We often emphasize the need to do process improvement on a continuous basis, as an ingrained component in the “business as usual” operations. However, what about the management of this activity, should it be performed as operations management?
The answer should be derived from the way we want to measure the business effectiveness of CMMI programmes. The ultimate goal of process improvement is to produce a positive change, which should be reflected in measurable benefits. If managed as “business-as-usual” operations, the risk is that the benefits they deliver get “lost” and the improvement effort becomes seen an an operational overhead.
A closer look at any CMMI initiative will lead us to the conclusion that we’re actually dealing with a series of projects: temporary endeavours undertaken to create unique results. The fundamental concept of Project Management is to connect the management strategy with a sound business case established upfront, for a given set of business objectives. These must be expressed in quantifiable measures so that the derived project objectives can be tracked and monitored in alignment with business drivers. These measures (or KPIs) should be the glue that links business with the technicalities of any given process improvement approach: what we want to accomplish, how the project results will support achieving these objectives, and ultimately, how will we measure success and benefits.
The real reason you need to do this is because it will make the benefits of the CMMI initiative transparent. By considering what benefits you are looking for you will build measures to enable you to see them. The sad punchline for many CMMI projects is that they fail to do this and are considered failures from a business perspective.