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CMMI Assessments: Motivating Positive Change

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Assessments remain at the cutting edge of process improvement, but very few practitioners what they are designed to do and how they work.

° Part of the acclaimed SEI Series in Software Engineering; product launch at SEPG in Seattle (March 2005)

° While many organizations have adopted the CMMI, very few have accurately assessed their CMMI level

° Helps to explain the SEI's IDEAL (Initiating, Diagnosing, Establishing, Acting, and Learning) model for organizational improvement


  • Copyright 2005
  • Edition: 1st
  • Premium Website
  • ISBN-10: 0-321-17935-8
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-17935-7

Assessments are internal reviews aimed at making an organization better from the inside, and they are critical tools for process improvement. The CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) is a U.S. government-sponsored model to help organizations improve their processes, and perhaps more importantly, demonstrate their level of process quality to vendors. Many organizations adopt the CMMI because it is required in many government contracts. In order to improve process, these organizations must first know their level of CMMI maturity, but these organizations struggle in this assessment. This book spells out the specific steps an organization must take to gather an accurate CMMI assessment. The resulting assessment will help the organization improve their processes and advance their level of CMMI maturity. The authors, noted CMMI experts, use anecdotal histories of incidents they have encountered on actual assessments to illustrate key teaching points.

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Why Do CMMI Assessments?

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Table of Contents





About the Authors.

1. Why Do Assessments?

    What Assessments Do

    The Four Principal Functions of Assessments

    The Analytical Function of Assessments

    Assessments Function as Fulcrums of Positive Change

    Assessments Transform Organizations by the Way They Work

    Assessments Educate as They Analyze, Motivate, and Transform

    Why Gaming the Results of an Assessment Doesn’t Help (Though Many Try)

    Can Assessments Really Change an Organization? A Preview of an Extended Case History to Be Found in Part 12

    Bottom-Line Profit and Cost Numbers: Assessments Pay

2. A Brief History of Process Improvement Methodologies and Assessment Methods.

    The Beginnings of Modern Software Assessment Methodology

    The SEI Capability Maturity Model

    The Three Principal Advantages of a Modern Software Assessment over Traditional Manufacturing-Based Audit Procedures

    A Second Path Toward Software Process Improvement Assessments: The History of  SO-9000-3, Bootstrap, SPICE, and the CMMI

    The CMMI: An Enlarged Structure and Scope

    A Hybrid Assessment Approach: The CMMI SCAMPI

    Informal or Reduced Assessments: Class B and Class C Assessments

3. Assessments: An Executive Overview.

    What Are a Senior Executive’s Responsibilities?

    What Are the Phases of an Assessment?

    Cost: How Much Time and Effort Does an Assessment Require?

4. Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Chapter 1: Senior Management Responsibilities.

    Selecting a Lead Assessor

    Determining the Business Goals and the Organizational and Reference Model Scope of the Assessment

    Choosing an Assessment Sponsor

    Establishing Appropriate Organizational Understanding

5. Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Chapter 2: Choosing a Time. Formulating an Assessment Plan. Appointing an Organization Site Coordinator and Organizing Logistics.

    Choosing a Time for the Assessment

    The Assessment Plan

    Managing Logistics: Appointing an Organization Site Coordinator

    Assessment Readiness: When Is an Organization Ready for an Assessment?

6. Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Chapter 3: Creating an Assessment Team. Selecting Projects to Be Assessed. Selecting People to Be Interviewed. Defining the Final Assessment Products. Distributing Questionnaires.

    Selecting the Assessment Team

    Selecting Projects to Be Assessed

    Selecting People to Be Interviewed 

    Defining Final Assessment Products 

    Distributing Questionnaires

7. Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Chapter 4: Assessment Team Training and Post-Training Activities.

    Assessment Team Training

    The Assessment Team’s Pre-Onsite Organization and Activities

    Preparing Organization Participants for What Is to Come 

8. Onsite Activities, Chapter 1: The Kick-Off Meeting and Other Presentations. Collecting and Managing Documents Throughout the Assessment. Problems Associated with Immature Organizations.

