Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)

What is Capability Maturity Model Integration?

The Capability Maturity Model Integration, or CMMI, is a process model that provides a clear definition of what an organization should do to promote behaviors that lead to improved performance. With five “Maturity Levels” or three “Capability Levels,” the CMMI defines the most important elements that are required to build great products, or deliver great services, and wraps them all up in a comprehensive model. The CMMI was developed at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University with representation from defense, industry, government, and academia, and is now operated and maintained by the CMMI Institute, an operating unit of CMU. It is the successor of the popular Software CMM or SW-CMM. The are multiple “flavors” of the CMMI, called “Constellations,” that include CMMI for Development (CMMI-DEV), CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC), and CMMI for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ). The three Constellations share a core set of sixteen Process Areas. There is also a “People CMM,” or P-CMM, that exists outside of the three CMMI Constellations.[1]

CMMI Constellation

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) provides a framework for improving the processes organizations use to develop and deliver products for their customers. The process improvement concepts embedded in CMMI are based upon sound process management principles used in manufacturing communities for years. These principles have been successfully applied in software and systems engineering process improvement, and are codified for product development in CMMI.

An accepted, global best practice for the management and delivery of quality software services. CMMI® is a process improvement approach that provides organizations with the essential elements of effective processes. It can be used to guide process improvement across a project, a division, or an entire organization. CMMI® helps integrate traditionally separate organizational functions, set process improvement goals and priorities, provide guidance for quality processes, and provide a point of reference for appraising current processes.[2]

Simply put, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process and behavioral model that helps organizations streamline process improvement and encourage productive, efficient behaviors that decrease risks in software, product, and service development.

The CMMI Institute, on March 28, 2018, released its newest version of the CMMI model – CMMI v2.0 specifically for Development.

Structure of CMMI[3]

The CMMI is structured as follows:

  • Maturity Levels (staged representation) or Capability Levels (continuous representation)
  • Process Areas
  • Goals: Generic and Specific
  • Common Features
  • Practices: Generic and Specific

The CMMI comes with two different representations - staged and continuous.

  • The staged model, which groups process areas into 5 maturity levels, was also used in the ancestor software development CMM and is the representation used to achieve a "CMMI Level Rating" from a SCAMPI appraisal.
  • The continuous representation, which was used in the ancestor systems engineering CMM, defines capability levels within each profile. The differences in the representations are solely organizational; the content is equivalent. The CMMI uses a common structure to describe each of the 25 process areas (PAs). A process area has 1 to 4 goals, and each goal is comprised of practices. Within the 22 PAs, these are called specific goals and practices, as they describe activities that are specific to a single PA. There is one additional set of goals and practices that apply in common across all of the PAs; these are called generic goals and practices.

CMMI V2.0[4]

CMMI V2.0 includes the following changes from V1.3:

  1. Focus on Performance: New performance practices have been built into the model at all Maturity levels to emphasize and focus on improving organizational performance to recognize a more visible ROI.
    • This reflects the modern business climate where performance is key to the success of every organization—no matter their maturity level. With performance now built in at every level, organizations can plan a more methodical and step-by-step path to achieve better performance and high maturity.
    • Level 1 starts by addressing basic performance. This performance is built on as the practices go up in levels, with Level 2 practices including/subsuming Level 1, and practices from levels 3 to 5 building on lower levels to further evolve.
    • The performance report tied to each benchmark appraisal enables more effective awareness of organizational performance improvements.
  2. Improved Usability & Integrated Guidance:
    • CMMI V2.0 is built on a scalable architecture that enables seamless integration of new content to provide guidance for specific business needs.
    • Currently, CMMI Development V2.0 includes specific guidance to help organizations that use agile methods for development to strengthen their processes and scale their agile practices with a focus on performance. Additional content, like Safety, Security, and more is still to come.
    • Inclusion of Level 1 practices to enable new organizations to take incremental steps to improve and gain early success
    • Optional online format available to make content easily selectable and accessible
    • Multiple model appraisals will be easier to manage, with only additional model- or domain-specific content to be added once core CMMI practices have been implemented.
  3. Easier to Understand and Access:
    • CMMI V2.0 has been written in a non-technical business language; this will make CMMI V2.0 more accessible for non-native English speakers and easier to translate into different languages
    • Each Practice Area has an evolutionary improvement path where practices at one level build on the practices at the previous levels.
    • Generic Goals and Generic Practices have been replaced by building and sustaining practices.
    • Licensed users will be able to view as much or as little of the model as is useful to them. Rather than scrolling through a PDF or flipping through a book, users can click and search to quickly find the content they need. Licensed users will have access to all CMMI V2.0 model content currently available, as well as any new context, for the duration of their licensed period.
  4. Improved Value and Reliability of Appraisals:
    • SCAMPI A appraisal vs. Benchmark appraisal
      • Benchmark appraisals (replacing SCAMPI A appraisals) can result in a maturity level rating that is valid for 3 years.
      • New appraisal methods include a statistically-validated random sampling approach that provides broader coverage for data analysis in the Work Unit (WU) and a significant reduction in any bias of results.
      • Appraisal approach and planning are emphasized, in order to reduce the overall preparation time involved.
    • Sustainment appraisals
      • Sustainment appraisals (new appraisal class) entail a substantially reduced scope to check on process sustainment to ensure maturity is maintained over time.
      • Conducting a Sustainment appraisal can extend a Benchmark maturity level rating for an additional 2 years.
      • After the initial Benchmark appraisal, you may conduct 3 consecutive Sustainment appraisals before you are required to re-baseline with another Benchmark appraisal.
    • SCAMPI B and C appraisals vs. Evaluation appraisals
      • Evaluation appraisals (replacing SCAMPI B & C appraisals) can be used by organizations at any scope and against any section of the CMMI V2.0 model content, providing flexibility to meet business objectives.
  5. Maturity Levels: Maturity Levels are very similar to Maturity Levels in CMMI V1.3:
  6. Adoption Guidance: Specific guidance will lead organizations step-by-step through getting started with CMMI or transitioning from CMMI V1.3.
    • A clear set of proven and simple steps to get started on (or transitioning) your CMMI performance improvement journey
    • List of commonly needed available resources to ensure a successful improvement effort
    • Identifies critical lessons learned and best practices designed to avoid “false starts” and ensure the improvement efforts are tied directly to business results
  7. Redesigned Systems: Updated and completely integrated systems (Appraisal system, Published Appraisal Results System, etc.) that will be easier to access CMMI V2.0 model content, appraisal systems, and appraisal team member resources. A single sign-on interface will reduce redundancy and make it simple to begin or continue your CMMI journey.


