What is in a name? – CMMI® by any other name would smell as—— sweet? (or useful?)

Let us look at some of the vocabulary in CMMI® that many people find difficult to relate to, especially in the early stages of their trying to understand the model. Others (like me) have got so used to the terms that we do not pause to examine basic things in the model.

Please do add your experiences as comments. And maybe we can initiate a class action change request 😉

CMMI® Expanded. That is the first place where they are curious about some terms and are puzzled about them.

Integration – ‘The term integration can be used for an activity or a project. Should it not be CMM Integrated instead of Integration?’

Integration – ‘Why is it called integration/integrated? We have seen 3 variations, viz. – SVC, ACQ and DEV, with staged and continuous. And then there is the People CMM®. Looks disintegrated to me. Definitely not integrated, no sir.’

Capability, Maturity – ‘Why have both the terms? Will the model make the capability more mature? If the model is making the process more capable and / or mature, why not call it Process Capability/ Maturity Model?’

Model(s) after CMMI®. The word model(s) is often used after the word CMMI®. ‘What does CMMI® Models mean? Capability Maturity Model Integration Models? Sounds wrong to me.’

Institutionalization. ‘Why have such a tongue twister? Can we not use something simpler?’ [Digression: Legend has it that one LA required all ATMs to be able to pronounce the word correctly to qualify as an ATM :-). End of Digression].

Managed process versus Defined process. Some CMMI® experts take great pride in being able to truly understand the difference between the two terms in the CMMI® context (if you try using the nuanced difference in normal life, you will probably get institutionalized :-)). And it really gets hairy when we go “a defined process is a managed process that is …….”

Peer (as in Peer Review). ‘Peer? Is that not someone in the House of Lords in Britain? Why should my work be reviewed by them? Would they be really interested?’ OR ‘I thought peer review was something done for scholarly articles and PhD thesis. My work does not qualify for that’.

Configuration Management. A frightening/ nightmarish term for many folks in the service industry like retail, insurance, transportation, etc. (they are comfortable once you explain the concept, but the term is alien).

Continuous – Here is a reaction from a statistician – ‘Is it really continuous? Each process can be in 5 states (not assessed, CL0, 1, 2, or 3). There are 24 PAs. That makes it a finite set of combinations. So it is discrete data. For a model that emphasizes on the correct use of statistics, the term continuous is very loosely used….’

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available at the top of this article/ post.


Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).

I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

24 thoughts on “What is in a name? – CMMI® by any other name would smell as—— sweet? (or useful?)”

  1. Sub process : The moment any project team hear this they relate just chart and rules :-(.
    Causal Analysis and resolution : Most of them end up ” casual ” although in reality they take this process casually. :-p . CMM terminology DP sounded far better

  2. Here are a few more-

    Tailoring- though conceptually sound, this term gives the jeebies to SQAs and Practitioners and sends ATMs on a wild hunt. And questions like, how much of “Tailoring” constitutes “Deviation” ? Am I better off “tailoring” than”deviating”?

    “Generic” goals and “Generic” practices as against “Specific Gs and Ps”- again gives an impression that they need to be “generally(casually) applied” (Generic means NOT “SPECIFIC”!, right?)..becomes nightmarish during the PIID mapping. Then why do Lead appraisers get so “specific” on “Generic” during the Readiness reviews?

    Bi directional traceability- oft asked question -whats “Bi” about it? And associated hairsplitting on Horizontal vs Vertical (is horizontal actually vertically documented?)..thankfully buried in the sub text of the model now.

    Decision Analysis and Resolution- again a process that evokes awe and fear in equal measure; why not simply “Decision making process”?

    OPF and OPD- is there a simpler way to articulate this? I have seen many organizations actually write an OPF AND OPD process and argue on what takes off from what.

    Practices with “as appropriate” clauses- are the most exciting for many….every context seems to throw up appropriate “inappropriateness” to do away with implementing the practice.

    Appraisal- a question that many ask – we know about “audit”, what is “Appraisal”?

    and there is of course the SCAMPI – with the SCAM in PI.


  3. This post captures the untold thoughts of thousands of Quality Managers , SQA, ATMs and Assessors 🙂

    My scenario with melange of CMMI terms..

    Use DAR to get it right…else you have to do a CAR as your PPMs would have failed ! If that happens , there might be an action for your OT team to train you on ‘How to set project goals’ as without understanding QPM you will be operating at Level 2 and your PPQA report will be red.
    How much ever you argue that you have got a satisfied customer and got the product right..you will be made to realize that without a process, the product developed was a fluke..and that word of wisdom will come from a person who has never coded a single line in lifetime…
    When all this happens you are getting institutionalized 🙂

  4. Interesting write up.

    Some more that one comes across….