    The Kick-Off Meeting and Other Presentations

    Collecting and Managing Documents Throughout the Assessment

    Problems Associated with an Immature Organization’s Desire to “Do Well” on an Assessment

9. Onsite Activities, Chapter 2: Interviewing.

    Interviewing: An Overview

    Interviewing Dynamics

    Assessment Team Roles During the Interview

    The Stages of an Interview

    Note Taking

    Different Interviews for Different Jobholders

10. Onsite Activities, Chapter 3: The Day-to-Day Consolidation of Data.

    Consolidating Data: An Overview

    Team Members Take Notes and Prepare to Construct “Observations” About Questionnaires, Documentation Reviews, Presentations, and Interviews

    Transforming Notes into Observations

    How Consolidation Produces Day-to-Day Alterations in the Assessment Plan

    Consolidation Is a Consensus Process

    Warning: Consensus Must Not Be Deferred Until the Final Stages of an Assessment

    A Lurking Disaster to Consensus: Misunderstanding the Model

    The Special Requirements of the SCAMPI Consolidation Approach

11. The Final Stages of an Onsite Assessment: Summing Up and Presenting Results.

    Consolidating Draft Findings

    Draft Findings Meetings: An Overview

    The Team’s Final Consolidation: Ratings, Including the Maturity Level Rating

    CMMI Continuous Model

    The Preparation of Final Findings

    Presenting Final Findings Informally to Senior Management (Optional)

    The Final Findings Presentation

    Post-Final Findings Executive Session (Optional)

    Assessment Wrap-Up

12. How to Use the Results of an Assessment Productively.

    Introduction: After an Assessment

    Who? (Who Drives a Disciplined Post-Assessment Plan? Who Makes It Work?)

    When Should Post-Assessment Planning Begin? How Ambitious Should It Be? 

    What Does a Post-Assessment Improvement Plan Look Like? How Should It Unfold? In What Spirit Should It Be Undertaken?

    After the Plan: Managing the Introduction of Improved Processes

    Creating, Tracking, and Implementing a Post-Assessment Plan for Process Improvement: A Step-by-Step Case History of How Organization Z Transformed Assessment Recommendations into Action Items, Implemented Improvements, and Conducted Subsequent Assessments and Improvement Cycles over a Four-Year Period




Untitled Document Assessments have for many years been at the cutting edge of the theory and practice of process improvement, but not many people understand what process improvement assessments were designed to do, how they evolved, and how they work. At the heart of these issues is a simple fact: Assessments are not audits.

Audits are reviews of an organization conducted by outsiders, and within the organization they feel like tests. Assessments are internal reviews aimed at making an organization better from the inside. Historically, audits have demonstrated only limited effectiveness, while assessments, undertaken in the correct spirit and in the right way, have proved able to transform an organization's technical and managerial culture and radically improve the quality and profitability of its products. The authors, who have been centrally involved in the creation and application of modern assessments, have written this book to help executives, managers, and engineers and even assessors themselves make intelligent decisions about why and when to schedule an assessment and how best to benefit from it.

Intended Audience for the Book

This book was written for three audiences.

Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 are aimed at senior executives and provide an overview of what assessments entail, how they can help, and what role a senior executive is expected to play in them. Chapter 12 concerns the senior executive's responsibilities in post-assessment improvement efforts and contains an extended case study of how one organization improved as it progressed through a four-year program of reiterated assessments from Level 2 to Level 5.

Chapters 4 through 11 take the reader through the stages of a typical assessment and contain a step-by-step guide to what needs to be done by whom at every step. The chapters include comments and examples that collectively comprise a manual for assessors, but the chapters are also designed to help potential participants.

Everyone in an organization about to undergo an assessment's prolonged ordeal can benefit enormously from knowing what takes place before, during, and after an assessment—such as what assessors are looking for, and who is responsible for what. Such knowledge can save participants mountains of time and effort. They will discover, for instance, that they are not required to be experts in translating their procedures into the language of software maturity models but need only to understand what kinds of things assessors are looking for.

Nor will assessors suffer by gaining some insight into the difficulties of the participants. The book tries to anticipate the major problems assessments most often encounter and includes anecdotal commentary drawn from our extensive working experience.

Assessments Are Part of the Larger Subject of Process Improvement

Whatever their power to facilitate organizational change, assessments are primarily tools of process improvement. Process improvement is another subject, however, and the literature about it is large and growing.

The most compact and complete model of the stages of process improvement is probably the SEI's IDEALSM model for organizational improvement Gremba 97. The model (see Figure P-1) provides a roadmap for the initiating, planning, and implementing activities of a process improvement program and is named for the five phases it describes: Initiating, Diagnosing, Establishing, Acting, and Learning SEI web site 04.

Assessments fall into the Diagnosing phase of the IDEAL approach, which concerns identifying current processes, developing recommendations, and emphasizing follow-on activities.

