There are two methodologies that organizations are using to declare their commitment to quality. These methodologies are ISO 9000 and SEI CMM. While these methodologies may not be thought of as tools, they each possess the characteristics of tools. That is, they are used to construct, maintain, and refine the essential elements of quality for products produced in an environment. Both the ISO 9000 Standards and the SEI CMM provide separate and distinct sets of guidelines for attaining and measuring quality. As such, each of them in their own way has caused the redefinition of quality.

No longer is quality considered an illusive term in the software community, promised by many, delivered by few. Quality is no longer just about testing software. Both the ISO 9000 Standards and the SEI CMM set forth guidelines that force the establishment of processes and procedures that extend well beyond testing and even beyond the MIS, IT, IS, and data processing organizations.

Each of these sets of guidelines, while developed independently of each other, is designed to resolve specific problems for the developers and customers. Both sets of guidelines are based on the premise that if an organization has good business procedures that can be reviewed, assessed, and graded, then the organization can be determined to produce quality products. The question it raises is: Do process and procedures, even when adhered to, really ensure quality? The answer is, unrefutably, no.

Managing quality goes beyond the institutionalization of processes. While a good quality management program will have defined and repeatable processes, what must really be defined are the quality goals as they pertain to a company's specific business. That means that before quality processes are defined, the company will have performed the analysis necessary to determine what the characteristics and attributes of quality are for their products, their customers, and their environment.

The success of the quality program will lie in the clear definition of productivity and quality goals, a solid explanation of the value in achieving the goals, and both formal and informal communication about all the aspects of the goals. The approach for any quality program must be commitment, consistency, and willingness to continuously improve.

To really have an active and successful quality management program, the culture of the company must be aware of the investment that will be required and the benefits of the program to them. This is accomplished by defining and measuring quality in products and people as well as processes. All of this has to be done considering the environment in which the company operates and the nature of the competition. The inherent danger in using ISO Standards and the CMM lies in producing the procedures and the paperwork that allow certification or rating to be granted without providing the education and integrating the processes into the corporate culture to ensure real quality.

Unfortunately, as consumers demand more proof of quality, organizations feel pressure to achieve the ISO 9000 certification or SEI CMM rating in order to make the company look good. More and more organizations are trying to determine how to make either or both of these quality management structures work for them. Questions are being raised, such as: What CMM level does one need to achieve in order to become ISO certified? Why does one have to choose between them?

There are even people dedicated to drawing the parallels between these two sets of guidelines. There are, however, some inherent dangers in traveling down that path. The danger is not because the two sets of guidelines are incompatible. Quite the contrary; there are parallel points between them. The problem is that they are two separate and distinct things. One is a standard that requires compliance and provides for certified proof of quality. The other is a model that can be evaluated and validated to show capability to produce quality.

Thus, it may be assumed to be correct to use CMM to achieve ISO 9000 certification! Wrong! It is not that this is an impossible task, but there are two problems that surface when this approach is attempted. First, both the ISO Standards and the CMM have unique and distinct vocabularies that are used in the program and the certification/evaluation processes. Second, the certification/evaluation processes are conducted differently. Thus, when on the CMM train, one does not automatically end up at the ISO 9000 station.

Since the costs associated with implementing either of these methodologies can be formidable, it is important to understand both methodologies and to determine, in advance, which structure best fits the needs of the organization. Then, one can build or improve on the internal quality management program from there.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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