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Jeff Sutherland Recommends Combining Scrum with CMMI Level 5

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Nov 15, 2006 |
A paper to be presented at the European Systems and Software Engineering Process Group Conference (EUROPEAN SEPG) in June 2007 has occasioned some discussion in Scrum circles.  Its title is Scrum and CMMI Level 5: The Magic Potion for Code Warriors.  Targeted at experienced practitioners, this paper has three authors, including Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum.  On his blog, Sutherland makes the case for combining CMMI with Scrum - noting that while many companies have no need to go to CMMI Level 5, some others may find the combination sufficiently valuable to warrant the effort.

Why implement Scrum within a CMMI organization?  The article talks about Systematic Software Engineering in Germany, which builds mission critical systems for the healthcare and defense domains.  To do so, they need to win large contracts in the U.S. and Scandinavia that require CMMI Level 5.  Whereas CMMI is mandatory for them, the addition of Scrum has been their own choice.  One reason, among several cited, is that:
"[CMMI] eliminated 80% of rework (which includes bugs).  Scrum then cut the remaining rework in half so now they have eliminated 90% of rework. The average Scrum only eliminates 40% of rework without CMMI."
In this case, the benefit of adding Scrum to CMMI seems clear.

However: use of Scrum alone, when well implemented, already brings an organization's process up to CMMI level 3.  For such groups, when CMMI is not mandatory, how significant is the benefit of additionally achieving CMMI level 5?  Not all Scrum implementations are equal: CMMI may offer more to some teams than others.  Sutherland notes that:
A lot of companies are going through the motions [of doing Scrum] while dysfunctional management is so bad they can't really implement Scrum.  CMMI Level 5 will require managers to remove impediments or lose CMMI Level 5 certification. ... High maturity means that management aggressively eliminates impediments surfaced by the teams.
Teams and "product owners" who have been limping along, hobbled by serious and unresolved organizational impediments, would welcome this effect.  Of course, it's not necessary to adhere to CMMI to achieve this... but where management does not step up on their own, CMMI seems to offer a framework that solicits management's active involvement.

Is this improvement worth the cost and effort required to achieve CMMI level 5?  Sutherland notes that there should be a significant difference in cost to implement CMMI level 5 in different organizations, depending on the methodology they use:
The bottom line is that most companies will never find an ROI that justifies going to CMMI Level 5 with a waterfall methodology. The cost is just too high and the benefits too remote. With Scrum, the cost is dramatically reduced, and the speed of implementation could be radically accelerated. The ROI could suddenly look pretty good for a lot of companies.

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French translation by Fabrice AIMETTI

Please find the french translation of the Jeff Sutherland's excellent article on : Scrum et CMMI Niveau 5 La Potion Magique pour les Guerriers du Code.
Regards, Fabrice.

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