Friday, May 2, 2008

Query on ML 3 and ML 4

What is the significance of Maturity Level 3 and Maturity Level 4? And can you explain to me what is Integrated Project Management?

What broad questions! These questions really need a long in depth answer and are addressed very well in the Introduction to CMMI class. So first off I would suggest that you find an opportunity to take this class. Please visit for more information about the class.

To briefly answer these two questions, the answer needs to address ML 2 as well. So I will start with some definitions from the CMMI book.
Process Area (PA) – a cluster of related practices in an area that, when implemented collectively, satisfy a set of goals considered important for making improvement in that area.
Maturity Level (ML) – degree of process improvement across a predefined set of process areas in which all goals in the set are attained. An ML is a defined evolutionary plateau for organization process improvement. Each ML matures an important subset of the organization’s processes, preparing it to move to the next ML.
Maturity Level 1: Initial – processes are usually ad hoc and chaotic. The organization usually does not provide a stable environment to support the process. Success in these organizations depends on the competence and heroics of the people in the organization and not on the use of proven processes.
Maturity Level 2: Managed – projects of the organization have ensured that processes are planned and executed in accordance with policy; the projects employ skilled people who have adequate resources to produce controlled outputs; involve relevant stakeholders; are monitored, controlled, and reviewed; and are evaluated for adherence to their process descriptions, The process discipline reflected by ML 2 helps to ensure that existing practices are retained during times of stress. When these practices are in place, projects are performed and managed according to their documented plans.
Maturity Level 3: Defined – processes are well characterized and understood, and are described in standards, procedures, tools, and methods. The organization’s set of standard processes, which is the basis for ML 3, is established and improved over time. These standard processes are used to establish consistency across the organization. Projects establish their defined process by tailoring the organization’s set of standard processes according to tailoring guidelines.
Maturity Level 4: Quantitatively Managed – the organization and projects establish quantitative objectives for quality and process performance and use them as criteria in managing processes. Quantitative objectives are based on the needs of the customer, end users, organization, and process implementers. Quality and process performance is understood in statistical terms and is managed throughout the life of the processes.
Maturity Level 5: Optimizing – an organization continually improves its processes based on a quantitative understanding of the common causes of variation inherent in processes.

Given these definitions and explanations, one of the fundamental differences between ML 3 and ML 4 is that at ML 3 the organization is learning how to use a standard set of processes, tailoring them to the individual project needs, and collecting enough process data such that Process Performance Baselines and Process Performance Models can be built and used at ML 4 to quantitatively manage projects and statistically manage sub-processes to achieve the organization’s quality and process performance objectives.

To answer the second question, you first need to understand the Project Planning (PP), Project Monitoring and Control (PMC), and Integrated Project Management (IPM) PAs. PP and PMC are ML 2 PAs that address the basic project management practices of planning a project, creating a project plan, and using that project plan to track and monitor the project. At ML 2, the organization typically is learning how to create accurate and realistic estimates by building estimation models. It takes time to refine these estimation models, so an ML 2 organization is expected to frequently revise and re-baseline the project plan as the projects get smarter about estimation. At ML 3, one of the project management expectations is that the project estimates are now accurate and realistic. So, rather than constantly update the estimates to match the actuals as done at ML 2, the Project Manager now manages the project to the estimates, meaning that the PM can now fairly accurately predict early on in the lifecycle whether or not the project will hit its downstream targets and take appropriate corrective action to mitigate these risks. The other differences between IPM and PP/PMC include establishing the project’s defined process by applying appropriate tailoring criteria to the organization’s standard processes, establishing the project’s work environment, integrating the various plans that comprise the project plan, managing the project using the integrated plans, and managing the project’s relevant stakeholders. In other words, IPM builds on the project management foundation established by PP and PMC.

This a lengthy explanation but only a surface treatment on these subjects. Again I strongly recommend to anyone interested in this topic that you attend an offering of the Introduction to CMMI v1.2 class. You will go into these concepts in much greater detail and you will come out with a much better understanding of the model, PAs, and MLs than I can convey in this blog.

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