Friday, November 19, 2004

Slogging Through Process Management

I've spent quite a lot of time over the past month looking through an extensive system of process managment and software certification developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), a program hosted By Carnegie Mellon University, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Their Capability Maturity Model® Integration (CMMI) came up at a presentation I attended, and I wanted to find out more. I didn't suspect that there was so much, that I would fall into it, and almost completely disappear.

After trying to read a few thousand pages on the subject carefully, I'm to the point where I'm asking myself if I've learned anything. I probably have, but I think that it's going to take a while to digest. As least as long as I've taken so far. One aspect that I found pretty interesting was their application of their methodology to Commercial Off the Shelf software systems.

I'm also trying to understand how this type of process management could be useful to small and medium sized businesses, and businesses that aren't necessarily involved in the development of software. Many of the basic concepts are, such as reviewing processes, building upon them, and getting feedback from people not directly involved in projects.

A brief introduction (pdf) to the CMMI system gives a good overview, and this statement:
Studies have shown that companies that invest 5% to 10% of their operating costs into process improvement typically experience a return on investment of 100% the first year and upwards of 400% after 3 to 5 years. These returns on investments are based on reductions in the number of defects, faster time to market, improvements in estimation capabilities and better project control resulting in fewer schedule and cost overruns.

An article about the adoption of CMMI in India also provides some insight into its perceived value.

A presentation from the SEI back in March on the application of the CMMI system to small businesses gives some of the arguments for the adoption of the system by small to medium sized businesses, which they roughly define to be between 25 and 250 employees. It appears that they are looking into the feasibility of defining more of their processes in a manner in which these smaller businesses can take advantage of this type of process management.

I don't know if CMMI can be of benefit to organizations smaller than that. But some of the underlying ideas can be.

No comments: