by , Blog, 4 Comments

Dec 15

Five Reasons You Fear CMMI (and what you can do about it)

by Kevin Cotherman, Blog, 4 Comments

Dec 15





Five Reasons You Fear CMMI (and what you can do about them)

1.    It takes too much time and effort

The CMMI can seem overwhelming and a burden to implement.  There are 356 practices for Maturity Level 3, and each practice needs to have a process describing how to perform that practice.  This does not mean there needs to be 356 separate documents, because processes can be combined into one document or one process covers many practices.  For example, one stakeholder matrix can address 19 practices

There are three approaches for defining and documenting processes.  The first approach has the person responsible for  performing the process, document what they do – using a template so all processes have similar format.

The second approach has someone interview the people responsible for performing each process, and then they will document the processes.  All personnel who will be performing this process need to peer review the draft of the process to identify missing/inaccurate parts; plus this will also serve as training for this process.

The third approach is to purchase a tool.  A tool will save time and money if it contains easily customizable processes and templates, and if it addresses all practices within CMMI Maturity Level 3.

One such tool, CMMI-Live, has a CMMI compliant infrastructure which contains processes and templates for you to customize or update with the way your company does business.  Then you have processes for each practice within the CMMI.

2.    The CMMI tells me what to do – it takes away my creativity

The CMMI is just a set of best practices describing the way projects should be run, and it covers the complete project lifecycle for Maturity Level 3.  The best part of the CMMI is that it tells you what needs to be done, but it does not tell you how to do it; that is your job.  This makes sense because, as an example, the way a small company collects, analyzes, and documents requirements will most likely be very different from a large corporation.  A project team member can be as creative as he or she wants to be in following the CMMI practices.

CMMI-Live uses a collaborative approach by engaging the process users – the front line employees – to develop and improve the processes they are actually using.  This makes the employees part of developing and improving their own processes, which vastly increases the propensity they will use them.

3.    I hate consultants

Consultants come in all shapes, sizes, and unfortunately attitudes.  Your company wants to get and keep a relationship with a good consultant.  Often companies pick a consultant based on a referral, which is better than picking one based on location only.  Your company must get referrals and interview the consultant.  Have the prospective consultant meet and talk with many people within your company.  Since the consultant will be working with you to implement the CMMI, it will be a long term relationship.

I have seen too many consultants come in as the experts in the company’s business and tell the project members how they should be doing their job.  This is a disaster.  The consultant must be an expert in the CMMI and appraisal methodology, but he/she is not an expert of your business.  Even if they have experience in your field or area, they should give process improvement advice, not tell the company how to do their job.  If the consultant has this attitude, then get rid of him/her immediately.  They may give you advice for your business, but you should not feel pressure to take it.

4.    The CMMI is just a way for the company to bid on a contract – it does not have any long term benefits

This is a real issue – one I have seen too often.  The reason companies do not see long term benefits of using the CMMI is because companies stop using it after they are appraised.  If a company continued to use the CMMI, then they would experience the benefits of process discipline, e.g., best practices, greater efficiency, improved quality, and better employee and customer satisfaction.

An appraisal is good for three years, so if the company wants to have an active appraisal rating, then a re-appraisal must be performed before the current appraisal expires.  It is very discouraging to visit a company who is preparing for their re-appraisal only to find out that they stopped using their processes after the initial appraisal.  If they had only continued to use their processes, they would have become more efficient and have better productivity and quality.

The only way to ensure the process improvement benefits continue is to use the CMMI processes after the appraisal.  And the only way to do this is to have senior management demand it and provided the time and money for personnel to continue to follow and improve their processes.

CMMI-Live, with the complete level 3 processes that your organization has customized to fit your business, enables managers to assign tasks to complete all Maturity Level 3 processes.  This will ensure that companies continue to follow the CMMI and gain long-term benefits from process improvement.  This becomes part of the normal business day, which ensures processes are being followed.

You can put all of your department’s processes and task within OnTheSystem, not just CMMI related.  This further ensures the organization will continue to use the CMMI if they continue to use OnTheSystem.

5.    To be appraised and achieve a maturity level takes project personnel away from the primary job of working on the project and satisfying the customer to prepare for the appraisal

This is the most common complaint I hear from companies after completing their appraisal; “It took so long and so many hours to prepare for the appraisal.”  They also say, “I hate that stupid PIID!”

I asked one company how long it took them, and they said 400 hours.  To put a cost figure on this, assume the hourly rate is $50 (which is probably low), then just to prepare for the appraisal cost this company $20,000.

To prepare for an appraisal and complete the PIID (process implementation indicator description) is such a time-consuming, painful, and costly experience that no one, and I mean no one, looks forward to completing it.

