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How the CMMI Process Improves Website Development
by Glen Emerson Morris
Copyright © 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris
All Rights Reserved
keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing.
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One of the great ironies of the growth of offshoring
American jobs is that many foreign companies owe their
success in part to business processes and procedures
developed in America, but not widely adopted here.
This is especially true for the software development
Worldwide, the software industry has largely adopted
the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institutes
process for software development, called CMMI, for
Capability Maturity Model Integration The CMMI process
can be applied to most businesses, but it has proven
particularly effective for developing software.
In essence, the CMMI process defines and documents the
key processes and key employees that are required to
perform specific jobs or tasks. This can range from
performing a weekly update for a small business
Website, to developing a huge corporate e-commerce
Website. There are some basic rules, too, like a
company must commit adequate resources to projects
before it starts them.
CMMI ranks companys processes as falling into five
levels. The higher the level a company achieves, the
more likely it will succeed.
In a CMMI level one business there is no well defined
set of processes and procedures for performing
essential business activities, like updating a company
Website. In a level one business, chaos reigns, and
success, if it happens at all, only happens because of
the heroic actions of the employees. Staying at level
one is not recommended because this kind of effort
cannot be sustained. The employees will eventually
burn out and quit, taking everything they know about
the business with them.
In CMMI level two, the development process is well
enough documented that the same process can be
repeated, again and again with a high degree of
confidence, even if key employees quit. This is a
critical achievement because the knowledge of what it
takes to perform essential business tasks is now part
of the business itself, and not just certain
CMMI level three is achieved when all processes and
documentation have become standardized and exist as
cookie cutter templates, to be used on all new
projects so the proverbial wheel doesnt have to be
reinvented for each new project.
CMMI level four, the manageability level, is achieved
when a company has the experience to estimate exactly
how much new resources a project will require to be
CMMI level five, the optimization level (rarely seen
in America), is achieved when management understands
the development process so well that the only
improvements left to be made concern efficiency.
The cost of implementing CMMI level 3 standard can
range from a few thousand dollars for a small business
to $250K or more for a large corporation. After the
CMMI process is in place, there are trade groups that
will audit the companys efforts and award a
certification for the CMMI level the company has
CMMI may be somewhat expensive to implement, but its
worth it. Properly implemented, CMMI will almost
always make a business more efficient, and more
reliable. Employees may not like the restrictions and
extra steps CMMI will impose initially, but in the
long run it will make their jobs easier, and more
Conversely, not implementing CMMI has its costs, too.
One of the problems American companies have had in
offshoring software development, particularly to
India, is that they have not accounted for how much
additional expense not being up to a level two or
better will cost them. For instance, replacing an
American QA team with low cost Indian QA engineers,
will cost more if no test documentation exists, which
is typical at a level one shop. At a level three
company, all documentation needed would be readily
I was a QA contractor at a well-known security
software company that decided to replace its entire QA
department with an India based QA team. The company
was a level one shop with little documentation, and
they made things worse by laying the entire QA
department off thirty days before the Indian team was
to start. The Indian team asked for better
documentation, pointing out it would take weeks,
perhaps months, to develop test documents based on
nothing more than user manuals they were provided
with. The American company had no choice but to pay
for the additional time required because they had laid
everyone in their company off who knew enough to write
Indian software companies like Wipro, now with over
55,000 employees, take CMMI very seriously, and
feature their advanced CMMI certifications prominently
in their advertising. The Indians claim to have the
first CMMI certified level five software development
company, and there are several level four companies in
CMMI is beginning to become popular in America, but
more with software customers than developers.
Recently, the United States government started
requiring companies bidding on certain projects to be
certified CMMI level three or better. There is a lot
of pressure on the Federal government to avoid repeats
of costly fiascoes like the FBIs attempt to modernize
its computer system with software that was ultimately
too buggy and poorly constructed to use (and wasted
$170 million in the process, according to the
The CMMI process should be used by every company with
a Website on the Internet. E-commerce Websites may
vary in their nature, but they all are built on
software code that must work reliably if the business
is to be a success.
Just because most American companies have largely
failed to implement a repeatable and standardized
process for software development doesnt mean your
company is condemned to chaos. You can require
companies you purchase software development services
from to be certified level three or better, and you
can implement CMMI in your company. Its really not
hard. It just takes commitment.
All the information you need to start your company on
the road to CMMI certification is available on the
Carnegie Mellon SEI CMMI Website (at
www.sei.cmu.edu/). Amazon.com carries several books on
CMMI, some even come with software copies of the major
CMMI document templates.
CMMI may sound like overkill for a small business, but
its not. Even small businesses need to do things
Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.
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