Software Versus Systems and Hardware Process Improvement Assessments

This book is primarily concerned with software process improvement assessments. In recent years, though, the theory of software process improvement assessments has been successfully applied to project management, software engineering, hardware engineering, human resources, and service process improvement assessments as well. To describe the detailed variations between software and these non-software assessments would effectively require another book. The large picture, however, is essentially the same. The current book, therefore, should be of interest to anyone involved with project management, software engineering, hardware engineering, and other process improvement assessments, and the authors have made occasional remarks about other kinds of assessments when they have seemed relevant.


The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) has by now almost superceded the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) as the basis of the SEI's software process improvement activities. The same can be said of the SCAMPI assessment methodology associated with the CMMI. Therefore this book primarily addresses the CMMI and SCAMPI.

However, because the CMMI and SCAMPI are in fact outgrowths of the more familiar CMM and its associated CBA IPI assessment methodology (and because the logic of both the SEI model and assessment methodologies are in some ways clearer in the CMM and the CBA IPI), the authors have treated the two programs as part of the same subject, while also indicating the important differences between the two.

Staged Versus Continuous Assessments
The most important difference between the current version of the SEI's SCAMPI methodology and its predecessor, the CBA IPI, is that the newer version provides for the possibility of an assessment based on the CMMI's Continuous Representation mode, in which segments of an organization and segments of the reference model can be assessed without addressing the maturity of the organization's capabilities as a whole.

However, because "continuous" assessments constitute a departure from the history and theory of "staged" capability maturity assessments with which the authors are primarily concerned, we have largely omitted them from the book's central focus, while being careful to describe the differences between "staged" and "continuous" assessments for anyone wishing to pursue the subject of "continuous" assessments elsewhere.

Anecdotal Histories

Wherever possible, the authors have included anecdotal histories of incidents they have encountered on actual assessments to illustrate different parts of this book. Such histories are indicated by shaded text. The identities of the principals in these incidents have been altered to Organization A, B, C, etc., and some of the details have been simplified.

A Roadmap Through the Book

Chapter 1: "Why Do Assessments?" provides an account of the function and place of assessments within a program of process improvement and concentrates on the way assessments serve as fulcrums for positive change. The last two sections of the chapter spell out the bottom-line value of assessments with the help of numbers drawn from the extended case study presented in Chapter 12.

Chapter 2: "A Brief History of Process Improvement Methodologies and Assessment Methods" explains why and how software process improvement assessment methods evolved out of audits and describes the elements of the two most sophisticated modern software process improvement models—the SEI's CMM and CMMI—along with their associated assessment methodologies, CBA IPI and SCAMPI.

Chapter 3: "Assessments: An Executive Overview" provides a brief overview of the assessment process, including questions that must be considered by senior executives before an assessment is undertaken and the role of a senior executive in the authorization and execution of a CBA IPI or SCAMPI assessment.

Chapter 4: "Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Part 1: Senior Management Responsibilities" begins a section of four chapters about pre-onsite assessment activities and explains what senior managers must do before, during, and after an assessment.

Chapter 5: "Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Part 2" deals with choosing a time for an upcoming assessment, formulating an assessment plan, appointing an organization site coordinator, and organizing an assessment's logistics. This chapter details the duties of both the assessment sponsor and others with special responsibilities for preparing for an assessment.

Chapter 6: "Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Part 3" continues to describe the details of preparing for an assessment and concerns creating an assessment team, selecting projects to be assessed, selecting people to be interviewed, defining the final assessment products, and distributing questionnaires.

Chapter 7: "Planning and Preparing for an Assessment, Part 4: Assessment Team Training and Post-Training Activities" addresses assessment team training and post-training activities and completes the book's account of pre-onsite assessment activities.

Chapter 8: "Onsite Activities, Part 1" is the first of three chapters concerned with an assessment's Onsite activities. The chapter addresses the assessment kick-off meeting and other presentations and the problems of collecting and managing documents, and it focuses on problems associated with immature organizations.

Chapter 9: "Onsite Activities, Part 2: Interviewing" focuses on the selection of people to be interviewed, formulating interview questions, how the team conducts itself during interviewing, and what people being interviewed should prepare for and expect.

Chapter 10: "Onsite Activities, Part 3: The Day-to-Day Consolidation of Data" concerns how assessment teams manage and consolidate data.

Chapter 11: "The Final Stages of an Onsite Assessment: Summing Up and Presenting Results" addresses issues concerning the assessment team's final data consolidation, the preparation of draft findings, draft findings meetings at which preliminary findings are reviewed with assessment participants, and the presentation of final findings, including an optional maturity level rating, to the organization.

Chapter 12: "How to Use the Results of an Assessment Productively" concerns post-assessment improvement efforts and ends with an extended case study (including details about cost and profitability) of how one organization improved as it progressed through a four-year program of reiterated assessments from Level 2 to Level 5.


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