Purpose of the CMMI Model[5]

The purpose of the CMMI model is to assess the maturity of an organization's processes and to provide guidance on improving processes, with the goal of improved products. Also, CMMI is a model for risk management and provides a way to measure an organization's ability to manage risk. The ability to manage risk factors in an organization's ability to deliver high-quality products. Another perspective on managing risk is how well an organization will perform under stress. A high-maturity, a high-capability organization can easily respond to unexpected, stressful events. A low-maturity and lower-capability organization tend to panic under stress, blindly follow obviated procedures, or throw out all process altogether and retrench back to chaos.

The CMMI, however, isn't a proven indicator of the economic performance of an organization. Although higher-maturity organizations may manage risk better and be more predictable, evidence exists that higher-maturity firms tend to be risk-averse. Risk aversion can lead to a lack of innovation or evidence of greater bureaucracy that results in long lead times and a lack of competitiveness. Lower maturity firms tend to be more innovative and creative but chaotic and unpredictable. When results are achieved, they are often the result of the heroic effort by individuals or managers.

CMMI Maturity Levels and Process Areas[6]

The CMMI model breaks down organizational maturity into five maturity levels with each level providing a description of how well the behaviors, practices, and processes of an organization can enable developers to be repeatable and sustainable. According to the SEI, “Predictability, effectiveness, and control of an organization’s software processes are believed to improve as the organization moves up these five levels. While not rigorous, the empirical evidence to date supports this belief”.

  • Maturity Level 1: Initial (Ad-hoc Project Management) – Development tasks and projects are conducted on an ad-hoc basis with little or no documentation supporting the development process. Projects are viewed as unpredictable and reactive.
    • Process Areas for Maturity Level 1
      • No Process Areas
  • Maturity Level 2: Managed (Basic Project Management) – Development processes are documented sufficiently enough so that repeating the same steps may be attempted. Projects are planned, executed, and managed at this level, but repeatability and sustainability are not yet achieved.
    • Process Areas for Maturity Level 2
      • CM – Configuration Management
      • MA – Measurement, and Analysis
      • PPQA – Process and Quality Assurance
      • REQM – Requirements Management
      • SAM – Supplier Agreement Management
      • SD – Service Delivery
      • WMC – Work Monitoring and Control
      • WP – Work Planning
  • Maturity Level 3: Defined (Process Standardization) – Development processes are defined and established as standard business processes with some degree of process improvement occurring over time. At this level, organizations are more proactive than reactive as standards and guidelines exist to provide direction across projects and programs. Organizations understand their shortcomings and how to address these shortcomings. Moreover, organizations know what their goals are for improvement.
    • Process Areas for Maturity Level 3
      • CAM – Capacity and Availability Management
      • DAR – Decision Analysis and Resolution
      • IRP – Incident Resolution and Prevention
      • IWM – Integrated Work Management
      • OPD – Organizational Process Definition
      • OPF – Organizational Process Focus
      • OT – Organizational Training
      • RSKM – Risk Management
      • SCON – Service Continuity
      • SSD – Service System Development
      • SST – Service System Transition
      • STSM – Strategic Service Management
  • Maturity Level 4: Quantitatively Managed (Quantitative Process Performance and Management) – Development processes are measured and controlled by quantitative data that includes metrics and indicators. The organization utilizes this quantitative data to determine predictable processes. Moreover, the organization uses data to effectively manage risks, make processes more efficient, and correct process deficiencies.
    • Process Areas for Maturity Level 4
      • OPP – Organizational Process Performance
      • QWM – Quantitative Work Management
  • Maturity Level 5: Optimizing (Continuous Process Improvement) – Development processes at this level focus on continually improving process performance through both incremental and innovative technological change. At this highest stage, an organization is in a constant state of improving and enhancing itself by utilizing statistical common causes of process variation.
    • Process Areas for Maturity Level 5
      • CAR – Causal Analysis and Resolution
      • OPM – Organizational Performance Management

CMMI Maturity Levels
source: UMSL

How CMMI is Applied by Business[7]

The stated goal of the CMMI Institute is to “Enable organizations to elevate and benchmark performance across a wide range of critical business capabilities, including product development, service excellence, workforce management, data management, supplier management, and cybersecurity.”

