The CMM provides software organizations with guidance on how to gain control of their processes for developing and maintaining software and how to evolve toward a culture of software engineering and management excellence. It was designed to guide software organizations in selecting process improvement strategies by determining current process maturity and identifying the few issues most critical to software quality and process improvement. By focusing on a limited set of activities and working aggressively to achieve them, an organization can steadily improve its organization-wide software process to enable continuous and lasting gains in software process capability. The CMM is a framework that is used to evaluate the software development capability of an organization. The model uses five maturity levels to support assessing the organization. Each level defines specific development practices that are typically used at that level. Level One practices are typical of an ad hoc approach to software development while Level Five organizations are typically focused upon continuous improvement of their processes based upon quantitative feedback from the process and by piloting innovative ideas and technology.
The CMM was developed at the Software Engineering (SEI) Institute with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) through the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The SEI contract was competitively awarded to Carnegie Mellon University in December 1984 and has been twice renewed.
Typical Request for Proposals (RFP), from the DoD, specify that a contractor's organization will be evaluated to ensure that they are at CMM level two or three. This evaluation will be used to assess the risks of the organization 's software development capability. The message being sent is that unless contractor's have an established software development process that satisfies the goals of the CMM they will have a decreased possibility of winning the contract award.
The CMM is not just applicable to DoD projects. Other organizations may require adherence to the CMM. Present information indicates that industry has also picked up on the CMM. At the SEI Software Engineering Process Group (SEPG) held in Boston, MA in May 1995, 39% of the attendees were from non-government organizations.
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