Welcome back to the second installment of the CMMI series. I’m going to flip the previous installment of the CMMI blog on its head and talk about the rigidness of CMMI and why that presented some challenges to our efforts of achieving a ML3 rating.
One of the process areas I found to be most rigid was the Process and Product Quality Assurance (PPQA), more specifically conducting process audits on each of the projects. While we had done milestone and progress reviews for projects before, a process audit was a whole different ballgame. The standard way of conducting these process audits is to go through every step of every process area at various points in the project to see how the project is stacking up against the set of standard processes. Generally, this should be conducted by objective personnel (i.e. not team members) combing through documentation and interviewing team members. As a small company, this seemed a little bit of an overkill and highly time consuming just to be able to tell people that while the project was getting appropriate results (on time/on budget) they did it the wrong way. However, it was a required part of ML3, so onward we went.
I decided to take another approach to the audit process – after all, not all process areas would be impacted at all phases of the project, so why ask about them just to get a large number of “Not Yet”s? I set up a rubric for a phased approach that ensured that the appropriate process steps were being taken for that specific phase, but then didn’t have to ask all the things that weren’t yet appropriate to ask about. After some dialogue with our CMMI partner, they accepted this method, but pointed out a few opportunities for improvement. First they pointed out that the process audit should literally reflect each and every step in the process – I had taken a more generic interview approach so that the Project Managers could expand upon how they had completed their work and I could check the check boxes as they affirmed whether or not they had done something. Secondly, I also needed to make sure that I caught all the planning process steps that would occur in say, the Startup phase for example, for those activities that didn’t occur until the design phase.
So while the PPQA process area struck me as one of the more rigid process areas – I’m still not sure I buy into the highly specific process audit idea – there was still some flexibility in how we implemented our version of it. The key thing to keep in mind is that whatever process area you are tackling, you must ultimately meet the intent of the model even if it’s not to the letter of the law. Small businesses don’t lend themselves to a letter of the law type of application for all process areas, so discuss with your CMMI partner or resident expert to see what is a workable solution for these rigid requirements, and you might find some creative ways to get the job done.