UNDERSTANDING CMMI LEVELS

“CMMI” stands for Capability Maturity Model Integration.  Simply put, CMMI is a numeric scale used to “rate” the maturity of a software development process or team.  CMMI maturity levels are increasingly used by government agencies and Fortune 500 companies to evaluate the potential for organizations to deliver quality solutions on-time and within budget.

Developed by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie-Mellon University under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Defense, the CMMI model is divided into five maturity levels:

       1. Initial
       2. Managed
       3. Defined
       4. Quantitatively Managed
       5. Optimizing

Level 1 – Initial
At maturity level 1, processes are usually ad hoc and chaotic.  Success in these organizations depends on the competence and heroics of the people in the organization and not on the use of proven processes. In spite of this ad hoc, chaotic environment, maturity level 1 organizations often produce products and services that work; however, they frequently exceed the budget and schedule of their projects.

Level 2 – Repeatable
At maturity level 2, software development successes are repeatable. The organization may use some basic project management to track cost and schedule.  Process discipline helps ensure that existing practices are retained during stressful times.  As a result, projects are executed and managed according to their documented plans.

Level 3 – Defined
At maturity level 3, processes are well characterized and understood, and are described in standards, procedures, tools, and methods.
The organization’s set of standard processes, which is the basis for level 3, is established and improved over time. These standard processes are used to establish consistency across the organization. Projects establish their defined processes by the organization’s set of standard processes according to tailoring guidelines.

Level 4 – Managed
At maturity level 4, management, using precise measurements, can effectively control the software development effort.  In particular, management can identify ways to adjust and adapt the process to particular projects without measurable losses of quality or deviations from specifications.  Subprocesses are selected that significantly contribute to overall process performance.  These selected subprocesses are controlled using statistical and other quantitative techniques.

Level 5 – Optimizing
At maturity level 5, the focus is on continually improving process performance through both incremental and innovative technological improvements.  Quantitative process improvement objectives for the organization are established, continually revised to reflect changing business objectives, and used as criteria in managing process improvement.  Process improvements to address common causes of process variation and measurably improve the organization’s processes are identified, evaluated, and deployed.  The organization’s ability to rapidly respond to changes and opportunities is enhanced by finding ways to accelerate and share learning.

Audacious Inquiry is actively working to incorporate and embrace the CMMI methodology because we believe it will provide our organization with the essential elements to create improvement and effectiveness across projects, divisions, and the entire organization.  As Audacious Inquiry continues to grow in size and technical expertise, CMMI will help integrate our separate organizational functions, set process improvement goals and priorities, and provide guidance for quality processes.