What is CMMI? A model for optimizing development processes

The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) helps organizations streamline process improvement, encouraging a productive, efficient culture that decreases risks in software, product and service development.

What is CMMI?

The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process and behavioral model that helps organizations streamline process improvement and encourage productive, efficient behaviors that decrease risks in software, product and service development.

The CMMI was developed by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University as a process improvement tool for projects, divisions or organizations. The DoD and U.S. Government helped develop the CMMI, which is a common requirement for DoD and U.S. Government software development contracts. The CMMI is currently administered by the CMMI Institute, which was purchased by the ISACA in 2016.

CMMI model

The CMMI starts with an appraisal process that evaluates three specific areas: process and service development, service establishment and management, and product and service acquisition. It’s designed to help improve performance by providing businesses with everything they need to consistently develop better products and services.

But the CMMI is more than a process model; it’s also a behavioral model. Businesses can use the CMMI to tackle the logistics of improving performance by developing measurable benchmarks, but it can also create a structure for encouraging productive, efficient behavior throughout the organization.

Evolution of CMMI

The CMMI was developed to combine multiple business maturity models into one framework. It was born from the Software CMM model developed between 1987 and 1997. CMMI Version 1.1 was released in 2002, followed by Version 1.2 in 2006 and Version 1.3 in 2010; V1.3 is currently being replaced by V2.0, which will be released in phases starting March 2018.

In its first iteration as the Software CMM, the model was tailored to software engineering. The latest version of CMMI is more abstract and generalized, allowing it to be applied to hardware, software and service development across every industry.

Every iteration of the CMMI aims to be easier for businesses to understand and use than the last, and each model is designed to be more cost-effective and easier to integrate or deploy. It encourages businesses to focus on quality over quantity by establishing benchmarks for vetting vendors and suppliers, identifying and resolving process issues, minimizing risk and building a corporate culture that will support the CMMI model.

Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI)

SCAMPI is the official appraisal method used by the CMMI institute. It is outlined in the SCAMPI Method Definition Document, which is included in the CMMI appraisal reference documents. There are three appraisal classes: Class A, B and C.

  • SCAMPI A: The most rigorous appraisal method, SCAMPI A is most useful after multiple processes have been implemented. It provides a benchmark for businesses and is the only level that results in an official rating. It must be performed by a certified lead appraiser, who is part of the on-site appraisal team.
  • SCAMPI B: This appraisal is less formal than SCAMPI A; it helps find a target CMMI maturity level, predict success for evaluated practices and give the business a better idea of where they stand in the maturity process.
  • SCAMPI C: This appraisal method is shorter, more flexible and less expensive than Class A or B. It’s designed to quickly assess a business’s established practices and how those will integrate or align with CMMI practices. It can be used at a high-level or micro-level, to address organizational issues or smaller process or departmental issues. It involves more risk than Class A or B, but it’s more cost-effective.

CMMI Maturity Levels

The CMMI model breaks down organizational maturity into five levels. For businesses that embrace CMMI, the goal is to raise the organization up to Level 5, the “optimizing” maturity level. Once businesses reach this level, they aren’t done with the CMMI. Instead, they focus on maintenance and regular improvements.  

CMMI’s five Maturity Levels are:

  • Initial: Processes are viewed as unpredictable and reactive. At this stage, “work gets completed but it’s often delayed and over budget.” This is the worst stage a business can find itself in — an unpredictable environment that increases risk and inefficiency.
  • Managed: There’s a level of project management achieved. Projects are “planned, performed, measured and controlled” at this level, but there are still a lot of issues to address.
  • Defined: At this stage, organizations are more proactive than reactive. There’s a set of “organization-wide standards” to “provide guidance across projects, programs and portfolios.” Businesses understand their shortcomings, how to address them and what the goal is for improvement.
  • Quantitatively managed: This stage is more measured and controlled. The organization is working off quantitative data to determine predictable processes that align with stakeholder needs. The business is ahead of risks, with more data-driven insight into process deficiencies.
  • Optimizing: Here, an organization’s processes are stable and flexible. At this final stage, an organization will be in constant state of improving and responding to changes or other opportunities. The organization is stable, which allows for more “agility and innovation,” in a predictable environment.

