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Interview and Book Excerpt: CMMI for Services

Posted by Jeevak Kasarkod on Jul 14, 2011 |

CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC)is a set of process establishment and improvement guidelines for service providers and a member constellation of the latest CMMI v1.3 model.
CMMI for Services: Guidelines for Superior Service Edition 2 is an authoritative reference belonging to the SEI series in software engineering and authored by members of the CMMI-SVC development team: Eileen C. Forrester, Brandon L. Buteau and Sandy Shrum.
InfoQ had the opportunity to speak with Eileen Forrester who is the manager of CMMI for Services and a senior researcher at SEI. 

InfoQ: A vast majority have an impression that there exists a big entry barrier for adopting CMMI. What are the smallest and typical IT organization profiles that are eligible candidates for adopting CMMI-SVC for process improvement?

Eileen Forrester: The perception of the big barrier for entry comes up when users assume they have to adopt the entire model, or a large portion of it.  Unless an organization has a business reason to achieve a maturity level rating, this isn’t necessary.  As a matter of successful change management, we routinely suggest that organizations start small.  For example, some organizations have adopted a single process area on building their service catalog and gotten good return on investment.  Others have adopted something even smaller, a single practice on request management, and increased their capacity to deliver more than 3X.  A single practice is manageable for even the smallest IT group.  Of course, some of our large, experienced CMMI users have been more aggressive with adopting more of the CMMI-SVC model content.  And we find that IT groups who don’t have prior CMMI experience but are significant users of ITIL, ISO, and COBIT can look at CMMI-SVC for gaps and add just the material that they don’t already have. We’ve seen adoption of CMMI-SVC in IT organizations of one person all the way up to many thousands.  The key issues doesn’t appear to be size, but making apt selections of what model content to choose first.

InfoQ: For IT organizations, is CMMI-DEV an important and complementary constellation for successful adoption of CMMI-SVC? Can you give more details on such a blended model?

Eileen Forrester: CMMI-DEV is not required for successful adoption of CMMI-SVC.  If an IT organization does significant development work, they can benefit from adding the engineering process areas from CMMI-DEV. We are seeing more use of CMMI-SVC in a development context than we originally expected.  A lot of modern development practice has more in common with service management than traditional waterfall engineering.  In some ways, I think of Agile as an attempt to make development more like service.  That is, you have simultaneity, coproduction of value and frequent interaction between customer and provider, and so forth.  Of course, if an IT organization has already adopted CMMI-DEV, they will have an advantage starting out, because the two CMMI models have 16 “core” process areas in common.  These have a different flavor in development and service contexts, but the goals and practices are similar.

InfoQ: How do CMMI and ITIL compare?

Eileen Forrester: We designed CMMI-SVC to be complementary and compatible with ITIL.  We are major fans of ITIL on the CMMI-SVC team.  CMMI-SVC, like CMMI-DEV, does not have material on security and financial management that ITIL does have.  (We do have a draft process area on security management out for review based on user demand for it - the basic content is also available in an essay in the book.)  ITIL does not have the considerable organizational supports and evolutionary improvement paths that CMMI is noted for including.  CMMI-SVC is also descriptive, or provides only “what” to do, while ITIL has robust material on “how” to practice in IT.  For these reasons, we think these two frameworks fit well together, and we are seeing use of them together in practice. 

InfoQ: Agile vs CMMI or AgileCMMI? In 2006, software testing commentator Matt Heuser blogged:

The problem is that by saying "Embrace Change", we are also saying "Get over your fear  of loss of control", and there are a whole lot of people in this world who don't want to. They want to be told that they can have their pie and eat it too. And they have titles like VP of Development, CIO, CEO, or CTO... This means there is a market, with money, who want to be told how they can have all this agile stuff and also have CMMI, or Architecture, or Portfolio Management, Long Range Planning, or a Crystal Ball... So we get Agile RUP and Agile CMMI and Agile Portfolio Management, Agile Issue Tracking and Resolution, Agile Systems Architecture, and get slowly pulled back into the world we were trying to escape from... The tent is too big and we've given credence to ideas and concepts that we should not have, to the point that it is very hard to tell "good Agile" from a bunch of consultants that can't ship software but know the right buzzwords.

How do you respond to both the process and people issue referred to here?

Eileen Forrester: I think that Agile and CMMI have a shared heritage and can be used together effectively.  We increased the supports for Agile use of CMMI practices in all three of our CMMI models in our latest version (V1.3) to acknowledge this reality.  In response to a question about CMMI and Agile after a keynote speech at an SEPG Conference, Alistair Cockburn said that he didn’t see how an organization could do effective Agile development without being a de facto maturity level three organization.  Just as we can have “bad” Agile implementations, poor implementations and understanding of CMMI can lead to mistaken impressions. Agility and discipline are not inimical.  I think that services are already likely to be more agile by their nature.  And certainly, many of them have constant interaction with users built in; we include an essay on services and Agile in the book.

InfoQ along with Pearson Education has made available the essay on Agile Services from the book: "Are Services Agile?".

InfoQ: What is the future roadmap for CMMI-SVC?

Eileen Forrester: We are working on adaptations and interpretations for specific disciplines such as education, health care, insurance, and finance.  People who are transitioning from CMMI-DEV to CMMI-SVC want guidance in how to do that effectively, and my team is working on that guidance.  Plenty of organizations do both service and development and also want to use both CMMI-SVC and CMMI-DEV, rather than switch, so we are also working on profiles for those organizations.  Our first training course is far more learner-centered and interactive than standard IT training, and we will continue to add additional training and take full advantage of online training.  I have a working group on using frameworks such as ITIL, ISO, and CMMI-SVC together, and will start another on CMMI-SVC and education in the fall.  Finally, we are considering whether we should build some joint six sigma and CMMI-SVC training or other material.  I’d love to hear from your readers on what interests them.

To exemplify process improvement with CMMI-Services we are sharing a case study from the book: An IT Services Scenario Applying CMMI for Services: The Story of How Herus Improved its IT Services.

About the Book Author

Eileen Forrester is a senior member of the technical staff in the Software Engineering Process Management program at the SEI. She was the co-chair of the International Process Research Consortium and is the SEI leader for the CMMI for Services. Forrester is the developer of TransPlant, a transition-planning process, the editor of the IPRC Process Research Framework, and the lead author of CMMI for Services, Guidelines for Superior Service. Her current research area is in process-oriented approaches to service delivery, technology change, risk management, and emergent system types. These approaches include GAIT, the CMMI for Services, OCTAVE, MDA, and multi-model improvement approaches.
She has more than 30 years of experience in technology transition, strategic planning, process improvement, communication planning, and managing product, service, and non-profit organizations.  

This excerpt is from the book, "CMMI for Services: Guidelines for Superior Service", 2nd Ed. by Eileen Forrester, Brandon Buteau and Sandy Shrum, published by Pearson/Addison-Wesley Professional, March 2011, ISBN 0321711521, Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. For more info please visit this link.

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