Businesses are finding that strong processes are critical to their efforts to improve organizational flexibility. This chapter was developed to provide insight into how process improvements can help IS organizations face the challenges of a growing application portfolio, new technology shifts, and an increasingly fast-paced business environment.

The CMM is an excellent vehicle for assessing the quality of existing processes and determining the steps needed to improve those processes. Organizations can use the model to identify deficiencies, adopt practices, and meet specific goals through evolutionary steps. The CMM does not require any specific software technology, organizational structure, life-cycle model, or set of documents. In addition, unlike other mechanisms for establishing processes, the CMM can be used to create an organization where processes are not only defined, but practiced, shared, and continuously improved.

Moving up the CMM is not without its challenges, especially for lower-level organizations. Once processes are redesigned, it is much more critical, and difficult, to get the practices adopted throughout the organization. Under continued pressures and project deadlines, IS professionals do not have the time to familiarize themselves with newly defined procedures. As a result, the adoption of new practices is slow and, in some cases, impossible. Because it can take years to overcome such barriers and progress from one level of the maturity model to the next, organizations are forming outsourcing agreements with vendors that are willing to transfer their processes.

Outsourcing is a valuable tool for IS organizations seeking to accelerate their move up the CMM. The following section details some of the services a major software services firm provides to assist clients with their process improvement objectives.

Understanding Outsourcing

Understanding Outsourcing

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