What is the CMMI

IT strategy

The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) defined by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University is becoming increasingly important in Europe. After all, it is an effective instrument that helps improve the effectiveness and efficiency of development organizations. In addition, an organization that can officially prove its CMMI ability - by means of an "appraisal" - receives, as it were, an industry-recognized maturity certificate. The revised version 1.2 was recently published. It further expands the quality of the model and its possible uses.

It is not as if the development organizations do not know what to do. Rather, the difficulty lies in consistently applying best practices that everyone takes for granted in everyday work. CMMI addresses this problem on two levels. On the one hand, it provides a systematically prepared collection of tried and tested technical practices ("best practices") that characterize an effective and efficient development organization. On the other hand, it describes the steps that an organization must take if it wants to implement these best practices, i.e. to establish the corresponding working methods.

What is it about

In contrast to a concrete process description (method, procedure model), CMMI only defines the requirements for good product development, i.e. the "what", but no concrete steps and structures, i.e. the "how". The organization of the development process is a matter for the organization itself. It is an important part of the internal process improvement task. In this way, CMMI gives the organization a great deal of freedom. It is neither restricted to a certain structure and / or organizational size, nor is there "the one" correct implementation.

The benefits of CMMI have been proven in many studies. As can be read in the relevant literature (see box "Links and Literature"), the ratio between investment and benefit is around one to four. To achieve this, however, it is necessary to use the CMMI tool in a targeted and conscious manner. Its job is to support process improvement. With its best practices, you can

  • Objectively analyze the strengths and weaknesses of an organization,

  • Determine improvement measures and

  • Put the improvement measures in a meaningful order.

CMMI offers the common thread for successful process improvement, and it supports the entire change management. In this respect, it is by no means just a tool for a small improvement team, but a management tool for the entire development organization.

Where the strengths lie

One of the strengths of CMMI is its specialization in product development. As a result, it can go into certain aspects much more precisely and deeply than generalist models such as ISO 9000. For each suggested practice, CMMI provides one or two pages of bullet points and descriptions that can serve as clues for improvement.

Compared to other specialized process models for development organizations, CMMI has the advantage that it brings together different views of the organization. It addresses project management, development, organizational support, process improvement and management tasks in a common model, while the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) of the Project Management Institute (PMI), for example, is limited to project management.

Suggested order of improvement

1. Initial

2. Managed

  • Requirements management

  • Project planning

  • Project tracking and control

  • Supply management

  • Measurement and analysis

  • Process and product quality assurance

  • Configuration management

3. Defined

  • Requirements development

  • Technical implementation

  • Product integration

  • verification

  • Validation

  • Organization-wide process alignment

  • Organization-wide process development

  • Organization-wide training and further education.

4. Quantitatively managed

  • Quantitative project management

  • Process capability management

5. Optizing

  • Innovation management

  • Root cause analysis and problem avoidance

The third plus point for CMMI is its modular structure. It enables a combination of different development disciplines in one model. This is where CMMI differs from "Spice", for example, which focuses on software development. CMMI forms a uniform model for software, system and hardware development. The respective user can select the modules that are relevant for him. This is all the more important as in practice (as in the automotive industry, electronics or automation) there are often interdisciplinary projects.

In addition, CMMI attaches great importance to the lived working methods. The degree of maturity and thus the naturalness of working methods is called "institutionalization" in organizational development. Institutionalized working methods are those that are taken for granted and are part of daily work. They also and especially endure in times of stress. Therefore, CMMI also defines practices that deal with the institutionalization or establishment of working methods. They should help to introduce new ways of working, to transform them into daily practice and to work continuously on their improvement.

Content and structure

The practices are thematically assigned to specific process areas (for example "project planning"). A process area is initially defined by the goals that are to be achieved. With regard to project planning, for example, there are three goals: "estimate", "plan" and "commit to the plan". Good practices are listed for each of these objectives. With regard to the estimation, four practices can be named: "Determine the scope of the project", "Estimate the influencing factors of the work packages", "Define the life cycle" and "Determine the effort on the basis of the influencing factors".

For each practice there is additional information that represents the first starting points for improvement measures. In addition to an explanatory text, CMMI also names typical work results and steps. In addition, for each process area there is a brief description of the purpose, general information and a list of other process areas that are related to the first.

The six skill levels

The practices that are intended to establish and institutionalize working methods are similarly documented in CMMI as those in which the technical work is described. The only difference is that these are typical management tasks. These practices are broken down into six stages. In technical jargon they are called "Capability Levels", in German: Ability levels, whereby the lowest actually denotes the "Inability" and therefore bears the ordinal number 0. With their help, the CMMI describes the degree of institutionalization or establishment of an individual process area. In detail, these levels are:

  • "0. Incomplete": The technical practices are not fully implemented.

  • "1. Performed": The professional practices are all implemented.

  • "2. Managed": The work of the process area (the implementation of technical practices) takes place under leadership.

