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Is SEI-CMM L5 better than Agile Methodologies ?

Posted by sureshkrishna on September 15, 2007

I was working with a company which moved to CMM L5 and spent lot of $ on going for appraisal. I saw how the quality department and some of the (unlucky) project managers had to run around for the CMM L5 appraisal. Till that time I was more used to XP and Scrum for almost 3.5 years. Now as everyone would expect its very very difficult to get into the CMM mindset level from Agile methodologies. Of course in the end both processes are aiding us to achieve a good Software Product. As a project Lead i had the responsibility to implement a SW Development process. My manager was reasonable enough to listen to me and see the differences between CMM L5 and Agile practices.

In this article i want to explain how i convinced my management to adapt Agile Development for my project. I moved from CMM L5 to Agile Development. The comparison shows how i achieved each process area of CMM via Agile practices.

Some how in the industry there is a misconception that the Agile practices will lead to “Code-Test-Fix” cycles. Many fears that this process would lead to non-deliverable product , etc… In any case i had to convince few stakeholders in my organization to try these practices and see if it is better and makes sense. My Manager, QA Lead, QA Manager and customer are the main stakeholders who would be interested to see what the new process would be and what would it bring to them without disturbing any of the current Organization Level Metrics/Statistics. For me i had the advantage that the customer is working with the agile practices for a long time and there is no need to explain him what it was.

Let me explain the project that i was working for, so that you get the environment where i implemented this. This was a project with 10 team members in India and 5 team members in Germany. We had a time difference of 3 hours daily and we had full access to the Phones and Video Conferences. Everyone speaks english and the entire team knew each other. We have been developing a Eclipse based IDE for automobile systems and we were using CVS as configuration management system, JIRA for the Requirements, Work break up as issues, Bugs and Enhancements processing, Release management, estimations, tracking, we also linked JIRA and CVS via fisheye so that the traceability is not missed. Hummm….i definately have used a lot of JIRA, but trust me it worked perfectly (some say that i over used it). Every one is happy that they do not have to use any other Requirements Management tool (like Clear Quest), Bugs tracking tool (like Bugzilla), Project Management tool (MS Project), Team Tracking tools (PS7 and PC Team), etc… The important thing is that the developers and leads have to use only the Eclipse, CVS and JIRA; Thats all is the environment that makes your product development happy. We do have team members with varied experiences ranging from 12 years to 1 year.

In this article i am not going to explain the agile practices that we implemented but i will limit it to the differences that i found and we tackled with Agile Methodology. For Agile Methodology i have taken few practices from XP and practiced SCRUM. Following is a overview of the comparison that i had done. Of course i finally got the approval to go ahead with the Agile process that i proposed. But it was a lot of work to convince the management. I hope some of you who had done the same would agree with me 🙂 .

CMM and Agile.

Now its the time to look into each key process areas of the CMM and see how Agile Processes/Practices can help. Please make a note that i have mentioned Eclipse, CVS and JIRA in some of the process comparisons as tools that supports process implementation.

Project Planning & Integrated Project Management

  • Joint development with the customer
  • Life Cycle
    • No distinct phases, “Daily Development“, “Daily Integration”, “Daily Reviews”, “Daily Testing” and “Weekly Deliveries”
  • Estimation technique
    • Milestone (Sprint) planning is expected to be flexible. And customer has a knowledge of development on daily basis.
  • Tools recommended by customer
    • JIRA for planning, scheduling, tracking and OPL

Monitoring and Control

  • Team meetings, corrective actions, risk analysis is a daily ritual.
  • Agile methodology which is flexible, responsive, builds a self-managed teams
  • SVL, OTDQ have no importance. Sprints are flexible enough to accommodate various situations.

