A Roadmap To CMMI Appraisal
This post was originally published on www.forbes.com
I’ve been lucky enough to start a company with people who value long-term commitment and have developed good communication between departments. People understand each other quickly. The company runs like a fine-tuned Swiss clock.
When you’re working with the same team for five-plus years, you know their strengths and weaknesses. You know how they take their coffee and whether a Slack message, an email or a quick chat next to the water cooler is the best way to share vital information with them. Good communication creates trust. Trust helps you maintain a flat company structure.
However, flat company structures don’t scale, and you can’t prove your friendliness to clients. Clients want to see organization, detailed plans, thorough documentation, security and reliability at every step of the way. Saying, “Look at all these friendly faces,” won’t win you a sales contract.
A Humble Web Development Startup
I co-founded QArea in 2000. Our initial clients were companies looking for freelancers and startups that needed to develop websites right when the dot-com bubble was bursting in the West but growing in Ukraine. Our work processes were haphazard. We would seldom know where our next client would come from, what they would want from us, and whether or not we would be able to deliver. We always did, but our process was very much reactive.
No Longer Crawling, But Also Not Sprinting
QArea’s first noticeable growth spurt happened when team leaders and project managers had clearly defined responsibilities and areas of expertise. We had collectively agreed on a method of collecting and tracking project requirements, began using a better task tracking solution, and were able to consistently deliver on promises made to clients. We spent a lot of time and effort on helping new employees understand our processes, and we knew how to react when something didn’t go according to plan.
Sprints And Marathons
The next stretch of rapid growth saw our team expand from 50 employees to over 200. Countless hours were spent onboarding new developers and QA engineers, and we began to improve the process by creating thorough documentation of key processes in our workflow. It was related largely to the basics, but it sparked an immediate improvement in our onboarding process and decreased the burden on managers.
At some point in the past year, we noticed that much of our approach was overlapping with the requirements of CMMI appraisals. Furthermore, we were interested in CMMI appraisal because its main advantage over certifications like ISO was that it was flexible and goal-oriented.
At this point, all processes within the company are defined, documented, understood and utilized by the team. New projects can be started, handled and completed based on clearly defined instructions, and key figures at the company can shift their focus to improving processes rather than managing them.
CMMI appraisal brings us back full circle. It helps us maintain a team on a personal level, but it no longer takes several years of working together to accomplish this level of clarity and trust. At the third level of maturity, these processes (and many more) are defined for everyone within our company.
Practical Appraisal Tips
Here is a list of practical tips you can apply in your team and/or company to build a road map to CMMI appraisal.
• Improve Communication: This might not necessarily be a defined prerequisite for CMMI appraisal, but it’s a requirement for any team that has its eyes set on growth, scaling and flexibility. Even a small improvement in communication can go a long way in improving the workflow of your team. And, if all else fails, good communication will help make your team a problem-solving machine.
• Start Documenting Now: If you take the Pareto Principle and apply it to CMMI appraisal, then having good documentation of internal processes is the 20% of effort you need to get you 80% of the way there. The key here is to not wait for your internal processes to be picture perfect before you start documenting your workflows.
Moving on, if you apply the Pareto Principle to documentation, then forming a “document everything” habit is the 20% of work that will give you 80% of the documentation you need for appraisal.
Also, when I say “document everything,” I mean it. Document how often you interact with your team and the communication channels you use. Document the procedure of collecting requirements from your clients. Document your development processes, your testing processes, your estimation processes and your risk assessment processes. You can even go meta and document the process of creating documentation.
It may seem tedious, but the ROI on good documentation is astounding. You might spend an hour documenting your onboarding process, but you will save several hours with every new employee who joins your growing team.
• Reach Out for Help: The CMMI Institute website will help you find certified associates and professionals who can consult with your team, provide a detailed road map to reaching your desired appraisal level and correct your course if you’ve already begun training your employees and managers.
• Do Your Research: There are three kinds of CMMI models. CMMI-Dev for processes in product and service development; CMMI-ACQ for supply chain management, acquisition and outsourcing; and CMMI-SVC for delivering services within an organization and to external customers. While there is a lot of overlap in the steps required to complete your CMMI appraisal, consider which model fits your business needs most.
Not every business needs to go through the appraisal process. It can be complicated and time-consuming. Regardless of your decision to go through with it or not, it’s critical to always document your processes and work on communication.