  • "3. Defined": The work of the process area is managed and improved on the basis of an adapted standard process.

  • "4. Quantitatively Managed": The work of the process area is managed with the help of statistical process control.

  • "5. Optimizing": The work of the process area is improved with the help of the data from the statistical process control.

The five levels of maturity

In addition to the skill levels, CMMI offers a further rating scale. The "Maturity Levels" or "Maturity Levels" are probably the best-known elements of the CMMI. This sorts the process areas into five levels, each of which represents one of the typical development plateaus in an organization. This representation helps the organizations to improve their development process by suggesting a proven sequence and prioritization of the process areas for the improvement. Each stage has a defined set of process areas with a certain degree of maturity. The names of the five degrees of maturity are based on those of the degrees of maturity. They are as follows:

  1. Initial: the initial stage at which all process areas have gaps and the projects show high fluctuations in terms of estimation accuracy, adherence to deadlines and quality;

  2. Managed: the level at which the projects are managed and controlled, i.e. the organization has estimates, adherence to deadlines and quality under control and can successfully repeat a similar project without a standardized procedure already in place;

  3. Defined: the stage at which the projects follow an adaptable standard process and where continuous process improvement has already been established;

  4. Quantitatively Managed: the level at which the processes are managed with the help of statistical process control;

  5. Optimizing: the highest level at which the continuous process improvement is controlled by data from the statistical process control.

Levels 4 and 5 therefore include quantitative process control, which is also a core element of "Six Sigma".

However, systematic quantitative process control is only effective if certain requirements are met. This includes leadership and project management (see level 2) as well as uniform elements of the working methods with which measurement results can be compared (level 3); this cannot simply be assumed, especially in the projects, which are by definition unique (see also: "Allianz Cornhill reaches CMMI level 3").

Whether for IT operations, project and program management, software development or IT governance - best practices in the form of methods and frameworks save IT from constantly reinventing the wheel. The computer week presents some of the most widespread methods in loose succession. A "small start-up aid" for the IT Infrastructure Library (Itil) is already available.

The four subject areas

In addition to the classification of the process areas into the five levels of maturity, there is also a thematic sorting. It comprises four categories:


  • Mary Beth Chrissis, Mike Konrad, Sandy Shrum: CMMI Second Edition - Guidelines for Process Integration and Product Improvement, Addison-Wesley, 2006;

  • CMMI Product Team: CMMI for Development, Version 1.2, Software Engineering Institute, Pittsburgh, 2006, (download from the SEI site);

  • Diane L. Gibson, Dennis R. Goldenson, Keith Kost: Performance Results of CMMI-Based Process Improvement, Software Engineering Institute, Pittsburgh, 2006, (Download).

  • Project management,

  • Engineering,

  • Support and

  • Process management.

These categories enable a content-related view of the CMMI. The interaction of the process areas within a category is also explained in the CMMI.

Official training facilitates access to the CMMI. Getting started through self-study is made more difficult by the fact that the CMMI is a reference work and not a reader and that the model uses a systematic language that can easily lead to misunderstandings. When choosing a training course, one of the things to look out for is the "SEI partner" logo.

  • The CMMI version 1.2 has a simplified structure. From now on there are no longer different books, but only one CMMI book. In addition, concepts that are rarely used and perceived as complex (for example "Advanced Practices" and "Common Features") have been deleted.

  • The content of the model was revised: In particular, the process improvement, the creation of adequate working environments and the supply management received additions. In addition, the CMMI practices have become leaner and better integrated to support effective teamwork.

  • The range of applications expanded from software and system development to hardware development. That is why version 1.2 is now also running under the title: "CMMI for Development". Further fields of application as well as an integration of CMMI and Itil will be added.

  • Official CMMI appraisals (Scampi-A-Appraisals) are now only valid for three years. This also applies to all previously acquired Scampi-A-Appraisals (with a short grace period).

  • The old CMMI version 1.1 can still be used for appraisals until August 31 of this year. Anyone seeking an appraisal according to the new version must have an authorized CMMI 1.2 training. For this he needs either an upgrade training or a basic training according to "CMMI V1.2".

  • An appraisal with maturity level 4 or 5 can only be arranged by an authorized "High Maturity Lead Appraiser" who has undergone special certification.

  • For every Scampi appraisal, the results document, which summarizes the most important data, will be published on the SEI website with immediate effect. This means that key data are available with which the informative value of an appraisal result can be assessed.

  • The CMMI training courses authorized by the SEI have only included CMMI version 1.2 since the beginning of the current year.

A certification, that is, an "appraisal" according to the "Scampi" procedure, has both an external and internal effect on the respective organization. Firstly, it means that the organization's CMMI capability is officially recognized. On the other hand, it helps to commit the entire organization to the common goal of process improvement. The new CMMI version 1.2 brings noticeable improvements not only to the CMMI model, but also to the Scampi process (see box "CMMI 1.2 - what's new?"). (qua)