Quantitative Project Management

  • Flexibility is key. SVL (Schedule Variance) , OTDQ (Ontime Delivery Quotient) and RSI (Reqirement Stability Index) have no importance, sprints are flexible
  • JIRA will be used for scheduling, tracking and defect logging
  • DD/EPY (Delivered Defects per Person Year of effort), PYe(Productivity) , DFDQ (Defects per Delivery) will be calculated from the JIRA data

Requirements Development & Management

  • Frequent/Continuous meetings with stakeholder to get requirements – no concept of frozen Requirements. RSI has no significance.
  • JIRA is the RCMS for the project stakeholders (management, users and development team)
  • Due to the connection between the JIRA and the configuration management, code traceability is automatically maintained

Technical Solution

  • No distinct phases, “Daily Development” – Daily Integration, and weekly Deliveries
  • Not practical to check DIR (Defect Injection Rate) before each delivery
  • Impact analysis and Design is part of JIRA and is shared with Stakeholders

Product Integration

  • Due to Daily Integration and tool support, Integration is not a separate phase

Verification and Validation

  • No Distinct phase for reviews, testing. TDD – Test Driven Development.
  • Daily Reviews and Daily Tests; More efficient than a milestone based or task based reviews and testing.
  • Daily Development concept requires daily reviews and testing. Therefore no Test specification reviews.
  • No formal acceptance Test Specification, weekly Deliveries. As the customer is part of the deliveries (sprints), Acceptance test specification has no significance.

Configuration management

  • Latest code base from the development is taken and labeled.
  • Base lining is not done, as distinct phases does not exist.

Process & Product Quality Assurance

  • PDC (Pre Delivery Check) not done for Weekly deliveries. PDE is done for the major deliveries from the Customer to „End User“.


  • All major decisions taken could be documented in the JIRA tool.
    • This gives the flexibility that the entire team can view the decision basis.
  • All review & test defects are entered into the JIRA tool.
    • Informal CAR is done along with customer in the weekly reviews.

Risk Management

  • Daily meetings with the customer
  • Frequent meetings/demos to Stakeholders (also includes management, end users)

Organizational Innovation and Deployment

  • Promotes flexibility so more conducive for innovation

Hope this analysis helps you somehow. But in the end it takes a lot of time and effort to convince management who believes in the world of CMM fanatics.


Posted in Agile Methodology, CMM, CVS, Eclipse, estimation, incremental development, Process, scheduling, SEI, Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

Quality vs Process in Software Industry

Posted by sureshkrishna on December 12, 2006

I am trying to understand the difference between the Quality and Process, which we very often use in an interchangeable manner. After few years of my experience in different roles of Project Leader and Technical manager, now i am in a position to understand the REAL difference.

On a global perspective, the “Process Orientation” is the buzz word in the corporates. ISO 2000 certification, CMM Level2-Level5, Six Sigma, Agile Methodology and TSP/PSP are some of the well known processes in the implementation. Of course many corporates implement a subset of these processes also and might not really call with the real names.

Process is a sequence of steps to achieve a Task“, is the simplest definition i have. I strongly believe in this definition by my heart and sole 🙂 Now i have seen many guys who have really used Quality and Process as a single word. Some of the irritating dialogs i come across were….
#1 There is not quality in the software (They meant, Process implementation is bad)
#2 You have not implemented Process, Stop the delivery to the customer (They think, process non-conformance means LOW in quality)
#3 This month your Process Implementation index is 100% (some times this is because, there is no software delivered or developed)
#4 We produce a very high quality software (but at the customer’s site, the software bombs)
I am sure that all of us would have had a chance to hear this and then wonder, what the senior manager is talking about.

The real problem i see is the lack of awareness and education in the developers, middle managers and finally the senior managers. The people who pester us to implement the process, would have never implemented a single line of code nor the process. In my view a software practitioner is the best person to decide, which process is suitable for the project. He is the one who can say Why, When, Where, What and How. The Quality department just need to assist mainly in What and How.

We need to really distinguish between the Heavy processes and Lightweight processes. In my experience, i categorize ISO 9002, CMM as heavy weight processes; Agile Methodology and PSP/TSP as Lightweight processes. As a general convention, many Service Based Software industry follows ISO and CMM and Product Based software industry follows light weight processes (like Extreme Programming).

