In the late 1980s, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), of
Carnegie Mellon University, developed and fielded the Software Capability
Maturity Model® for software process improvement, sponsored
by the Defense Department. Over the last decade, this model has
been successfully implemented by companies and government organizations
worldwide, and tremendous improvements in software cost, schedule
and delivered errors have been achieved and documented.
These successes have spawned a number of similar maturity models
for other engineering and non-engineering disciplines, such as systems
engineering, integrated product and process development, people,
and software acquisition. The models have been developed by a number
As each new discipline-focused model was implemented, additional
benefits were noted due to improvements in that discipline’s
processes. However, each new model was developed and deployed in
a stand-alone “stovepipe” environment.
Further improvements in software engineering are still desirable,
since it was widely recognized that up to 80 percent of weapon-system
functionality could be achieved with software.
It has further been recognized that software issues were generally
at the root of problems experienced in most major Defense Department
With the understanding that one persistent problem in software
development efforts was a lack of sound systems-engineering principles
employed throughout the software development process, the then-director
of systems engineering at the office of the secretary of defense,
Mark Schaeffer (now deputy director of operations at the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency) began to focus on the importance
of integrating systems engineering and software engineering.
After obtaining technical validation of the concept from Roger
Bate, of SEI, Schaeffer identified the need for a concentrated effort
to develop a new Capability Maturity Model that integrated systems
engineering, software engineering, and integrated product and process
In late 1997, he went to the Systems Engineering Committee (SEC)
of the National Defense Industrial Association for an industry co-sponsor,
since he felt this had to be a collaborative development between
Industry and government, with SEI participation.
The resultant product is Capability Maturity Model® Integration,
or CMMI. The CMMI sponsors are now the deputy undersecretary of
defense for science and technology, and the director of interoperability
in the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition technology
and logistics, along with the NDIA SEC.
The CMMI project has directly involved over 100 individuals from
defense and commercial industry, Department of Defense and other
government agencies, and the SEI, representing over 70 organizations
The purpose of CMMI is to provide guidance for improving an organization’s
processes and its ability to manage the development, acquisition
and maintenance of products and services. CMMI places proven practices
into a structure that helps an organization assess its organizational
maturity and process area capability, establish priorities for improvement,
and guide the implementation of these improvements.
The CMMI product suite consists of a framework that generates multiple
integrated models, training courses, and a combined internal assessment
method and external evaluation method, now termed “appraisal.”
As new material—in the form of additional disciplines—is
added to the framework, more integrated models and supporting materials
will become available to provide coverage for these additional disciplines.
The first full product suite, designated CMMI-SE/SW/IPPD v1.02,
was released in December 2000, and contained systems engineering,
software engineering and integrated product and process development.
The final version, V1.1, also includes the combined assessment
(internal) and evaluation (external) method noted earlier. It was
released at the end of 2001. Although this product suite can be
applied in both software-only and systems engineering-only environments,
the principal content is a combined SE and SW (CMMI-SE/SW) model
and a combined CMMI-SE/SW/IPPD model.
The SE and SW versions are identical in primary content, with only
a few minor differences, underscoring the common-process success
of CMMI in terms of these two disciplines. Further, there are two
representations included—continuous (based on process capability)
and staged (based on organizational maturity)—that provide
implementation options for organizations.
An additional discipline entitled “supplier sourcing,”
which is oriented toward the supplier acquisition activity performed
by development programs, is currently under final development and
will be released in early 2002.
The December V1.1 release also initiated a two-year countdown to
the start of the final phase-out of SW-CMM and EIA/IS-731, which
were source models for CMMI, thus defining the sunset period for
CMMI is a powerful process improvement mechanism that is anticipated
to provide further increases in productivity and reductions in cost,
schedule, overall program risk and delivered errors.
The NDIA Systems Engineering Committee, in conjunction with the
SEI, hosted the first annual CMMI Technology Conference and User
Group, in November in Denver, Colo. The opening keynote speech was
delivered by Nancy Spruill, director of acquisition analysis and
resources, for the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition,
technology and logistics. Her comments underscored the importance
of CMMI in helping the defense-industrial partnership in generating
further improvements in the way today’s weapon systems are
developed and fielded, by reducing development time and costs and
improving their overall performance.
Bob Rassa is the chairman of NDIA’s Systems Engineering Committee.