The SEI Assessment Model

The Software Engineering Institute comprehensive assessment model is predicated on a set of software engineering capabilities that should be present as organizations reach different levels of process maturity. To determine the current state of process maturity of an organization, the SEI uses an assessment questionnaire and a five-point grading scheme. The grading scheme provides a measure of the global effectiveness of the software engineering practices of a company and establishes five process maturity levels:

■ Level 1: Initial — The software process is characterized as ad hoc. Few processes are defined, and success depends on individual effort.

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

■ Level 3: Defined — The software process for both management and engineering activities is documented, standardized, and integrated into an organizationwide software process. This level includes all characteristics defined for level 2.

■ Level 4: Managed — Detailed measures of the software process and product quality are collected so that both the software process and products are quantitatively controlled. This level includes all characteristics defined for level 3.

■ Level 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.

To achieve specific levels of process maturity, selected questions from the SEI questionnaire must be answered positively. The SEI has associated key process areas (KPAs) with each of the maturity levels. KPAs describe those software engineering functions that must be present to constitute good practice at a particular level. Across the maturity model 18 KPAs are defined and are mapped into different levels of process maturity. Assessment questions are designed to probe for the existence (or lack) of key practices that reveal whether the goals of a KPA have been achieved.

The SEI approach represents a significant achievement in process assessment, but it has some drawbacks. Although detailed analysis of the assessment questionnaire can lead to an assessment of the efficacy of key process areas and related key practices, the maturity level alone tells little about individual KPAs. The process maturity level is computed in a way that causes a low grade if specific questions are answered negatively, even if other questions that represent reasonable sophistication are answered with a yes. The SEI questionnaire is sometimes criticized for underemphasizing the importance of technology and overemphasizing the importance of policies and standards. Consultants who are accredited assessors are usually needed to provide the additional detail and insight that is missing with the SEI questionnaire alone.

The assessment model proposed by the SEI represents the most comprehensive look in the mirror for the industry. It requires broad-based organizational commitment, an assessment budget in the thousands of dollars, and the presence of accredited assessors to do the work.

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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