    Levels : I can fail an appraisal in Staged representation and get ML 1. In continuous representation, to get CL 1, something should be working and I need to still pass some essential goals.

    Assessment and Appraisal – What is the difference ? Split, split,split, ……

    Rules and Guidelines for Teams -What do you mean ? We have been doing this all the time and we do this now as well !!!!!!!

    Product Integration – We are not a product organization. So, we are not sure how this is relevant for our organization………….



  5. Team, We should just appreciate, understand, preach and practice the SPIRIT and INTENT behind such models. Those who don’t want to follow the model with rigor find all kinds of faults in the model. This is just my opinion 🙂

  6. According to my understanding all terminologies used in CMMI have its own significance and importance in its place. We should not take it with literal english meaning some times. For example, I love the term “Institutionalization” even though I stutter while repeating it 🙂 [Due to typical hurried pronunciation!]. I really liked “Continuous” representation after I understood its practical usage. However, the term “Maturity” used in “Organizational Maturity” has lost its meaning while using the equivalent staging. I had difficulty in explaining to the the term Maturity Vs Capability to lot of people because many people are still in the hangover of CMM – Maturity. In reality High Maturity (ML5) is an end result of achieving Level 3 capability in 24 process areas. To understand this one needs the experience of working within development projects. A development project does not achieve high maturity just because the project was initiated in a ML5 assessed company. Even to achieve CL3 in each PA a project has to plan and execute process plans.

  7. In my opinion all reviews/verfication are only effective if its done by a Subject Matter Expert pertaining to the respective work product. So why not just call it SME Review, whether its done by a peer or anybody else. Perhaps the SP2.1 of Verification PA should talk more about having a SME included for review

  8. Though I’m sure all such models have their merits and the thinking behind them is based on proper fundamentals, I can’t help but feel that simplicity is the key to any concept’s long term success. Why make terminology so complex and abstract that it takes more effort to figure out what it means than to actually practice and execute it? Furthermore, one might run the risk of making things unnecessarily complex, when a need for such complexity or rigor isn’t merited. They say that when the Germans built their tanks in world war 2, they built them to last for years, but the war was won by tanks made by the allied forces which were of inferior quality and merely lasted till the war ended. My point? Over complexity like over Engineering can become the achilles heel of any program. 🙂

  9. Interesting conversation. Thanks Rajesh for starting it! Looks like all of us have had few questions, we did not know why it came in the first place?

  10. Thanks Rajesh. Very interesting blog. Especially the one which you mentioned for Continuous “Each process can be in 5 states (not assessed, CL0, 1, 2, or 3). There are 24 PAs. That makes it a finite set of combinations. So it is discrete data. For a model that emphasizes on the correct use of statistics, the term continuous is very loosely used….”


    1. Hi Niranjana,

      CMM (for SW) had two ML 5 – KPAs called PCM and TCM. Roughly, OPM combines both of them and also tries to align improvement goals, and improvement initiatives to the organizational business goals — OPM also expects more stats and quanti analysis than TCM/PCM. The other ML 5 KPA of CMM called DP has now been upgraded and reconfigured as CAR (with more stats and quanti analysis).

      Hope this helps.



  11. Interesting comments on the topic, most seem to not be in favor of implementing process improvement models :-). I agree some are taking the CMMI too literaly, it should be referenced as a guideline. I have been doing process engineering for over 20 years with many CMM and CMMI engagements. The CMMI is just that, a model for helping an organization both implement a good SDLC process (through a proper methodology) and for assessing their progress (maturity). Any model will do just that, help an organization define and follow a good methodology and tailor that to the scope of the business or organization. It is up to the assessors to interpret what the organization has done and as a result of assessment (or appraisal) identify the strong areas of the process and develop improvement plans for weak areas. Note this is not an audit as some organizations see it. I have conducted hundreds of assessments very successfully, both formal and informal, and always stress that I am here to help improve the processes to make the organization more productive versus auditing them and looking at the negatives. So a methodology is really the key here, and many organizations today have stopped using one in favor of quick turn around and faster to market techniques. Those I have worked with not using a methodology have suffered greatly from schedule and cost overruns, as well as many defects in each release of the product. There are many out of the box methodologies to use (RUP for example), that any organization can implement successfully with the right guidance.

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