Monday, April 7, 2008

Process Improvement in Small Organizations

On the final day of the 2008 SEPG Conference in Tampa this year there was a very interesting practitioner discussion by two small companies on their experiences in implementing CMMI Maturity Level 2. Their biggest challenge was funding the effort. Fortunately for them, they had three funding streams to draw on:
1. Internal funding
2. Contract funds
3. Funding from their mentor/protege partner
What was significant for these two companies was their levels of senior management commitment. The President of one of the companies was actively engaged with their efforts. He sat in the same office with the team and reviewed the documentation. He had a very hands-on approach that led to rapid implementation. This type of approach won't always work. Senior management has to have the proper attitude towards process improvement and be very supportive.

Other steps these companies took to rapidly improve were to establish a Management Steering Group (MSG) and Engineering Process Group (EPG) very early on as well as provide detailed training on a Process Area (PA) by PA basis, about every two weeks. They had discovered that the Introduction to CMMI class was a great introduction, as indicated by the course title, but the information did not sink in at first. They needed more in-depth discussions, which then led the teams to become more proficient in their PA roles. They also engaged with their mentor/protege (in other words, their CMMI consultant) early on as well who provided guidance and how to implement the model and avoid known pitfalls.

It was interesting to note that the lessons learned by these two small companies are the same lessons learned by much larger organizations and align with what we CMMI consultants and Lead Appraisers always tell our clients. But these lessons are much harder to "sell" to small companies that are seriously resource constrained.

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