Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where can I get CMMI Training in Virginia?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – I need PDUs towards my PMP Certification, and I want to learn about CMMI.  I understand I can get them by taking one of your CMMI training classes. Where can we get CMMI training in Virginia? I am looking for an introductory level course. ~ Bonnie P.

Hey, Bonnie – we have a CMMI training class in Northern Virginia on July 16-18. As of this posting, there are only a few slots open. But before you rush to sign up, I’m going to ask you to do a little self-reflecting.

The Introduction to CMMI training class is designed for software and engineering professionals who are interested learning about CMMI, process models, and how to use them to be a great company.

It’s true that you can earn 21 PDUs towards your PMP Certification (or 2.5 CEUs) while learning to improve software and engineering performance with the CMMI. But keep in mind, the reason engineering and software executives participate in CMMI training is because they are looking for ways to make their companies better. Whether it is software improvement, finance, product development, marketing or HR, they can use their CMMI training to make immediate, lasting improvements in their companies.

Taking an Introduction to CMMI training course is an excellent choice for anyone who is tasked with, or interested in, transforming their organization into a high-performing, lean, and productive team. If this is your intention then, yes, sign up for CMMI training today:

Click here to register for: the Introduction to CMMI training in the Washington, DC area

By reading this post, you have already experienced a taste of the biggest different between this CMMI Training and the other guy’s. We help you learn to use the CMMI to set the right goals and objectives, and keep asking the right questions, starting with “Why are you doing this in the first place?”

With learning as your goal, you’ll stay on the path to greatness, and external reward, such as earning PDUs, and achieving a Maturity Level of the CMMI, will be just byproducts of your journey.

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“Achieve ML3” – what is THAT?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – We are a small company of about 20 full time people that is trying to bid on government work. Recently we’ve been asked to “achieve ML3.” We’ve heard of “levels,” “LAs” and “SCAMPI” in connection with the CMMI, but what do they all mean? ~ Peri C.

Peri, usually when a large organization or the federal government asks your company to “achieve a level,” they are referring to a level of the Capability Maturity Model Integration, commonly known by its acronym, CMMI.

You are probably also well aware that engineers love their acronyms.  Consequently, there are many three-, four-, five- and six-letter acronyms in the CMMI to digest. Don’t stress! We’ll explain them to you in small, right-sized bites, so that you can understand them and put them in context.

SCAMPI is an acronym that stands for the Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement. There are three different kinds of SCAMPI appraisals: A, B and C. Your customers (the federal government for intense) will ask you to conduct a SCAMPI A -- that’s the most formal version of an appraisal.

Appraisal – While not an acronym, it’s important to understand what an appraisal is. Some call it an audit, but it’s less like an audit, and more like a waypoint on your journey to become a great company (that's the reason your customer wants you do to it). An appraisal is an event that verifies your performance against the practices in the CMMI.

LA stands for Lead Appraiser. An LA is a licensed, trained and experienced individual who conducts your appraisal.  It’s one of the things I do to help companies improve, and there are about 200-250 of us active in the world.

ML3 – Sometimes you hear customers asking for Level 3 or ML 3 or L3 . They are referring to the level of the CMMI at which you have been rated. You can be rated at Maturity Levels 2 through 5 in the CMMI, or Capability Levels 1 through 3 in a specific area. Sometimes they ask for a "Level 2,"  but almost always, they are asking you for Maturity Level 3.

Here’s another acronym. You may not have heard of it, but can be worth understanding for extra small companies like yours that want to bid on federal contracts:

CMMIxs – or CMMI extra small – is an approach we take to CMMI that shows that achieving a level is not just for large companies. That’s a myth!  ANY company, regardless of size, that wants to be great can learn to use the CMMI as a framework for improving delivery.  When you take this approach, achieving a level will be an inevitable part of your journey.

Learn more by signing up for your FREE copy of our white paper, “Shattering the Myths about CMMI and Extra-Small Companies,” at  http://eepurl.com/PaTmb.

Thank you for submitting a question to "Ask the CMMI Appraiser,” Peri!  Please keep 'em coming!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Is CMMI certification just the flavor of the month?

