Subtitle:  The CMMI Is Still Among Us – How To Cope

(This is an update to a presentation given at STC 2003 entitled “The Agile Non-Debate.”)

Agile methods have spread worldwide, and have helped bring tremendous improvements in system development.  And yet, they are not 100% successful.  When I entered into discussions about using agile, IEEE, CMMI, ISO, and other standards, a common position was that CMMI et al suck innately, while agile efforts failed because people were “doing it wrong.”  This polarizing position was a distraction. 

Now, such polarization can be damaging.   Despite Agile’s increasing toehold in the public sector, the CMMI is far from dead; organizations are letting contracts based on agile requirements with one hand, and others based on CMMI and other certification-based models with the other hand.  Treating the two as mutually exclusive is just too hard, and its unnecessary.  Worse, it clouds the reality of how the two approaches actually differ and how they can be harmonized.  While a SCAMPI-like appraisal method for Agile has not gained wide traction, such a monster could arise, and understanding Agile CMMI interpretations could help organizations survive such a monster, and perhaps help Industry nip it in the egg.

In this session we will discuss briefly how the CMMI world got to be such as mess, how Agile has helped cut through a lot of that, and how to prevent some of the same ills from infecting the Agile world.  The core of this discussion, however, will be about juggling agile performance and CMMI compliance simultaneously.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

Design Note: The author believes that presenting text-heavy slides while talking creates information overload. If done after lunch, it is fatal. The following text will be embodied on mostly graphic/photographic slides containing a minimum of text. To support post-conference study, the outline contents will be placed in the notes section of each slide.


1. Hit from both directions: living with organizational maturity and agile execution

a. Poll the room: what methods/models have been used by those in attendance at this session today? Why did they succeed? Why did they fail?
b. The agile non-debate

i. Early blogs and flaming
ii. Resolution

1. Schwaber and Paulk
2. Project Management with Scrum, Appendix E
3. Highsmith at SEPG 2002

c. Bad (and common) implementation of the CMMI

i. Interpreted to justify existing bad habits
ii. Ignoring engineering until Level 3
iii. Death by Document

d. Agile as the antidote to bad CMMI
e. Bad Agile – and how it resembles bad CMMI

2. The SCAMPI monster [covered by one slide]

a. Software Process Assessments (SPA) - all observation, all about risks
b. Software Capability Evaluation (SCE) acquisition – the egg is laid

i. “Yesterday’s weather” approach despite acceleration and Moore’s Law (reinforced by studies vulnerable to selection bias)
ii. No maturity levels – until Version 3
iii. Shift from acquirer picking up the tab


1. the monster hatches
2. Conflict of interest (which the Banking Industry had corrected by law in 2008). Lean writers (such as Poppendeick) believe we are over-obsessed with conflict of interest, but this is a real case of it.

iv. Old documentation habits – deforestation replaces observation

c. CMMI Based Appraisal for Process Improvement (CBA-IPI)

i. Maturity level award – the monster arises
ii. Shorter time frames due to cost

d. SCAMPI –the monster mutates

i. SCE + CBA-IPI
ii. without PI, just a SCAM

3. How tame the beast and live with the two – aquirers and vendors [“Value” slide]

a. Agile Principle 7 – valuable software (and systems) as the only true measure

i. Killing literalism
ii. Avoiding methodology wars
iii. The difference between PROCESS and “process”

b. Focus of “value add” of each agile practice
c. Understand how “yesterday’s weather” applies

i. organizational shifts
ii. staffing shifts
iii. low bench tolerance

d. Use CMMI as originally intended – is a diagnostic tool rather than a prescriptive guide [Table slide}

i. Do the five engineering process areas (knowledge of XP can help here)

1. Most people (including a lot of Lead Appraisers) don’t understand why they are at Level 3
2. Tackling the ML2 Process Areas without Engineering at CL 1 is a waste

ii. Read Appendix E of the first edition of Schwaber’s “Agile Project Management With Scrum” to see the potential crossover

1. [Table will be elaborated here showing how various agile and lean practice satisfy the intent of the CMMI]

iii. Interpret all CMMI practices at the practice level in an Agile manner [graphic representing full content of CMMI, relative remaining bulk when informative material is removed]

1. Subpractices DON’T COUNT!
2. All “informative material” could be addressed with Agile methods
3. CMMI says to have a life cycle – it does not say which one and does not prohibit agile

e. Survive appraisals if you must

i. Vendors:

1. Make sure your Lead Appraiser truly understands agile. Seriously. You are dead without this.
2. Insist that observation trumps documents in the appraisal plan.
3. Be highly prepared to demonstrate how agile methods meet the intent of the model

ii. Acquirers

1. start sponsoring the appraisals as you should
2. stop asking for maturity ratings, ask for appraisal reports with observations and opinions
3. learn how appraisals are gamed, and don’t support situations that cause it
4. strip away the mythology surrounding the CMMI
5. insist that appraisers give a report on strengths and weaknesses; don’t even ask for a maturity level

f. Living with Outliers

i. Be (agile)(CMMI) but use OUR SDLC
ii. Do (agile)(CMMI) – but only the parts we well you

4. Conclusion – it can be done by starving the “maturity monster,” appropriately abstracting CMMI ideas and applying concrete Agile methods, and by letting primary performance drivers prevail.

Learning Outcome

  • Attendees will gain an understanding of why the CMMI is just a diagnostic tool, and doesn’t mandate most of the stupidity we’ve seen in its implementation.
  • Attendees will understand how they may use their Agile skills to simultaneously comply with CMMI requirements.
    • Acquisition attendees will hear how appraisals based on CMMI maturity have backfired – and how to prevent emerging Agile assessments from backfiring just as badly.

Target Audience

People acquiring system/software development services; People whose organization has a mix of work subject to CMMI and Agile requirements

schedule Submitted 2 years ago

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  • George Dinwiddie
    By George Dinwiddie  ~  2 years ago
    reply Reply

    The proposals http://confengine.com/agiledc-2015/proposal/1515/the-king-is-dead-long-liveim-not-dead-yet and http://confengine.com/agiledc-2015/proposal/1543/the-king-is-dead-long-live-im-not-dead-yet seem to be duplicates. Please pick which one you want reviewed and delete the other.


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