Integrating CMMI & Agile Technology

Instructor: Olga Bugajenko

Olga is a registered PRINCE2 Practitioner and has a master's degree in project management.

Can Capability Maturity Model Integration and Agile, two seemingly different methodologies, co-exist in the same organization? Learn how to integrate CMMI and Agile in the same project.

CMMI vs. Agile

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process improvement approach, whose main goal is organizational improvement. CMMI identifies the current maturity level of the organization by observing existing practices and behaviors, and tries to improve performance by introducing standardized procedures and learning from previous experiences. CMMI distinguishes between five possible maturity levels: initial, managed, defined, quantitatively managed and optimizing.

In contract to CMMI, Agile is a software development methodology. It is focused on delivering the product to the customer, rather than improving the processes - the ends, rather than the means. Agile simplifies the development processes by getting rid of all documentation and splitting the work into short iterations, called sprints. Detailed planning is carried out for one sprint at a time, and daily monitoring of progress takes place. Relatively short planning horizons allows Agile to remain flexible and open for changes in project requirements.

Despite the differences in these methodologies, it is possible to successfully implement them together within the organization. This is because, while Agile will tell the team what to do, CMMI will describe how to do it.

Mixing And Matching

Let's take a look at Jungle Ltd, a successful online retailer. At the moment, they are working on improving customer experience and would like to redesign the shopping basket on their website. The development team at Jungle is using Agile as their development methodology. At the same time, Jungle would like to improve organizational maturity following CMMI approach. They would like to start by introducing standardized documentation for all new developments.

Certain practices, prescribed by CMMI, are already implemented in Agile processes. Let's take a look at key project stages and the matching practices with two methodologies:

  • Requirements management
    • CMMI practices prescribe clarifying the requirements with the customer, obtaining a commitment to deliver what is expected from the project team, managing changes as necessary, and monitoring the plan for any inconsistencies with the original requirements.
    • Agile achieves this by creating a Product Backlog, containing all product requirements, with a Product Owner, who acts as the client; obtaining a commitment to deliver the tasks according to the Sprint Plan; adding new requirements to the Product Backlog if necessary; and tracking the progress through daily meetings and updating the Sprint and Release Burndown Charts.
    • The Customer Experience Manager, James, who acts as the Product Owner, explains to the team, which new features, like Recommended Product section and saved payment methods, the new shopping basket should have. The Product Backlog is the standard documentation at this stage, so no further actions are required by CMMI.
  • Project planning
    • CMMI practices require carrying out thorough project planning activities: creating a work breakdown structure, estimating task duration and cost, creating an appropriate project schedule and budget, allocating resources, adjusting the plan according to the resources availability, and obtaining the commitment from involved stakeholders.
    • Agile implements the above actions during Sprint planning meeting and daily Scrum meetings. The stakeholders involved are always the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and team members. Before the start of a new sprint, James meets with the development team again to agree, which features will be developed in the upcoming sprint. They agree to work on the Recommended Product section now, and leave the saved payment methods features until the next sprint.
  • Monitoring and control -
    • To monitor project process, CMMI prescribes the following actions: tracking the actual performance indicators, tracking actual commitments and stakeholder involvement; identifying any issues and taking actions, if needed; and reviewing project achievements.
    • Agile tracks the daily project progress via daily Scrum meetings, and documents actual performance against planned in Sprint and Release Burndown Charts. Any arising issues are reported and resolved during the daily meetings. The Sprint Burndown Chart is the main document that the development team is updating during the sprint. No further actions are required by CMMI.

Missing Bits

There are naturally also some processes missing from Agile methodology, which need to be added to allow for successful parallel CMMI implementation. Because Agile is focused solely on product delivery, it does not specify any project management processes:

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