The development of the Software Capability Maturity Model (CMM) was undertaken at Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute (SEI) beginning in 1986 under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Defense. Work on the CMM continues today; it is a living document that espouses the principles of continuous process improvement for users and applies them in maintaining the model. The goal in undertaking the development of this model was to help organizations improve their software development process.

The CMM was initially created as a tool that could be used by the Department of Defense to evaluate and measure the quality of contractors bidding to develop complex software-based systems for them. The CMM carries with it an evaluation process that defines the corporate qualification boundaries in the following five prescribed levels of software process maturity:

1. Initial. The software process is characterized as ad hoc and occasionally even chaotic.

2. Repeatable. Basic project management processes are established to track cost, schedule, and functional capabilities. The necessary process discipline is in place to repeat earlier successes on projects with similar applications.

3. Defined. The software process for both management and engineering activities is documented, standardized, and integrated into a corporatewide software process. All projects use a documented and approved version of the organization's process for developing and maintaining software. This level includes all characteristics defined for level 2.

4. Managed. Detailed measures of the software process and product quality are collected. Both the software process and products are quantitatively understood and controlled using detailed measures. This level includes all characteristics defined for level 3.

5. Optimizing. Continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback from the process and from testing innovative ideas and technologies. This level includes all characteristics defined for level 4.

These levels provide guidance for measuring the degree of quality of processes used within an organization for software development efforts. The entire premise of SEI CMM is directed under the principles of total quality management and continuous process improvement. As such, the model itself and related evaluation activities are under constant improvement status at the SEI.

Organizations demonstrate that they meet the goals for each level by producing evidence of work processes performed within key process areas (KPAs) of the individual projects and within the company. KPAs can be thought of as functional areas or offices, such as quality assurance, configuration management, or the office of system design and development. It is within the KPAs that specific guidelines, in the form of questions, are provided. When questions within each KPA at a given level can be answered in the positive, the answers validated with some form of physical output, and the personnel who produced the output can explain how the output is produced, how it is used, and what happens to it after it is produced, ratings are awarded.

The formal CMM evaluation process is conducted by auditors from outside the organization who want confirmed levels of capability in order to conduct business with the federal government. The audits are performed by people trained in assessing software development efforts that are based on the criteria spelled out in the model. Specific pieces of information, referred to as evidence, are validated for all functional areas of a project. The assessment training is provided by the SEI, which is associated with Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Representatives from the SEI are actively promoting the concepts and methods presented in the CMM, both nationally and internationally. What was originally developed as a tool for the Department of Defense is now being used by other federal government agencies and is beginning to reach into the commercial marketplace as well.

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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