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1.2 Project Management and the CMM

Once it is accepted that use of effective processes can help in executing a project successfully, a question immediately arises: What are the desirable characteristics of these processes? The CMM for software is a framework that tries to answer this question.

The CMM for software is a framework that was developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University by observing the best practices in software and other organizations. Hence, the CMM reflects the collective process experience and expectations of many companies. It specifies desired characteristics of processes without prescribing specific processes. Thus, different processes can fulfill the requirements of the CMM. It can be used to evaluate the software process of an organization and to identify deficiencies.

The CMM is one of the most popular frameworks for software process improvement (the other commonly used framework is ISO 90013,4,5). The foundations of the CMM were laid down in Watts Humphrey's Managing the Software Process,6 and the framework itself is described completely in the SEI's The Capability Maturity Model: Guidelines for Improving the Software Process.7 A "new edition" of the CMM, called CMM-I, has been released. But because the focus of this book is not on the models and because there is still little experience available with CMM-I, I discuss only the CMM for software and only the project management aspects, even though the CMM also covers organizational and process management issues. I do not discuss the assessment procedure, a brief description of which is given in my book CMM in Practice,8 and a detailed description given in CMM Based Appraisal for Internal Process Improvement, by S. Masters.9

1.2.1 Overview of the CMM

One objective of the CMM is to distinguish mature processes from immature, or ad hoc, processes. Immature software processes imply that projects are executed without many guidelines, and the outcome of a project depends largely on the capability of the team and the project leader. On the other hand, with mature processes, a project is executed by following defined processes. In this case, the outcome of the project is less dependent on people and more on the processes. It follows, then, that the more mature the processes, the more predictable the results and the more well controlled the projects.

The range of results that can be expected in a project when it is executed using a process is its process capability. The actual result achieved in a project executed using the process is its process performance. Clearly, the process performance depends on the process capability. To consistently improve process performance on projects, you must enhance the process capability; the process itself must become more mature.

The path to higher maturity includes some well-defined plateaus referred to as maturity levels by the CMM. Each maturity level specifies certain characteristics for processes, with higher maturity levels having more advanced characteristics that are found in more mature software processes. Hence, the CMM framework describes the key elements of software processes at different levels of maturity. Consequently, it also specifies the path that a software process follows in moving from immature processes to highly mature processes. This path includes five maturity levels, as shown in Figure 1.1.7

Figure 1.1 Maturity levels in the CMM

In level 1, the initial level, a project is executed in a manner that the team and project manager see fit. The repeatable level (level 2) applies when established project management practices are employed, although organization-wide processes may not exist. At the defined level (level 3), organization-wide processes have been defined and are regularly followed. At the managed level (level 4), quantitative understanding of the process capability makes it possible to quantitatively predict and control the process performance on a project. At the optimizing level (level 5), the process capability is improved in a controlled manner and the improvement is evaluated quantitatively.

Each maturity level (except level 1) is characterized by key process areas (KPAs), which specify the areas on which the organization should focus to elevate its processes to that maturity level. Figure 1.1 also shows the KPAs for the different levels. For an organization to achieve a maturity level, it must satisfy all the KPAs at that maturity level as well as the KPAs at all lower maturity levels.

Maintaining processes at higher levels of maturity is a challenging task requiring commitment from the organization and a proper work culture. Of the 900 assessments conducted between 1996 and June 2000 whose assessment results were provided to the SEI, only 3% of the organizations were at level 5, and another 5% were at level 4.10 The rest were at level 3 or below, with 38% at level 2 and 18% at level 3.

1.2.2 KPAs for Project Management

Each KPA specifies goals that the processes of the organization must meet to satisfy that KPA. In addition, each KPA specifies a group of activities, called key practices, that collectively satisfy the goals of that KPA. In many senses, the goals for each KPA capture its essence. They specify the objectives that the CMM has set for the processes relating to the KPA. To illustrate the KPAs associated with project management, we briefly discuss here the goals of these KPAs. These goals are taken from the CMM,7 with some minor changes in the wording of some goals.

Table 1.1 lists all the goals for KPAs at level 2, showing clearly that the level 2 focus is almost exclusively on project management. Under these goals, you create and document a project plan, evaluate the ongoing project performance against the plan, and take actions when the actual performance significantly deviates from the plan. Requirements are properly documented, and changes to requirements are properly managed. All work products are controlled, and changes to products are properly managed through a planned configuration management plan. Reviews and audits are performed to ensure that planned processes and standards are being followed. If some parts of the project are subcontracted to other vendors, the subcontracted work is also monitored properly.