CMMI-Live has the PIID built in, so it is automatically being completed by performing normal activities.  Since there are tasks that ensure all practices are addressed, any artifact that is created is attached to that task.  So the project artifact is attached to the completed processes.  This is easy, and part of a person’s normal day.

Consequently, an organization is always in an appraisal-ready state.  No more spending tens of thousands of dollars preparing for an appraisal.

 

If you want to ask your own questions, you can ask in our contact us section. Kevin Cotherman will get them answered on the next ”Ask The Lead Appraisers” webinar – or if you wish to remain anonymous, just send us an email.

® CMM and Capability Maturity Model are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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    4 Comments

    1. Mike
      June 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Interesting article but I completely disagree with many of its assertions. For example:

      “The reason companies do not see long term benefits of using the CMMI is because companies stop using it after they are appraised. If a company continued to use the CMMI, then they would experience the benefits of process discipline, e.g., best practices, greater efficiency, improved quality, and better employee and customer satisfaction.”

      WRONG! The reason they stop using it is because it did not provide any benefits to begin with. There is not a single process area or practice in the CMMI that directly addresses efficiency. Appraisals only attempt to measure compliance with the assumed “best” practices, which are described at such a high level of abstraction that they are virtually useless for appraising an organization’s effectiveness. CMMI appraisals do not make any attempt to measure the efficiency of the effectiveness of the organization anyway. They are very careful to avoid the use of the work “certification”. Do you know why? Because that would mean that the SEI is certifying an organization’s ability to perform work, which has been previously established that a CMMI appraisal does not do in any way, shape, or form.

      “The only way to ensure the process improvement benefits continue is to use the CMMI processes after the appraisal.”

      Wait a minute! You just said that CMMI only tells you what to do and not how to do it. So exactly what do you mean by “CMMI Processes”? You are probably referring to the documented process required by level 3, which are most likely obsolete by the time the appraisal comes around. Continuing to follow these will probably result in reduced performance because the process users have moved on to better ways of doing things by the time the documents are approved and the appraisal has been performed. Management will probable be afraid to update the documents once the appraisal is done out of fear. Better to keep some sub-optimized documents around than to fail the next appraisal. The best approach in this case is simply to ignore them.

      “OnTheSystem uses a collaborative approach by engaging the process users – the front line employees – to develop and improve the processes they are actually using. This makes the employees part of developing and improving their own processes, which vastly increases the propensity they will use them.”

      Engaging the process users and letting them develop their own processes is a great approach. However, it is fundamentally incompatible with the CMMI approach, despite much rhetoric to the contrary.

      “The CMMI is just a set of best practices describing the way projects should be run”

      This is the fundamental problem with CMMI. It assumes that there is a single set of “best” practices for all organizations (“the way projects should be run”), and fails to recognize that each organization has its own unique set of problems. It also fails to prioritize these practices. In a CMMI appraisal, the relative value of each individual practice to the organization does not matter. Organizations become so concerned with checking all 356 boxes that they will not focus on the problem areas that really do affect performance.

      CMMI is a static model that evaluates processes by decomposing them into a set of practices and evaluates each practice in isolation. It only attempts to solve a fixed set of known problems and does not consider the unique problems of the organization. It does not model the interaction between these various practices, nor does consider the dynamic behavior of the system or attempt to optimize the organization as a whole. It is therefore insufficient for achieving the claimed benefits.

      • Kevin Cotherman
        June 13, 2012 at 6:22 am

        Mike,

        Thanks for your comments.

        It is obvious you have had a very bad experience using the CMMI. Unfortunately, your situation is not all that uncommon. That is too bad because I have seen organizations who have implemented the CMMI with great results.

        You should be careful saying someone is “wrong”. You may disagree with my points, but they are not wrong – they are what I have seen in my 13 years implementing the CMM/CMMI. I disagree with many of your points, but I don’t think you are wrong. You have had a different experience documenting processes and improving processes than I have had and have seen.

        What is interesting is your antipathy towards documented processes. I have worked with organizations who hate the CMMI because their previous attempts with process improvement and CMMI were disastrous. When I get into the details of the why they hate documenting their processes it is because of their previous consultant. It would be interesting to hear about your previous attempts at documenting your processes.

        I have worked with companies and people who have had similar attitudes to yours. Once they document their processes and improve their processes, then many change their attitude. I recommend you don’t even consider the CMMI; just document what you do and how you do it. After implementing that process, improve it.

