Having earlier fallen in love with a small Company’s wiki (see blog here) its time to explore one of the challenges in implementing CMMI and process improvement in general for small organisations. But first I want to be crystal clear that I’m defining small in terms of staff numbers. Other, less useful, definitions for process improvement use revenue or other financial measures.
So using my definition its a truism that small companies have small numbers of staff. Now this leads to interesting issues when implementing CMMI practices as the smaller the organisation the more roles individual staff members have to perform. So you’re definitely going to come up against the ‘objectivity’ word here. There are two aspects of CMMI where this presents a challenge; namely monitoring and controlling process activities and the evaluation of process and products.
In a small company I recently helped with implementing CMMI the QA manager was accountable for measurements and reporting, product and process evaluation activities, configuration management and supplier management. For many of these he was also responsible for doing the work and thus had to monitor and control his own activities. This was particularly acute for measurement and reporting as he would collect the data, analyse it and report on it. To gain some level of objectivity, measurements of the process were implemented and reported to the Company’s CTO, so to some extent the organisations head will be monitoring the monitoring and control.
The challenge of objectivity also arises with the PPQA (Process & Product Quality Assurance) process area requiring processes and work products to be objectively evaluated. Small organisations are likely not to have the resources to carry out process evaluations and, even if they do have the resources, they tend not to be independent of the functional area being evaluated. One way to overcome is to create process checklist questions for the process evaluations. This ensures consistency and some level of objectivity. In the case of the small company I was helping they decided to outsource the process evaluation activities to Lamri as these were scheduled to be carried out on a quarterly basis. The work product evaluation activities also used checklists to ensure consistency and objectivity.
In addition small organisations implementing process improvement are far more sensitive to planned and unplanned resource absence (holidays, training sickness, etc) than larger organisations. With larger staff numbers its relatively easier to replace or appoint deputies from within the organisation whereas for small organisations there is no depth or width of the resource pool. To mitigate this I would suggest having more than one process champion and distribute, as far as possible, the process responsibility within the organisation.
With good planning and deployment of pragmatic processes, small organisations can successfully overcome the resource challenge to successfully implement CMMI.