Friday, June 28, 2002

Capability Maturity. Most books on the CMM assume that you're headed for Level 5 and then proceed to write a confusing and overwhelming guide for getting there from ground zero. Implementing the Capability Maturity Model is different.

The author of this excellent book give a realistic roadmap to achieving CMM levels 2 and 3, which are major hurdles in capability maturity, especially level 2 from a culture-shock point of view.

What makes this book realistic is the way you're lead through the important steps, with a complete focus on what it takes instead of theory. The book starts off with an obligatory overview of the CMM, but quickly segues into the steps needed to attain level 2 (repeatable), which are creating the structures, processes, training program and policies. While each of these are important, I especially like the inclusion of policies because they are necessary to codify goals and are frequently overlooked. This section also includes subcontractor management, which is important for aligning those with whom you are using on projects with your own organizational capabilities. This makes sense because if your organization is repeatable and your subcontractor(s) aren't, then you either need to go shopping for more compatible subcontractors, or get dragged back into ad hoc approaches.

The same approach to graduating to level 3 is used, with slight changes. In the section that covers level 3 the first topic is about focusing on organizational process improvement, followed by an in-depth chapter on defining organization processes. These reflect the key changes between level 2's repeatable goals and level 3's focus on defined processes. After these are clearly and completely explained the same formula - structures, processes, training program and policies - is addressed for level 3.

Following the steps to get to levels 2 and 3, the next section is centered on implementation and assessment. This section prepares you for the assessment process itself, and offers excellent advice on how to get through it. Additional information of value is provided in appendices B (Annotated Level 2 Preassessment Questionnaire) and C (Samples of Level 2 Policies), both of which are provided in PDF format from the book's associated web site.

One key question that needs to be answered: Which is better, this book or CMM Implementation Guide: Choreographing Software Process Improvement by Kim Caputo? My opinion is that both books are equally important and both should be read because they cover two different aspects of attaining CMM levels 2 and above. This book concerns itself with the nuts and bolts of processes, where Caputo's book is more focused on organizational change. I recommend both books, and think that they nicely complement each other.

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