Tools Towards CMMI
©2004, by Hillel Glazer, Entinex, Inc.
As we know, CMMI exists because far too many software projects fail and far too few software developers know or do what it takes to succeed. CMMI’s sole purpose is to achieve the objectives of improving the quality, cost, and delivery of software and other technology products --that’s it . And these days just about every software development services firm has heard of CMMI®, or its predecessor CMM® for Software. The issue is, very few of them truly understand it. For many companies focusing on the Federal government space, yes, CMMI is essential for winning work. But CMMI’s broader benefit -- scalable, consistent, repeatable business and management processes for developing software -- should be a core motivation to get appraised. Why? When software development is what a company specializes in, these benefits can provide insights into the efficiency and profitability of its development efforts, and predictability into growth and capacity capabilities.
First, there is one thing to keep in mind: CMMI is a model not a standard. And how many times have you heard a services firm say they’re "CMMI Compliant"? "Compliant" implies a standard can be met. Yes, it’s much easier to comply with a standard and therefore much easier to appraise against one. But, CMMI, like I said is a model -- a role model. There’s nothing to comply with. Rather, there’s something to emulate.
In emulating a role model’s behavior, the individual’s conduct is guided. But you can’t create a standard from a role model. How would that look? A checklist of daily activities? Would such a checklist work for each individual? For example, just because I have the exact workout, meditation, and meal routine as my favorite athlete doesn’t mean I’ll be as good at the sport as he is. Models just aren’t standards, and trying to comply with CMMI as though it is a standard is one quick path to failure.
To emulate CMMI, you must adopt its goals and then adapt how you achieve them to your way of doing things. The goals are comprised of specific and generic practices typically -- but not precisely -- followed. Companies who fail to adopt the goals also fail to adapt their processes and find their process efforts quickly losing steam. What will you adapt and what will you adapt it to if you don’t have the goals aligned first?
CMMI and Tools
In trying to achieve any advanced CMMI levels (3 or above), you need to demonstrate maturity in software process management. However companies who don’t understand CMMI often make the mistake of slapping tools in place like a band-aid to solve their process short-comings or lack of discipline. That’s failure and frustration in the making.
This is like a problem faced by most software teams: Isn’t it true that to achieve the client’s desired results, business processes must be defined and "correct" before automating them with software? Physician, heal thy self!
However, if you’ve defined a process and understand the goals of that process, the right tool can save tremendous effort and time. Consider the CMMI process areas of requirements management, and project monitoring and control, two early process areas required for being appraised to CMMI Level 2 (staged). With these two process areas implemented properly, software teams can minimize scope creep by ensuring there is a process that captures and communicates agreed-upon requirements, and manage expectations by keeping their clients abreast of project status without the unpleasant surprises.
A common theme in both of these process areas is communication. That’s where a tool can help. Just as e-mail and Web sites improved many aspects of communication, the role of tools in pursuit of CMMI is in their ability to improve communication among developers and with their clients. Tools allow developers to avoid "reinventing the wheel" once they’ve figured out what processes work best for them.
Where Artifact Comes In
Some tools come with basic processes in anticipation of best or common practices. Artifact is such a tool. In terms of supporting CMMI, it facilitates communication, streamlines workflow, provides a repository for project documents and a place to keep a record of decisions and track issues to closure. It does so without presuming your process, but also comes with a nascent process based on years of successful distributed development.
Like any tool, Artifact does not make companies "compliant to CMMI". Rather, it gives an edge to companies who have, or are working toward, mature processes. It facilitates the key goals found throughout CMMI of involving relevant stakeholders, monitoring progress against plans, and keeping track of changes to work products and plans as the project goes forward. To emulate CMMI, it’s important to first understand the role of processes in managing development. Look at Artifact when you need a tool that supports CMMI.
About Hillel Glazer
Hillel Glazer is the founder, Principal and CEO of Entinex, Inc. All consultants who work with Entinex follow Hillel's powerful approach to consulting services. With a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and a Master of Science in Technology Management, Hillel leverages a broad spectrum of experience in Engineering and Management into a no-nonsense application of business-first technology strategy. He's been following process-centered management methodologies ever since the DoD was introduced to TQM, Integrated Product and Process Development, ISO 9000, and CMM®, and the subsequent migration of these practices to the private sector. Entinex has previously made a difference for organizations like Northrup Grumman IT, EDS, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, NASA, and the Internal Revenue Service.
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