Coming to the Quality, i define it as the factor which determine closeness to the requirements, features and the customer/end user expectations. Of course this drills down to the different factors like
#1 How well do we understand the requirements
#2 Translation of the Customer Requirements to the System Requirements
#3 Analysis of the Market/Competition/TargetIndustry/TargetEndUsers, etc…
#4 Good Design Practices (specific to project)
#5 The right-passionate team to do the development
#6 Good coding practices
#7 Developer Documentation, End user Documentation
#8 Aesthetics of the Software (Not only limited to the UI)
#9 End user support
#10 Training

In my view Process is the one which assists to achieve a good quality software. It does not mean that Quality is not attained with out Process. This is a common conception amongst many of us. In small teams, the steps taken for a development project are pretty straight forward and simple. Get the requirements in any format you want (as long as its understood by many of us), design of the module is a very simple process (some times its in the developers brain), coding is done to meet the requirements, simple user documentation, deliver. I have seen all these phases as simple as i have written in some projects. And it works perfectly in some scenarios.

The same scenario, when transposed to a large organization with multiple projects, distributed and cross-functional teams, things gets complicated. This scenario requires a more formal way of managing the Contracts, Work Orders, Reporting Formats, Monthly Reports, Project Plans, Project Management Tools, Requirements, Design, Coding, Testing, Documentation, Delivery and User support, to mention a few. Now the challenging issue is to get all the teams to follow the same process and similar steps to achieve the goal of the organization.

Finally…. Quality is in People, The Software we write, Innovative Thinking and the Ability to Deliver the right things perceived by the customer.

Posted in Agile Methodology, Automobile, CMM, ISO 2000, Process, Quality, SEI, Six Sigma | 6 Comments »

Product Line Architecture in Automobile Industry

Posted by sureshkrishna on December 9, 2006

I had worked with a major Automobile Supplier in Germany from past 6 years of time. Its nice to see the way this industry is into making the “Short Product Cycles”. Initially the coencentration was on the faster innovation and the engineering team that supports it. And then the higher management has realized that there is something more than the Product Innovation and shorter “Time To Market”.

Then everyone has come across the Nokia Product Line [Manufacturing/Designing/Architecture]. If we look at it closely in terms of how fast Nokia wasable to get new models in to the Market and how fast they change the entire product lines/series, it is amazing. The base of a particular product series is almost the same. The panel changes, the software featuers changes, the memory size changes, the screen changes, etc… So some how these guys are able to get all these very quickly and then turn them into the Market.

It was more or less on the same lines that the Automobile industry gone in to this. How can i make a product Series changing rapidly and still get the maximum out of this. This phylosophy goes into almost many of the engineerning teams. e.g. body team, power train team, electronics team, software for the engine, software for the multimedia, etc…. Inshort this spreads across both the Software and Hardware of the Automobile Engineering.

In the first look the idea is to have a STABLE platform which serves as the starting point to develop or improve further. In a product series, this platform is more or less the STABLE through out and suppliers or manufacturers add some plug-ins on the top of the platform. So you can imagine something like having the Widows or Linuz kernal with you and you write some value added applications on the top of it. So, you have the same platform/kernel with you for your applications. BUT the behaviour and features of the application changes.

This looks very easy to be implemented concept. But in reality we have the 1000’s of engineers and architects working on it to really see something like this. We also understand that as the organization grows the integration and architectural implications increases. Department A does not know whats happening in the Department B in the same Organization. Some times its even hard to know what the competior is doing.

But what i have seen is that its a really COOL to something like this. This really makes the product companies “get going faster”.

Posted in Automobile, CMM, Nokia Product Line, PLA | Leave a Comment »

Some links on Product Lines…

Posted by sureshkrishna on December 9, 2006

I found the following sites cool….hit it…

Posted in CMM, PLA, SEI | Leave a Comment »