a more than cursory familiarity and gives you a basis for informed discussion and further inquiry. Unless otherwise noted, this series article and series will reference the staged representation (organization maturity) of the model rather than the continuous representation (process area capability).

What is the CMMI?

CMMI is a descriptive model that integrates (showing dependencies and work-product flows) twenty-two process areas common to both systems and software development.

CMMI is also a prescriptive model that provides goals and best practices for software-process capability and software organization maturity.

CMMI is widely accepted and used by IT organizations worldwide and there is a wealth of data, analysis, and reportage that documents its effectiveness and potential benefits in terms of improved product quality and ROI from CMM-based software process improvement.

Essential CMMI Terminology

A process area is a set of goals and practices for one development area (E.g., Project Planning or Requirement Management). There are 22 process areas in CMMI.

Specific goals (47) are objectives that characterize what is needed to satisfy the purpose of one process area.

Specific practices (192) support specific goals.

Generic goals (4) —common to all process areas— to institutionalize process at a given level of maturity

Generic Practices (10) implement common features to ensure that any process area will be effective, repeatable, and lasting.

Maturity Levels & Process Areas

Process areas are sequenced and staged at one of four maturity levels and for a foundation for process areas at higher maturity levels. Sequenced and staged deployment creates opportunity for practice and work-product synergy and leveraging between process areas.

1 — Initial Level (ad hoc process)

 In a level-1 organization, project-process is ad hoc and frequently chaotic. Project success and work excellence depend on the competence and heroics of people in the organization and cannot be repeated unless the same competent and experienced individuals are assigned to the next project.

2 — Managed Level Process Areas

A level-2 organization ensures that work and work products are planned, documented, performed, monitored, and controlled at the project level.

  • Requirements Management manages a project’s specific product requirements and verifies consistency between requirements, work plans, and work products.
  • Project Planning establishes and maintains work plans to identify activities and work products.
  • Project Monitoring and Control tracks work plan progress and signals significant deviations for management action.
  • Supplier Agreement and Management manages formal agreements for acquisition of products and services from suppliers external to the project
  • Measurement and Analysis develops and maintains measurement capabilities that support project and product MIS.
  • Process and Product Quality Assurance assures adherence of project process and associated work products to applicable process descriptions, standards and procedures.
  • Configuration Management establishes and maintains the integrity of work products using configuration identification, control, status accounting, and audits.

3 — Defined Level Process Areas

A level-3 organization establishes and maintains standard processes and work products, which are improved over time. Project standards, work activities, and work-product descriptions, are tailored from organizational process assets. As a result, the processes performed are consistent, measurable, comparable, and reusable across projects and across the organization.

  • Requirements Development models customer and product requirements in detail sufficient to mutual understanding and development of technical solutions.
  • Technical Solution designs and builds solutions for requirements—as products, product components, and product related processes.
  • Product Integration assembles the product from new and baseline components, ensures (by testing) that the product, functions properly, and delivers the product.
  • Verification (typically by inspection) assures that work products meet specified requirements.
  • Validation (user and acceptance testing) demonstrates that a product or product component fulfills its intended use in its intended environment.
  • Organizational Process Focus establishes and maintains sets of standard processes and process assets, and identifies, plans, and implements process improvement activities.
  • Organizational Process Definition establishes and maintains a reusable set of standard-process assets.
  • Organizational Training develops learning assets and cultivates skills and knowledge that enable satisfaction of organization and project requirements.
  • Integrated Project Management establishes and manages projects, project dependencies, and the involvement of the relevant stakeholders—according to a defined process.
  • Risk Management identifies potential problems before they occur, plans activities to track risks and contingent activities, as needed, that mitigate adverse impacts.

4 ­­— Quantitatively Managed Level Process Areas

A level-4 organization manages standard process and projects using statistical and other quantitative techniques. Quantitative objectives for product quality, service quality, and process performance are established and used as criteria for management throughout the project life cycle.

  • Organizational Process Performance establishes and maintains a quantitative understanding of standard process capability and performance across projects, and provides performance data, baselines, and models to quantitatively manage the organization’s projects.
  • Quantitative Project Management employs statistical process control to quantitatively manage the project’s defined process and achieve the project’s established quality and performance objectives.

5 ­­— Optimizing Level Process Areas

A level-5 organization continually improves standard processes based on an understanding of the common causes of variation inherent in processes.

  • Organizational Innovation and Deployment selects and deploys incremental and innovative improvements that measurably improve the organization’s processes and technologies and support the organization’s quality and process performance objectives as derived from the organization’s business objectives.
  • Causal Analysis and Resolution identifies causes of defects and other problems and takes action to prevent them from occurring in the future.

In Summary CMMI prescribes

  • Best practices for continuous improvement of process area capability and organization maturity
  • The staged representation of CMMI prescribes a sequence for process area deployment that affords optimal leveraging of process and work-product assets between process areas.
  • Process-area capability and organization maturity co-evolve in ways that complement both.