Organizations that want to better understand how their practices compare to CMMI best practices and want to implement CMMI practices often start with an appraisal. Generally, a business decides to be appraised for one or more reasons, including to:

  • Evaluate how the organization’s processes compare to CMMI best practices and determine areas of improvement
  • Share information with customers or suppliers about how the organization compares to CMMI best practices
  • Comply with contractual terms of customers' understanding

CMMI Appraisal[8]

A CMMI Appraisal helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s processes and to examine how closely the processes relate to CMMI best practices. It provides reliable, clear, consistent, and actionable focus on performance improvements that will have the most impact on the business and help build and improve capability.

The appraisal allows organizations to identify and prioritize business improvement efforts. Earning a benchmark maturity level or a capability level achievement can prove a depth of quality and professionalism to customers and business partners!

History of CMMI[9]

CMMI was developed by the CMMI project, which aimed to improve the usability of maturity models by integrating many different models into one framework. The project consisted of members of industry, government, and the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI). The main sponsors included the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the National Defense Industrial Association.

CMMI is the successor of the capability maturity model (CMM) or Software CMM. The CMM was developed from 1987 until 1997. In 2002, version 1.1 was released, version 1.2 followed in August 2006, and version 1.3 in November 2010. Some major changes in CMMI V1.3 are the support of agile software development, improvements to high-maturity practices, and alignment of the representation (staged and continuous).

According to the Software Engineering Institute (SEI, 2008), CMMI helps "integrate traditionally separate organizational functions, set process improvement goals and priorities, provide guidance for quality processes, and provide a point of reference for appraising current processes."[8]

Mary Beth Chrissis, Mike Konrad, and Sandy Shrum Rawdon were the authorship team for the hard copy publication of CMMI for Development Version 1.2 and 1.3. The Addison-Wesley publication of Version 1.3 was dedicated to the memory of Watts Humphry. Eileen C. Forrester, Brandon L. Buteau, and Sandy Shrum were the authorship team for the hard copy publication of CMMI for Services Version 1.3. Rawdon "Rusty" Young was the chief architect for the development of CMMI version 2.0. He was previously the CMMI Product Owner and the SCAMPI Quality Lead for the Software Engineering Institute.

In March 2016, the CMMI Institute was acquired by Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

Benefits of CMMI[10]

CMMI can help organizations in a number of important ways:

  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Improves the chance of landing and retaining new clients.
  • Increases productivity and efficiency.
  • Creates more profits.
  • Increases the ability to meet project goals and business objectives.
  • Makes it easier to deal with risk and uncertainty.
  • Helps identify skill gaps and break down workflow bottlenecks.
  • Promotes communication with organization-wide standards.

CMMI Tools

The CMMI Institute authorizes third-party organizations to sell CMMI tools and services, the list of approved vendors is extensive, and you can search by product, location, and language on the CMMI Institute website.

The type of CMMI tools that will work best for your organization will depend on your business’s needs. Following the CMMI, you’ll identify the best tools during Maturity Level 2 or 3; at this point, your CMMI consultant will offer recommendations or help you design customized tools based on extensive research. The most common category of tools that you’ll need to consider includes:

  • Project and document management
  • Bug tracker
  • Estimation
  • Requirement and design management
  • Decision and analysis tools
  • Metrics tools
  • Integration application

CMMI certifications[11]

CMMI certifications are offered directly through the CMMI Institute, which certifies individuals, appraisers, instructors, and practitioners.

The CMMI Institute offers the following certifications:

  • CMMI Associate: The CMMI Associate Certification demonstrates your commitment and abilities when it comes to capability and performance improvement. The certification validates that you have the skills and knowledge to connect the CMMI model to business value and to participate as an Appraisal Team Member (CTM).
  • CMMI Professional: The next level of certification is the CMMI Professional certification, which demonstrates your ability to apply the CMMI model in an organization structure through road maps for performance, team coaching, organizational change management and fostering a culture of improvement.
  • Certified CMMI Lead Appraiser: As a certified CMMI Lead Appraiser, you will be qualified to appraise organizations to determine their capability or maturity level as outlined in the CMMI model. Applications are reviewed by the ISACA Appraiser Application Review committee, who will evaluate your qualifications for the certification.
  • Certified CMMI Instructor: The Certified CMMI Instructor certification enables you to lead instructional courses on CMMI. You’ll need a sponsoring organization that also is an ISACA partner and is licensed for use of the CMMI product suite to qualify for the exam.

See Also


Further Reading