Once organizations hit Levels 4 and 5, they are considered high maturity, where they are “continuously evolving, adapting and growing to meet the needs of stakeholders and customers.” That is the goal of the CMMI: To create reliable environments, where products, services and departments are proactive, efficient and productive.

For a deeper look, see "CMMI Maturity Levels: A guide to optimizing development processes."

Future of CMMI V2.0

The latest version of the CMMI, Version 2.0, is in the early stages of release and will be available through an online platform and a downloadable PDF. You can sign up to get more information about the CMMI V2.0 at the CMMI Institute’s website.

According to the CMMI Institute, the changes will impact four main areas:

  • Focus on performance: CMMI V2.0 offers more information on how performance impacts business and how to understand an organization’s performance needs. There’s information on how to establish performance goals and then track those goals to make sure they’re achieved at all levels of business maturity.
  • Integrated agile with Scrum, safety and security: The new version will play nicely with other popular organizational methods. If you already have an agile practice in place, the CMMI V2.0 will help you work around or improve established processes that already work for your business.
  • Value-added appraisals: There will be a greater focus on “maintaining the confidence and reliability of appraisal results,” while lowering the cost of appraisals and shortening the time it takes to appraise an organization.
  • Easier to use and access: The new version will include less technical knowledge, so it’s easier for those outside of the tech industry to read and understand. There’s also an online platform where users can build and design a model that suits the organization’s specific needs.

Phase one of the CMMI V2.0 releases in March 2018 and it will include:

  • CMMI for Development V2.0 — with more information on Supplier Agreement Management (SAM) and more specific adaptations for agile and Scrum development
  • Introductory level training for CMMI for Development V2
  • CMMI V2.0 Appraisal Method Definition Document
  • Guidance to adopt and transition with the CMMI V2.0 framework

CMMI V2.0 business benefits

The CMMI Institute states that V2.0 will offer businesses:

  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved success with landing and retaining new clients
  • Better productivity and efficiency, which will create more profits
  • Decreased risk

The latest version will include more information on how to demonstrate ROI, so leaders can get other executives on board. Performance benchmarks and goals outlined in the CMMI will help businesses ensure all projects and processes are cost-effective or profitable.

The appraisal process will also become more affordable, take less time and require fewer resources to complete. Initial benchmarks can be revisited throughout the process using the new “lighter-weight Sustainment appraisal,” which will be outlined in V2.0.

Businesses will have an easier time deploying CMMI throughout an organization. The CMMI Institute promises that V2.0 has non-technical language, user-friendly and customizable online platforms, tools that will provide guidance for adopting CMMI or transitioning to V2.0 from V1.3. It’s also available in several translated languages.

CMMI certifications

CMMI certifications are offered directly through the CMMI Institute, which certifies individuals, appraisers, instructors and practitioners.

Individual certifications include:

  • Certified Enterprise Data Management Expert
  • Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser (People CMM)
  • Certified Introduction to People CMM Instructor

CMMI Appraiser certifications:

  • Certified SCAMPI B&C Team Leader Certification
  • Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser (CMMI for Acquisition)
  • Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser (CMMI for Development)
  • Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser (CMMI for Services)
  • Certified SCAMPI High Maturity Lead Appraiser

CMMI Instructor certifications

  • Certified Introduction to CMMI for Development Instructor
  • Certified Introduction to CMMI for Services Instructor
  • Certified CMMI for Acquisition Supplement Instructor
  • Certified CMMI for Services Supplement Instructor
  • Certified CMMI for Development Supplement Instructor

CMMI Practitioner certifications:

  • Certified CMMI Associate
  • Certified CMMI Professional

For more on CMMI certifications, see "CMMI certifications: A complete guide."

CMMI tools

The CMMI Institute authorizes third-party organizations to sell CMMI tools and services, the list of approved vendors is extensive, and you can search by product, location and language on the CMMI Institute website. 

The type of CMMI tools that will work best for your organization will depend on your business’s needs. Following the CMMI, you’ll identify the best tools during Maturity Level 2 or 3; at this point, your CMMI consultant will offer recommendations or help you design customized tools based off extensive research. The most common category of tools that you’ll need to consider includes:

  • Project and document management
  • Bug tracker
  • Estimation
  • Requirement and design management
  • Decision and analysis tools
  • Metrics tools
  • Integration application

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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