Ken Orr wrote ( in Cutter IT Journal Vol.3, No. 7 ):

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Level 5: Optimizing

At Level 5, organizations reach quality nirvana. Software is produced as in Level 4, but the organization is continually working to improve its processes and standards. Level 5 organizations are world-class innovators in software development.

The idea behind CMM is that through a certification process, organizations can be checked out, their current state can be identified, and management can be provided with a roadmap for improving their performance. By committing to the CMM process, organizations can start wherever they happen to be, and through a conscious statistical quality control program can begin to improve, just as the total quality management (TQM) gurus say. All it takes is commitment, training, measurement, and correction.

In a recent conversation with Council Fellow Ed Yourdon, he discussed the experiences of the Indian software company whose board of directors he sits on. This firm had embarked, as had so many Indian firms, on CMM to help in marketing to the US. Over time, however, they had become such experts in its use that they are now using it on smaller and smaller projects. Indeed, it is now part of the organizational culture.8 This organization had pushed even further by putting management practices on the Web for all of their clients to see in real time.

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The Pluses of CMM

Like many quality-based initiatives, CMM appeals to organizations and managers interested in control and certification since it gives them some objective qualification of their software development process. The process is normally that an outside CMM organization will come in to certify an organization for a specific CMM level. This is important in organizations where CIOs and others are looking for ways to add outside creditability.

CMM certification was first required, as you might expect, on DOD projects, and, over time, it has been extended to a variety of federal, state, and local agencies. Today, many large private organizations lean heavily on CMM certification as a means of screening software vendors. As previously mentioned, certain outsourcing vendors, especially the large "body shops" in India, see high-level CMM certification as both a marketing and management tool. By showing that they are independently certified, they increase their creditability and reduce client concerns about moving development out of house or out of the country.

Also, as we've mentioned, some organizations have gone a step further by exposing their management processes to their clients via the Web, allowing customers to track their CMM processes in, more or less, real time, and this trend is certain to continue.

Furthermore, there is certainly nothing wrong with being well managed. Software is not such a unique business where good management practices don't apply. In many respects, CMM represents applied common sense. On the other hand, it is important to understand where it comes from (i.e., large outsourced projects).

CMM is clearly the best-known, best-documented software management method in the world. There are tens of thousands of managers and programmers who have been trained in its use and who find CMM as easy shorthand for communicating with others. Being recognized as an industry best practice has many advantages to an organization trying to better itself.

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