Many companies, within and outside Pakistan, insist
on dealing with only those IT organizations that can demonstrate a high
level of quality management. In this context, the Software Engineering
Institute's Capability Maturity Model (CMM) has become the most
influential quality management model for improving the software process
in the IT industry worldwide. Alternative programs, such as the ISO 9000
series, Deming's Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Baldridge, and
others have proven beneficial and effective within the IT community, but
CMM provides an edge that has been recognized and appreciated.
CMM, from its inception, was designed specifically
for the software engineering process, whereas the others are generic
quality programs applicable to any manufacturing/services industry. This
makes it relatively compact, easier, and more cost-effective to
implement. CMM is a robust model which, when properly implemented,
effectively reduces risk — the risk of ineffective planning, the risk
of cost overruns, the risk of misinterpretation, and the risk of
unpredictability — and raises quality in a measurable way.
The IT organizations that operate under CMM
guidelines and recommendations have a strong tendency to be much more
efficient and responsive than those which do not. The latter type, like
most in Pakistan, can at times produce excellent results too. Yet the
success of such organizations is generally due to the heroic efforts of
an individual or a dedicated team on a one-off basis, rather than
through repeating the proven processes of an organization. Thus the
repeatability of success is not guaranteed.
A big problem with such organizations is that they
are unpredictable because the process is constantly modified as the work
progresses. Schedules, budgets, functionality, and product quality are
generally unpredictable. Predictability is inversely proportional to
risk; the higher the predictability in an organization the lower is the
Another problem is that very little learning goes on
in the environment. This is because efforts from project to project are
not measured or documented, and thus they are not repeatable or
shareable. New projects do not get the benefit of best practices on
prior projects. Instead it takes heroic individual efforts to carry the
These are some of the basic problems faced by the IT
organizations in Pakistan. Without an organized strategy for
improvement, such as CMM based process improvement, it is difficult to
achieve consensus on what improvement activities to undertake to
eradicate these problems. To achieve lasting results from process
improvement efforts, it is necessary to design an evolutionary path that
increases an organization's software process maturity in stages. Thus,
an improvement strategy provides a roadmap for continuous process
improvement. It guides advancement and identifies deficiencies in the
organization; it is not intended to provide a quick fix for projects in
To achieve the level of quality associated with CMM,
the Professional Services division of NCR Pakistan was successfully
assessed on August 14, 2003 under the CMM Based Appraisal Internal
Process Improvement (CBA IPI), an assessment methodology for the
Software-CMM model. The initial rating achieved was of Level 2, with
Level 3 being targeted as the next milestone of the continuous process
improvement plan of NCR Professional Services. Level 2 is a
project-focused effort. It is not designed to bring the entire
organization to process maturity. The focus is on repeating the
processes from project to project, studying the results, and improving
for the next. The intent is to establish and implement basic processes
on individual projects; once they have become refined enough to be
proven generally successful, they can be institutionalized (at Level 3)
across the organization.
In the words of SEI lead Assessor Ron Weidemann,
"NCR Pakistan has achieved a very clear and solid Level 2
assessment. They achieved this in half the time it normally takes.
Management sponsorship was the key to the success of this
initiative". In the last two years NCR Professional Services has
become a Centre of Expertise for the entire region, taking charge of
implementations for customers across the Europe, Middle East and Africa
(EMEA). CMM Level 2 certification further establishes NCR Professional
Services as an IT organization with the capability, processes, and
credentials to deliver its commitments.
The purpose of adopting CMM based process improvement
by NCR Professional Services is to assist the organization in the
maturing process. The word "mature" here means an environment
in which predictability is high and the risk is low.
CMM is structured as a five-tier scale: Initial;
Repeatable; Defined; Managed; and Optimizing. If an organization
assesses at the Optimizing Level (Level 5) on the scale, it has reached
full maturity. Full maturity implies that the entire organization is
focused on continuous process improvement. The SEI estimates that only
about 1 to 2 percent of organizations worldwide operate at Level 5. In
Pakistan, there are currently only two organizations which are CMM
certified, NCR Professional Services being one of them.
An organization that assesses at the Initial Level
(Level 1) naturally lacks these abilities, and so quality becomes an
unpredictable or an unmanageable goal. Success here is not so much
dependent on the organization as it is on the individual. Quality on the
first tier is achieved through heroic individual efforts; it is neither
a planned nor an organized process. The SEI estimates that the vast
majority of IT organizations around the world would assess at Level 1 on
the CMM scale.
As an organization proceeds from one maturity level
to the next, the range of benefits from its improvement activities and
processes increases substantially. Since improvements at each maturity
level solve different sets of problems, different benefits emerge at
each level. These benefits are summarized in the table below:
Continuously targeting improvements required
to meet business needs.
Predictable results. Knowledge of factors
causing variance and reuse.
Meeting cost and functionality targets as
well as improved quality.
Meeting schedule and reduced turnover
resulting from less overtime.
No Benefits: Inconsistency; schedule/budget
overruns; defective applications
Many of the initial benefits from CMM-based
improvement programs result from eliminating rework. In low-maturity
organizations, developers or their managers too often commit to
schedules that cannot be achieved without heroic effort. However, the
evidence indicates that they actually take longer than projects with
lengthier estimated schedules. This happens because they are forced into
extensive rework on top of the actual effort required to produce the
application on a disciplined schedule.
By achieving CMM Level 2, the organization is
transformed from being people-centered to being process-centered. That
is not to say that CMM does not care about people. As important as
people are, what is needed is a set of generic processes and procedures
that drives the projects in a consistent, definable, and repeatable
manner. At Level 2 the organization turns from depending solely on the
project's talent pool to management through process. The organization
moves from a degree of unpredictability to a greater degree of
The "Repeatable" label of Level 2 implies
two things. The first is a process: the organization has to have
something to repeat. And the second is learning: the organization has to
study how the process worked on one project, keep what worked well,
discard what did not, and then refine the process for the next project.
That is continuous quality improvement in a nutshell.
The CMM is a practical process quality framework, one
that has been shown to work time and again, across a wide variety of
software development organizations. If it is implemented properly, the
organization will reap a series of distinct, tangible benefits. The
organization will operate in an environment that is more predictable,
where risk is reduced. There should be a rise in quality, a drop in
errors, misdirection, and faulted assumptions. And, at the highest
level, increased software quality, a better focused work force, and
increased client satisfaction. Ultimately, the journey through the
succession of CMM levels is underscored by short and long term benefits
that constitute continuous improvement.
1. Persse, James R. Implementing the Capability
Maturity Model. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Saadia
Khalid is currently working with Teradata, a division of NCR as a
Professional Services Consultant. She has played a key role in the NCR
Professional Services CMM certification effort and also works as a
quality management specialist. Her work has contributed significantly in
the development and improvement of organizational policies and processes
for producing quality deliverables for our customer. She is currently
working towards the Level 3 assessment.