Hey, Jeff – My business partner is interested in a CMMI maturity level for small business, if such a thing exists. I told him CMMI for the small business is cost-prohibitive for a company under 25 FTEs like ours that is just trying to do the right things to improve performance. Am I right? ~ Joseph “Jody” D.
Dear Jody – Nope, your partner is right. Based on what you’ve shared here, an evidence-based tool like the CMMI is the best framework for what you are trying to do, even as a small company. I’ll explain why below.
You are not alone with your belief that CMMI is for big companies only. Until pretty recently, companies with 2,000-3,000 or more employees, like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed-Martin, were typically the ones adopting CMMI.
But the new data released by the CMMI Institute indicates that CMMI for a small business is possible. Their latest Maturity Profile Report analyzes over 5,500 organizations to determine what size organizations were adopting the CMMI. By far the largest category of companies adopting CMMI for small business are like yours, under 100 employees.
As we’ve seen more and more in recent years, the current Report shows that smaller companies like yours are starting to dominate the market, in terms of adopting CMMI and in the new business you’re starting to take on. We continue to see a healthy representation by the large companies, as well. But the fact remains that the majority of organizations being appraised today are under 100 people.
Second question, is it cost-prohibitive for small companies to adopt CMMI? Well, consider this: For the price of about one FTE you get dramatically improved performance, increased throughput, and higher quality. Most small companies ought to be able to make that calculation work.
It’s also useful to keep in mind that this discussion is not about money, but about risk management. The way you do things – the way you drive software process improvement in your firm, for example – is in itself, a risk-avoidance technique. You can keep items off your risk list by learning to adopt an evidence-based model like the CMMI to guide the behaviors of the people who are doing the work. To learn how to set a clear vision for this new way of doing things, CMMI training for small business owners may be a good place to start.
Going forward, I would say that the adoption of CMMI by smaller companies, like yours, is the trajectory the industry is on. There are several reasons. For one, a lot of the bigger companies are already using the CMMI, so it only makes sense that growth in the sector would come from smaller companies. Another factor is that, as engineers leave those bigger companies to start their own small businesses, they bring along the methods and models that helped them be successful in the past. And thirdly, other competing small businesses start realizing that they are losing sales, and they become interested in adopting CMMI as well. The pie grows – especially as it relates to companies achieving CMMI Level 2 and CMMI Level 3.
It’s all part of a widespread movement by companies large and small in North America to put themselves on the path to greatness and compete in the global market.
Which brings us to back to our original comment that CMMI for the small business is the best tool for what you are trying to do. You said you are committed to doing things the right way. Excellent! The CMMI supports that mission by keeping you focused on the right behaviors. Not only will you achieve CMMI Level 2 or CMMI Level 3 (the most common CMMI maturity level for the small business) as a natural result … not only will you drive the software process improvement results you are looking for … but you’ll be on the path to greatness, no matter how many FTEs you have.
Now that’s what I call doing things the right way.
For more information, visit www.cmmixs.com.
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Jeff Dalton is a Certified SCAMPI Lead Appraiser, Certified CMMI Instructor, author, and consultant with years of real-world experience with the CMMI in all types of organizations. Jeff has taught thousands of students in CMMI trainings and has received an aggregate satisfaction score of 4.97 out of 5 from his students.
Note: large organizations interested in pursuing the benefits of a CMMI adoption are invited to visit our corporate web site at www.broadswordsolutions.com for more information about engineering strategy, performance innovation, software process improvement and running a successful CMMI program.