        Good luck,

        Kevin

        • Mike
          June 13, 2012 at 11:57 am

          Kevin,

          I appreciate your taking the time to respond. I have been involved in quite a few process improvement activities, ranging from CMMI to Agile and Lean approaches. I have seen what works and what doesn’t in the organizations I have been involved in. In my experience, a balanced approach drawing from multiple sources works best. It also needs to be results driven and focused on solving real problems. If CMMI is your only tool, then you’re going to miss out on some real opportunities for improvement. For example, some of the things that give you the most bang for the buck might include a good source control system along with automation of the build and testing process. From a practical standpoint, CMMI couldn’t car less about these things, just as log as you are “managing configurations”, “verifying”, and “validating” your product. CMMI only cares that your are doing these activities, not how effectively of efficiently. One of the fundamental problems with CMMI is that it really just boils down to a checklist of activities and it doesn’t care how well you do them, unless you’re getting into levels 4 and 5, which is a whole other discussion.

          I don’t have an antipathy toward documented process, as long as the documentation is accurate and actually serves a purpose. If you’re doing it to pass a level 3 appraisal you’re generally going to get something that adds little or no value.

          I also don’t have any objections to using CMMI as a reference model for improving an organization’s capabilities. However, if the main goal of the organization is to pass an appraisal, then it’s almost a certainty that you aren’t going to realize much real improvement and you’re actually more likely to decrease the an organization’s performance by introducing non-value-adding procedures and bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the DoD mandates for CMMI ratings strongly encourage this type of behavior. The big DoD contractors love this kind of thing because they’re getting paid on cost plus and T&M contracts which allow them to profit from adding the extra overhead. Even if this were not the case, these companies would simply see this as the cost of admission. Better to get the contract than to lose because you don’t have the rating.

          I would be interested in hearing which of my points you do disagree with.I would also be interested in hearing about some of your successes. Like I said, my issue is not so much with the model itself but rather with the whole appraisal process which I believe provides incentive for dysfunctional behavior.

          Thanks,
          Mike

          • Kevin Cotherman
            June 14, 2012 at 7:42 am

            Mike,

            Thank you for your response to my reply. It cleared up several things.

            One of the things that I know is most frustrating to companies implementing the CMMI is the varied interpretation of the model by different lead appraisers. One practice, GP2.8 for every process area, can be interpreted for monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes. That is the way I interpret GP2.8, but I have gotten into heated debates with other lead appraisers and PhD’s who think I am trying to get the organization to be level 4.

            Becoming more effective and efficient can be achieved after the process has been used for a while and has been improved. This way there can be a before and after picture/number to compare it against. I believe every company should try to become more efficient and effective, and using the CMMI is a model they can use to do this. So I disagree with your opinion that no level 2 or level 3 practices of the model address effectiveness or efficiency.

            Your comment, “You are probably referring to the documented process required by level 3, which are most likely obsolete by the time the appraisal comes around.” If a company’s processes are obsolete by the time the appraisal comes around, then the organization has zero process improvement infrastructure and shouldn’t be appraised anyway. They don’t even have a documented process.

            I would be the first person to agree that many organizations game the system just to get the maturity level so they can bid on contracts. They don’t continue to use their documented processes after the appraisal. The goal in implementing the CMMI should be to document the processes a company is using, and then improve those processes to make their organization more effective and efficient. This can be done only if the company uses their processes after the appraisal. This is one of the reasons why we created CMMI Live, so companies can create a culture of using and improving processes, and continue to use their documented processes after the appraisal.

            You state, “Continuing to follow these will probably result in reduced performance because the process users have moved on to better ways of doing things by the time the documents are approved and the appraisal has been performed. Management will probable be afraid to update the documents once the appraisal is done out of fear. Better to keep some sub-optimized documents around than to fail the next appraisal.” Again, if companies do this, then they have no process improvement infrastructure. If this happens, I want to know why company users have moved on and have not updated their processes. This is an abject failure in implementing a process improvement model/infrastructure. The purpose of documenting processes is to improve those processes. Since you describe this situation, I can now understand your frustration and negative attitude toward process improvement/CMMI.

            You state, ”This is the fundamental problem with CMMI. It assumes that there is a single set of “best” practices for all organizations (“the way projects should be run”), and fails to recognize that each organization has its own unique set of problems.” If there is a type of project that does not follow the CMMI practices, then the company can waive that type of project from following the CMMI practices. I would argue that most projects of a substantial length of time, resources, and cost should manage their requirements, plan their project, monitor the project activities, etc. It sounds like companies have tried to force processes on your projects. The CMMI does not care how you implement a practice – you/your project can choose to implement processes any way it wants.

            You ask for the successes I have seen. In every case where the CMMI has been implemented and continued to be used, processes were written by the personnel who use them. These companies have formed a process improvement infrastructure where senior management supports and follows the processes and encourages improvement to the existing processes. After a process is followed, there are lessons learned or improvement suggestions for making the process better. Once the users see that they can positively impact their work by improving processes, and senior management demands using and improving processes, then process improvement becomes the company culture and real improvements (effectiveness and efficiency) can be observed.

            This has been a very good discussion/debate. Thanks and good luck.

            Kevin

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