Hey, CMMI Appraiser – lately our industry is seeing CMMI in a lot more RFPs. Why are customers asking their vendors to be CMMI certified? Is this just another "quality the flavor of the month?" ~ Wally F.

Wally, as you look into the CMMI, one of the things you’ll discover is that the CMMI is the best  tool for driving process improvement and performance innovation across organizations. This is the reason your customers are asking suppliers to adopts the guidance of a Model or framework for performance improvement. CMMI is the most popular flavor in the market, it’s true – but don’t let this throw you.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a large company. They were good, but not great. One of the company’s executives, we’ll call him Sam, knew that they could be a great company, and wanted to inspire his suppliers to help him get there. So he gave them a challenge.

On a conference call, he said, “Hey guys. You are all alike in nearly every way. You build your products with cumbersome, poorly understood processes, which are largely ignored, you cost more, produce lower quality and make people unhappy. Especially me. Everyone is losing here.”

There was silence on the other end of the call.

“I’m tired of this,” Sam continued. “I want all my suppliers to look into adopting the CMMI.”

After the call, the vendors all scrambled to the keyboards and Googled “CMMI Certified” and “CMMI Maturity Level 3.”

As you would expect, they found volumes of information. Too much for any one person to digest. So almost all of the suppliers looked or a short-cut, a quick fix, a so-called “CMMI implementation tool” or a consulting firm that would “do” CMMI to them.

But one company was different. Let’s call the owner Bob. Bob was intrigued by the idea of becoming a better partner to Sam by making his company better, so he followed a different search path. He Googled phrases like “organizational change and CMMI” and “performance improvement with CMMI”.

Bob found some excellent content following this path. He discovered some interesting conferences, and got connected to a community of hundreds of professionals from around the world. Solving performance problems started to be something he could imagine doing. Bob read blogs, watched videos and downloaded ebooks about using the Model for process improvement and performance innovation. He participated in Webinars and learned how CMMI Users were experiencing much better quality, increased productivity and fewer project delays. His mind started to open to the possibility that, when properly adopted, the CMMI could put his company on the path to greatness. Also he became aware that there were far too many examples of companies that pursued CMMI adoption just to get a “CMMI certificate,” and failed.

After thoroughly sifting through all the material he could find about using the CMMI to help transform the culture of his company, Bob called Sam and said, “We took your advice about the CMMI. We are going to adopt the Model.”

“So you decided to get CMMI Certified?” Sam asked.

Bob smiled. Thanks to all of his research, he understood that you can’t transform a culture by going out and getting certificates. He knew that, when you put a “certification” mindset around getting better, it drives the wrong kind of behaviors, and you miss the point of the CMMI entirely.

But Bob was a smart fella. He comprehended what Sam meant.

“Well, CMMI doesn't really offer a 'certification,' but yes, a CMMI Maturity Level Rating will come at the end of our successful performance improvement journey,” Bob said. “The real reason we want to adopt the CMMI is not to get a certificate or plaque. Instead, we want to get the most value out of our team, which comes from the transformation of the culture of our company. See, Sam, when properly adopted, the CMMI will help us change the way we behave, so that we build great products for you, and help you reach your goals.”

Sam said, “I look forward to working with you more.  And while I have you on the phone, let's talk about some other work you can do for us . . . ”

The moral of the story?

Your customers want you to be better for reasons that should inspire you to want to be better. The reason they think it’s important is because it IS important.

So be like Bob. Educate yourself. Go to conferences; read blogs; participate in Webinars – and talk to your customers about what they can expect from you. You’ll find that everyone wins when you adopt the CMMI for the right reasons. And that’s why it’s a flavor that everyone likes.

Looking for more info on CMMI?  Check out some of our most popular resources:

#1 CMMI-TV – If you are looking for short, informative video clips about Agile, CMMI and performance innovation, we invite you to subscribe to our CMMI-TV channel.

#2 CMMI eBooks – Like to get your CMMI info on screen? Check out the highly useful and always entertaining eBooks we’ve written about CMMI.

#3 @CMMIAppraiser on Twitter – Could you use a daily tip on CMMI, engineering performance and software process improvement? Follow us on Twitter.

