Example: Process Improvement with CMMI (Staged)

CMMI is not a process definition but a process quality assessment tool. Because every organization is different and requires different processes, a single standard process for all organizations is not reasonable. Thus, in a standard process improvement procedure, a new process must be designed, developed, and introduced.

The Team

The Roles

The process consulting team has three key roles:

  • Executive Consultant (EC) 
    The EC is responsible for budget coordination, project progress planning, and communication with the top management. The EC is a senior management consultant with extensive experience in top management positions. 
  • Senior Process Consultant (SPC)
    The SPC is responsible for operative improvement measures, such as organization and facilitation of workshops, maintaining a project plan, design of new process documents, selection and development methodologies, coaching of the target organization’s management and process experts. The SPC is a senior management consultant with an extensive professional experience in management positions, and an thorough, practical know-how in all CMMI process areas.
  • Process Engineer (PE)
    The PE is responsible for the design of new process infrastructure, implementation of new tools, tool integration, design of new templates, maintain document storage, etc.

It is not required to hire one consultant for each role; the roles may be assigned to two or (in rare cases) one consultant, depending on the project size and the consultant’s skills.

The Procedure


Typical CMMI process improvement projects have following phases:

  1. Preparation: CMMI scope discussion and clarification of the organization’s strategic goals
  2. Gap analysis: process requirements analysis to identify gaps to be closed by the future process
  3. Planning session: presentation of the gap analysis results and planning of the next stages
  4. Project setup: Installation of Process Action Teams, kick-off the entire process improvement team
  5. Big picture: process design workshops to produce a process landscape
  6. Concept rollout: presentation of the basic process concept to senior management
  7. Process development: creation of a detailed process definition
  8. Pilot: testing the new process in selected areas
  9. Rollout and coaching: final process implementation and support
  10. Assessment: internal or by an external SCAMPI appraisal

The Stages in Detail

The stages in Detail

1. Preparation

During this activity, the scope of process development needs is clarified. This includes the organizational setting in which new process areas will be required, e.g., departments, specific projects, geographical location, etc. Also, the required of the CMMI model must be selected (e.g., CMMI for Development). This task is supervised by the Executive Consultant (EC).

2. Gap analysis

In the first stage of the project, the CMMI model is used to find gaps in the existing process, to discuss any existing organizational issues and to create work packages for the next stages of the process improvement. This task is performed by the Senior Process Consultant (SPC), supported by the Process Engineer (PE).

3. Planning Session

The results of the gap analysis will be presented to the client (usually the senior management team). Then a plan is created and budgeted. This task is supervised by the consulting team from the Executive Consultant (EC).

4. Project Setup

In cooperation with the client’s management team, the consultants help select experts who have the technical knowledge required for the corresponding process areas, and also have adequate leadership skills and enjoy the acceptance (or will likely gain it) among the organization in terms of change leadership. The experts, led by a customer’s project manager, form the Project Action Team (PAT).  The project setup phase is managed by the Senior Process Consultant.

5. Big Picture

During this phase, process workshops are carried out, covering the entire product or project lifecycle. At the end of this phase, a high-level process landscape and a description of the key roles is available. This phase is managed by the Senior Process Consultant (SPC), supported by the Process Engineer (PE).

6. Concept Rollout

This important event is used to present the new process concept to key organizational stakeholders (management team, middle management, quality assurance experts, etc.) in order to achieve a common understanding and acceptance of the process improvement measures. This task is performed by Executive Consultant (EC) and Senior Process Consultant (SPC).

7. Process Development

During this phase, the process model is developed in detail. This is done through workshops, reviews, discussions and test runs. The first versions of the process description documents are typically created by consultants and developed in collaboration with the Process Action Team. In some cases, the first versions will be created directly by process experts. Selection, integration and deployment of tools that support the new process, such as requirements management tools, defect management, CASE tools, project planning tools, etc., takes place in this phase. This task is managed by Senior Process Consultant (SPC), supported by the Process Engineer (PE).

8. Pilots

The pilot (or several pilots if required) can be performed for all or selected process areas. In this phase, the previously developed processes go through a “live test” to ensure their acceptance and organizational suitability. This step is critical because for the employees involved in the pilot projects the process activities are now performed to create real-life work products. This task is managed by Senior Process Consultant (SPC) and supported by Process Engineer (PE).

9. Rollout and Coaching

Following the successful pilot, the new process are updated, reviewed, and passed on to the appropriate organizational unit, usually quality management, that is responsible for the management of organizational process assets. Subsequently, all affected employees receive training in new processes. Later, they are supported and coached by the Process Action Team and the consultants. This task is managed by Senior Process Consultant (SPC), supported by Process Engineer (PE).

10. Assessment

The process quality evaluation is performed in the form of an internal or (better) external assessment. The Executive Consultant (EC) can help here to recommend an external lead appraiser who conducts an independent SCAMPI appraisal.



Process improvement projects are difficult and critical ventures. Successful process improvement requires certain factors, including the following:

  • The middle management must be actively involved at an early stage.
  • Employee representatives (works council) must also be involved early. 
  • Goals and progress of the project must be systematically communicated to management and to the entire organization.
  • Process improvement is a complex procedure. All involved parties must be aware that there will be difficult moments down the road that must me endured together.
  • For each process area, an outstanding expert (process owner) from the customer organization should be appointed who is responsible for support and maintenance of assigned process area(s). The Process Action Team (see Step 4) consists of just these experts. The process owners will further develop the respective process assets and coach their colleagues after the consultants have completed their assignment.
  • Proper resource planning is an absolute must. In particular, temporary increase of resource needs (or, equally, an overall performance dip) is likely to be caused through the introduction of new processes, tools, and rules.
  • Professional tools are important when introducing new processes. A complex process should not be based on spreadsheets only. For example, spreadsheets are inherently unsuitable in processes where every line should be a separately versioned entity, e.g., in requirements development and requirements management.
  • Process consultants must never become permanent part of the organization. Otherwise, you will soon need new consultants.
  • Process improvement activities must not be in any way part of a hidden or open outplacement strategy and should not take place when the staff size is being reduced.

Perhaps the most important thing is the fact that process improvement is impossible without a clear commitment of the senior management. Only a clear vision of the future organization and an openly and repeatedly declared determination to start, conduct, and successfully finish the process improvement activities enable process improvement measures to be successful.



Process improvement projects are among the most challenging tasks in the management consultancy business. Since CMMI is an assessment tool and not a process model, the comprehensive, practical experience of the process consultants is crucial. If certain basic rules are obeyed, CMMI projects are likely to succeed.