Table 1.1 Goals for KPAs at Level 2 (Repeatable)



Requirements Management (RM)

  • Software requirements are controlled to establish a baseline for software engineering and management activities.

  • Software plans, products, and activities are kept consistent with requirements.

Software Project Planning (SPP)

  • Estimates are documented for use in planning and tracking the project.

  • Project activities and commitments are planned and documented.

  • Affected groups and individuals agree to their commitments related to the project.

Software Project Tracking and Oversight (SPTO)

  • Actual results and performances are tracked against the software plans.

  • Corrective actions are taken and managed to closure when actual results and performance deviate significantly from the software plans.

  • Changes to commitments are agreed to by the affected groups and individuals.

Software Subcontract Management (SSM)

  • The prime contractor and the subcontractor agree to their commitments.

  • The prime contractor tracks the subcontractor's actual results against its commitments.

  • The prime contractor and the subcontractor maintain ongoing communication.

  • The prime contractor tracks the subcontractor's actual performance against its commitments.

Software Quality Assurance (SQA)

  • Software quality assurance activities are planned.

  • Adherence of software products and activities to the applicable standards, procedures, and requirements is verified objectively.

  • Affected groups and individuals are informed of software quality assurance activities and results.

  • Noncompliance issues that cannot be resolved within the project are addressed by senior management.

Software Configuration Management (SCM)

  • Software configuration management activities are planned.

  • Selected software work products are identified, controlled, and available.

  • Changes to identified software work products are controlled.

  • Affected groups and individuals are informed of the status and content of software baselines.

Table 1.2 details the goals of three of the seven KPAs at level 3. The other KPAs focus on organizational and process management issues. A project in a level 3 organization uses a tailored version of the standard process and reuses assets, data, and experience from past projects for planning. The various groups that contribute to the project cooperate smoothly through well-defined interfaces and mechanisms. Reviews are properly carried out to identify defects in work products, and sufficient support for conducting reviews and follow-up activities is provided.

Table 1.2 Goals of Three KPAs at Level 3 (Defined)



Integrated Software Management (ISM)

  • The project's defined software process is a tailored version of the organization's standard software process.

  • The project is planned and managed according to the project's defined software process.

Intergroup Coordination (IC)

  • All affected groups agree to the customer's requirements.

  • All groups agree to the commitments between different groups.

  • The groups identify, track, and resolve intergroup issues.

Peer Reviews (PR)

  • Peer review activities are planned.

  • Defects in the software work products are identified and removed.

Table 1.3 shows the goals for the two KPAs at level 4. At level 4, the capability of the organization's process is understood in quantitative terms. The process capability is used to set quantitative goals for a project. Data on project performance are collected on an ongoing basis and are compared with data on past performance; if significant deviations are observed, proper corrective actions are applied to bring the project back in control. A key aspect of level 4 is the use of statistical process control techniques on an ongoing basis so that each activity can be evaluated and corrective action taken if needed.

Table 1.3 Goals for KPAs at Level 4 (Managed)



Quantitative Process Management (QPM)

  • The quantitative process management activities are planned.

  • The process performance of the project's defined software process is controlled quantitatively.

  • The process capability of the organization's standard software process is known in quantitative terms.

Software Quality Management (SQM)

  • The project's software quality management activities are planned.

  • Measurable goals for software product quality and their priorities are defined.

  • Actual progress toward achieving the quality goals for the software products is quantified and managed.

level 3 organization uses a tailored version of the standard process and reuses assets, data, and experience from past projects for planning. The various groups that contribute to the project cooperate smoothly through well-defined interfaces and mechanisms. Reviews are properly carried out to identify defects in work products, and sufficient support for conducting reviews and follow-up activities is provided.

The three KPAs at level 5 focus on improving the capability of the process. Of the three KPAs, the Defect Prevention KPA is the one that most directly affects project management. This KPA requires that defects be prevented proactively by systematically analyzing the causes of defects and then eliminating those causes. If defects can be prevented from entering the software, the effort spent in removing them can be reduced, thereby improving quality and productivity.

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