#4 Broadsword Client User Group on LinkedIn – Interested in joining a community of like-minded engineering and software professionals for discussion and CMMI info? Join our group on LinkedIn:

#5 www.broadswordsolutions.com – For your all-around information source about CMMI, performance innovation and process improvement planning , join us on the Broadsword website.

#6 Cutter IT Journal and Software Development Times -- For our recent interviews with mainstream media.

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Are SCAMPI Appraisals really too expensive?

[Dear Readers, for the past several months, our good friend Pat O’Toole, CMMI expert and seasoned consultant, has been collaborating with us on a monthly series of CMMI-related posts, "Just the FAQs." Our goal with these posts is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about the CMMI, SCAMPI, engineering strategy and software process improvement. This month Jeff reveals whether SCAMPI appraisals are too expensive. Take it away, Jeff! ~ the CMMI Appraiser]

I love a good game of “bunchball.”

I mean, who doesn’t? You know, a dozen little Pele’s chasing a soccer ball down the field trying to score a goal and win one for the team.  Finally, one fast kid breaks out for the big kick, and ’’yippeeee!” the hero saves the day with that single goal of the game. Not bad, but hardly the stuff of league championships.

Meanwhile, far removed from the action, there is always one kid who decides not to chase glory that day but to stay back, just in case the ball were to make its way back down to their end of the field. Call it good coaching, training, or just pure talent, but that kid is going places. He plays his position, and he plays to win.

At the last few CMMI events I have attended there has been a lot of talk about how expensive appraisals have become, and that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! Stories are told of the thousands of hours of work required to “prepare” for an appraisal, and that, in some cases, the cost far exceeds the benefits. If that’s true, then they’re right – we should do something.

But are some of these organizations just playing bunchball while attempting to win the league championship? Is their difficulty in achieving “goals” a signal that the game is too complex, or is it a signal of their level of capability?

I’m a visual thinker and anyone that has worked with me knows how much I love to draw on a whiteboard. Pictures help me think through an idea that I may not otherwise be able to convey using only words. My artwork won’t be fetching any top bids at Sothebeys, but my absolute favorite drawing is of a cliff with a set of (poorly drawn) stick figures.

One set of stick figures is clawing their way up the cliff, hanging off the edge by their fingernails while yelling “whooo hoooo, we MADE Level Three!”  The other set is standing ON TOP of the cliff, lifting barbells over their head, stretching, and quietly saying to themselves “we ARE Level Three.” Which appraisal do you think was “too expensive?”

The antidote to expensive appraisals is for organizations to actually be performing at the target level before they even start working on them! If a team is spending too much time and money locating evidence of process performance, working on PIIDs, and creating “artifacts” to “fill the gaps,” (the expensive part) then perhaps they’re not quite ready for the appraisal that the boss wants to have by Tuesday. That doesn’t mean they’re not doing great things, it just means they are not quite ready for the league championship.

If a bunchball coach were tasked by a school principal to “win the league championship before the end of fiscal year 2014,” what would he do? Well, he might: 
  • bring in consultants to tell them how they won the last game and teach them that one technique they used
  • hire ringers to kick the ball, QA the team, and serve in important roles (like goalie for instance)
  • have the consultant follow each player around and question every move he makes, “writing him up” in red‐pen on a clipboard if he or she does something wrong
  • lobby the league’s governing body to use referees that are known to be friendly to their team

You get the idea.

The team might actually win some games, but after it was over they would just be the same bunchball team.

On the other hand, a wiser (and braver) coach might:
  • advise the principal that his request was not possible, but you COULD have a winning season this year if we:
    • trained and practiced with the team regularly
    • coached the players to play positions, thereby transforming the team from a bunchball team to a soccer team
    • brought in some expert help to assist the team in improving their game, not just advice on winning the league championship
    • evaluated each player for their skills and put them in the right positions
    • made sure we were getting honest feedback from unbiased referees

In other words, we’ll win when we’re ready to win. And we’ll do it by being a great team.

And that’s the point. Appraisals, like league championships, should be challenging but they don’t have to be really expensive. The CMMI is an international benchmark for great performance and if we want the “stamp” to mean something, we should aspire keep them that way. However, an organization that is ML3 will have little trouble proving that they are, and one that isn’t will have tremendous difficulty (and have tremendous costs) doing the same.

