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Feb 12

What is CMMI?

What is CMMI?

by Kevin Cotherman, Blog, Comments Off on What is CMMI?

Feb 12

What is CMMI?

It is not uncommon for someone to call me and ask, “What is CMMI?”  A customer or an RFP requires a company to be appraised in the CMMI and the person calling has no clue what the CMMI is or how to obtain something called a maturity level.  Usually, they have a short timeframe to be appraised, which is never a good thing, as it takes time to implement and institutionalize the CMMI.  This blog will address a brief overview of the CMMI, how to implement it, and how to institutionalize it.

CMMI is an acronym for Capability Maturity Model Integration, it was developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) now known as the CMMI Institute, and it is a model for process improvement.  The SEI first developed the CMM in the early 1990’s geared toward improving software development processes of vendors of the United States Department of Defense.  The CMM has evolved to the CMMI, which includes disciplines in addition to software development such as systems engineering, hardware integration, avionics, etc.  The CMMI has expanded to become a requirement for vendors doing business with many US government federal agencies.

The CMMI has five maturity levels, with every organization starts as a maturity level 1.  Maturity levels 2 through 5 contain process areas, and each process area contains specific and generic practices.  Maturity level 2 focuses on project management discipline for each project.  Maturity level 3 is for organizations that have a process asset library that every project can use for performing their projects.  Maturity level 3 builds on the level 2 project management processes and includes engineering processes.  Level 3 also includes a process improvement infrastructure that will ensure continuous process improvement.

Maturity levels 4 and 5 are areas where projects are quantitatively managed and process improvements are quantitatively evaluated and implemented.  The focus of any organization starting out should be on either maturity level 2 or 3.

So how does an organization start using the CMMI and get ready to be appraised in a maturity level?  Basically there are six steps:

  • 1. Establish a process improvement infrastructure – process improvement groups with personnel assigned.
  • 2. Document the processes you area currently using.
  • 3. Have a gap analysis performed by a CMMI Institute certified lead appraiser.
  • 4. Address the gaps from step 3 to ensure compliance with the CMMI maturity level targeting.
  • 5. Train people on the processes they are expected to follow.
  • 6. Solicit improvement suggestions and lessons learned from the people using the processes to improve those processes.


Having the guidance of well qualified lead appraisal is invaluable for assisting in completing these steps.  Picking a qualified lead appraiser will be the subject of a future blog. After completing the six steps above, a company has institutionalized their processes and is ready to prepare for their appraisal.  Describing how a company prepares for an appraisal will also be the subject of a future blog.


About CMMI Live

The mission of the CMMI Live initiative is to identify the easiest, fastest, lowest cost, and highest ROI approaches for deploying and maintaining CMMI®. Our goal is to create a community of both adopters and appraisers who are determined to make CMMI come to life in our member’s organizations.

The centerpiece of our initiative is our online CMMI Live software-platform. Our software enables a rapid deployment approach that replaces costly and disruptive Class B and Class C onsite appraisals with ongoing, online review and support. It also allows organizations to skip Level 2 and jump directly to CMMI Level-3. This saves them considerable time, cost and effort.

We believe in CMMI. We know it is a powerful business improvement approach. We want to help organizations maximize their CMMI ROI. We hope you will get involved:

  1. Join our LinkedIn Discussion forum
  2. Follow us on Twitter
  3. Like us on Facebook

If you want to ask your own questions, you can ask in our contact us section. Kevin Cotherman and Debbie O’Grady will get them answered on the next ”Ask The Lead Appraisers” webinar – or if you wish to remain anonymous, just send us an email.

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