Friday, November 17, 2006

Agile CMMI - it is possible

BoldTech Systems just achieved CMMI Level 4 at their Hangzhou, China office, where I'm currently working as an agile coach. And they did so legitimately, while following essentially agile practices. I say legitimately because many companies appear to finagle a CMMI via a smoke-and-mirrors appraisal process. In fact, BoldTech's Hangzhou organization went from level 1 to level 4 in just 2 years.

BoldTech was a pioneer in the adoption of agile methodologies, practicing hard-core XP when I starting working there in 1999. And I do mean hard-core, including 100% pair programming. Since then, the methodology has evolved from pure XP fundamentalism to a pragmatic adaptation of agile techniques based on years of hard lessons learned. Some of the practices in the trenches are not nearly as agile as I would like them to be, but on the macro level it's definitely agile.

I'm not a big fan of CMMI, but that's primarily because it's so often misapplied to enforce a rigid process for the sake of the process, and not because the process provides value to customers. If you keep the right focus and do a sensible tailoring of the CMMI practice areas, you can be agile and CMMI compliant at the same time.


Hillel said...

Excellent! I'll be cross-posting to your blog from mine. I can't imagine you'd mind. If you do, I'll nix it.

You're absolutely right that many companies achieve high maturity levels (i.e., 4 & 5) using smoke and mirrors. And, the SEI is attempting to crack down on that (personally, I'm not sure their approach will entirely work).

Although... to get ML4 in two years is very very unusual. Be warned that the SEI *is* likely to investigate that appraisal. On the other hand, if it can be shown that mature agile methods allowed the company to get to ML4 in two years, you can bet it will open a flood of interest in agile from the "traditionalists".

Brad Swanson said...

Cross-posting is welcome. We'll actually be _inviting_ the SEI to come visit us, anticipating their skepticism of our achievement. Our methodology has evolved and matured since 1999, but we've only pursued CMMI assessments for the past 2 years, so it's not as hard to believe if you consider it in that context.

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting.
How can I get a copy of your CMMI assessors report? I'm sure there is plenty of good information to mine out of it. (, by the way)

Patrick Scheuerer said...

Very intereseting. Our company just started to do a CMMI assesment. At the moment we're still using "traditional" methods. I firmly believe, that the CMMI appraisal process could be used as a chance to introduce agile methods. So if you could provide any further information (reports, whitepapers, etc) about how you managed to bring Agile and CMMI under the same hat I'd be highly interested. You can reach me at patrick [at] scheuerer [dot] ch.

Zee said...

I too would be interested in getting a copy of the report., or if possible any of your documents :)... any thoughts of posting some stuff online?

Brad Swanson said...

I'm no longer with Perficient (formerly BoldTech Systems), so I don't have access to those reports. I'll talk to some people there and see if they're willing to share.