“But what about PIIDs ("Process Implementation Indicator Documents") and document inventories?” asked a new Lead Appraiser at the conference.  “Don’t they take a lot of time and effort to complete?”

Hmmmm…. Do they?

PIIDs and document inventories are interesting indicators of appraisal readiness, and might even be useful sometimes. But an ML2‐worthy organization will demonstrate strong, positive control over their work products (“evidence”) through solid Configuration Management and Data Management behaviors. These behaviors make locating artifacts pretty easy, reducing (or eliminating) the overhead associated with an inventory altogether. And THAT makes appraisals a whole lot less costly.

As I’m fond of saying to prospective clients:  “it’s cheaper to be great than it is to fake it!”

©Copyright 2014: Process Assessment, Consulting & Training and Broadsword Solutions

“Just the FAQs” is written/edited by Pat O’Toole and Jeff Dalton. Please contact the authors at pact.otoole@att.net and jeff@broadswordsolutions.com to suggest enhancements to their answers, or to provide an alternative response to the question posed. New questions are also welcomed!

Monday, June 2, 2014

When the boss says process is overhead, how do I respond?

Dear CMMI Appraiser: I asked my boss about adopting the CMMI, because I’ve heard it’s useful for performance improvement, but he shot me down. He says he doesn’t want to pay for process because “it’s just overhead.” Now you know what it’s like working in this fun house. How should I respond? ~ Al G.

Hey, Al. Wow, he shot you down and you’re still coming back for more! I admire your persistence. It does seem slightly off-kilter that management would make you fight for improving the organization’s culture, but that’s how some companies are. You need a sense of humor to work there!

All kidding aside, let’s assume your boss is not COMPLETELY off his rocker. I once started working with a customer who said pretty much the same thing. I told him what would be involved in adopting the CMMI, and he said, “I want to have the application and nothing more. I don’t care if we have a process, if we are CMMI compliant, if there is documentation, if there are minutes of the meetings. I am not interested in how things are done. The only thing I care about is having the application as soon as possible in my environment. I am only paying for that. Everything else is overhead!”

After letting him rant, I gently reminded him of the Y2K debacle. There were some lessons to be learned. If the organizations that had to spend millions of dollars fixing that problem had done MINIMAL design and requirements documentation, then COBOL programmers would not have to be paid $250/hour to fix it, and IBM (and dozens of other firms) would not be billions of dollars richer for the effort.

In your firm, what is the true cost of developing software if you consider re-work, defects, mistakes, misunderstandings in requirements, endless test cycles, production fixes, etc?

These are the result of having a process that is poorly understood or underutilized, or having “no process,” which really means having a process that consists of everyone doing their own thing. Talk about overhead!

To get your boss to see the benefits of CMMI, ask him to consider what life would be like with the following performance improvements:

  • Fewer defects
  • Software that more likely meets your needs
  • A smaller support/maintenance organization
  • Projects being on time more often
  • Projects being on budget more often
  • The ability to manage multiple releases at the same time easily
  • The ability to revert back to any release when needed
  • Fewer mistakes during deployment (like the wrong code going into production)
  • The ability to re-use code for future projects (saving up to 50% of effort)
  • The ability to reuse architecture designs in the future (again saving up to 50%)
  • The ability to use resources across a wider array of projects, making more people available
  • The ability to more quickly deliver projects (more Agile!)

That’s CMMI.

In fairness, your boss probably has good reason for being skeptical about performance improvement models like CMMI. We’ve all suffered through too many forms, meetings, reviews, and sign-offs. We’ve all groaned under the weight of heavy-handed quality audits and too much oversight.

But that’s not the CMMI. The CMMI is not about certificates, plaques, and ratings. It’s not a test you need to pass.

Adopted properly, the CMMI is about supercharging engineering performance, increasing productivity, reducing risk, and doing what you do, better. It’s about transforming the company culture and begin joyful on the path to greatness.

Now, that’s what I call a fun house!

Like this blog? Forward to your nearest engineering or software exec!

Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.