getting started on our CMMI certification journey as a project

This is a first return on experience about organizing our CMMI certification journey as a Project. Please bear with me as I am by no means pretending to be a CMMI expert.

As an internal Information Technology team, we have launched a number of Continuous Improvement programmes. These aim at enhancing the quality and reliability of the services we provide to our internal customers. On the development side, there are several initiatives that we are pursuing. The most important challenge that we set for ourselves, as an IT management team, is to reach a CMMI certification. Of course, this raises many questions:

  • Which CMMI level do we need and is the most appropriate one for our activities?
  • Which can we afford?
  • In what timeframe can we reach it?
  • Why and with what resources?
  • Who leads?
  • Who decides?

In order to reach consensus and establish clear direction, we launched it as a project with a clear project owner and senior sponsors in the IT community. After a number of working sessions between the sponsors and the project owner and her team, we had a plan of attack:

1. Map our IT processes to CMMI levels and to ITIL to ensure that we have a clear understanding about which standard is to be used for which process.

For example, most of the project management processes are covered by CMMI Level 2 with the exception of Risk Management that is Level 3. The initial definition steps of our Software Project life cycle are within Level 2 scope; while design, development and test are in CMMI level 3. Later steps such as deployment to production, support and continuous optimization fall into the ITIL best practices perimeter…

2. Clarify what CMMI Level 2 & 3 means for us

Of course, we have processes in place in most of these areas. However, we’re a global organization resulting from multiple mergers and evolutions over the years. So, it is important to be clear on the scope of each level to decide how to best get started and what objective should be ours.

CMMI Level 2

Seven Process areas need to be covered for a defined set of projects that should be representative of the organization’s activities: Requirements Management, Project Planning, Project Monitoring and Control, Supplier Agreement Management, Measurement and Analysis, Process and Product Quality Assurance and Configuration Management

CMMI Level 2 is clearly focused on project management and support processes to ensure that a set of projects representative of our activity are:

  • managed using documented plans & in accordance with policy
  • adequately staffed with suitably skilled resources
  • monitored & tracked to check progress and ensure stakeholders involvement
  • produce controlled outputs
  • visible to management at defined points (milestones)

CMMI Level 3

Eighteen Process areas to master (11 more than Level 2): Requirements Development, Technical Solution, Product Integration, Verification, Validation, Organization Process Focus, Organization Process Definition, Organization Training, Integrated Project Management, Risk Management and Decision Analysis and Resolution.

The scope at this level is the entire organization rather than a subset of projects.

All Level 2 Objectives must be met. The organization’s set of standard processes (procedures, tools, methods etc) are to be defined, consistently implemented & institutionalized across the entire organization.

3. Assess the alternative scenarios in our own situation to agree to the level we’re aiming at and how to best get there.

For us we could go for:

  1. Maturity Level 2 followed by Level 3 with our entire organization in scope
  2. Go direct to Maturity Level 3 with our entire organization in scope
  3. Maturity Level 2 followed by Level 3 but with limited scope (for example a subset of the applications’ domains)
  4. Go direct to Maturity Level 3 but with limited scope

We came to the conclusion that, in our specific situation, « Maturity Level 2 followed by Level 3 with our entire organization in scope » was the appropriate decision. The reasons are that it allows us to adopt a step by step approach; we will achieve intermediate milestones that validate the efforts and progress and boost motivation; it facilitates change management as we progressively get more managers and PMs educated; It ensures availability of necessary process infrastructure when we embark upon the Level 3 objective.

4. Define and implementation approach that suits us

During the first step, CMMI Level 2, we are selecting projects across our organization based on their business criticality, technical complexity and annual budget. For the second step, prepare for Level 3, we will generalize CMMI best practices across the organization. So, that, at the third step, Level 3 certification, we can embark all projects an activities in scope.

5. Along the way we identified our Critical Success Factors

  • 100% commitment of the IT Leaders: we spent time explaining the approach, our analysis and conclusions to ensure that all IT Leaders were comfortable with the project before engaging in step 1.
  • Project governance: We wanted very simple and straightforward governance for this critical project. So, the project owner continues to work with the same sponsors who were involved in preparing the proposal. She has access to the IT leadership team on a regular basis to provide update, remove roadblocks, make decisions and keep the momentum going.
  • Resources needs clearly identified and committed: The effort required to undertake such in each of the development shall not be under estimated. It will depend largely on your starting point, so our estimates are not relevant to you but it is important that you build yours with a very realistic mindset and jointly with the development teams. It is important to be very clear upfront, for example: « each project manager whose project(s) is/are in scope for Level 2 certification will have to spend 4 days a month in the startup phase (2-3 months) and then 2 days per month until the assessment (6-9 months) ».

Conclusion (for now)

As you can appreciate, the CMMI Journey is not an easy ride. It requires commitment, clarity of purpose, leadership and rigorous project management to succeed.

I’ll keep you posted on how well we progress.

If you have embarked on a similar journey, please share your CMMI certification tips with the readers of this blog

Une réflexion sur “getting started on our CMMI certification journey as a project

  1. Lisette

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    subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work.


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