Understanding Maturity Levels
To support those who use the staged representation, all Capability Maturity Models(CMM) reflect maturity levels in their design and content. A maturity level consists of related specific and generic practices for a predefined set of process areas that improve the organization’s overall performance.
The maturity level of an organization provides a way to characterize its performance. Experience has shown that organizations do their best when they focus their process improvement efforts on a manageable number of process areas at a time and that those areas require increasing sophistication as the organization improves.
A maturity level is a defined evolutionary plateau for organizational process improvement. Each maturity level matures an important subset of the organization’s processes, preparing it to move to the next maturity level. The maturity levels are measured by the achievement of the specific and generic goals associated with each predefined set of process areas.
The five maturity levels, each a layer in the foundation for ongoing process improvement, are designated by the numbers 1 through 5:
4. Quantitatively Managed
Remember that maturity levels 2 and 3 use the same terms as capability levels 2 and 3. This consistency of terminology was intentional because the concepts of maturity levels and capability levels are complementary. Maturity levels are used to characterize organizational improvement relative to a set of process areas, and capability levels characterize organizational improvement relative to an individual process area.
Advancing Through Maturity Levels
Organizations can achieve progressive improvements in their maturity by achieving control first at the work group level and continuing to the most advanced level—organization-wide continuous process improvement—using both qualitative and quantitative data to make decisions.
Since improved organizational maturity is associated with improvement in the range of expected results that can be achieved by an organization, maturity is one way of predicting general outcomes of the organization’s next work. For instance, at maturity level 2, the organization has been elevated from ad hoc to disciplined by establishing sound service management. As the organization achieves generic and specific goals for the set of process areas in a maturity level, it increases its organizational maturity and reaps the benefits of process improvement. Because each maturity level forms a necessary foundation for the next level, trying to skip maturity levels is usually counterproductive.
At the same time, recognize that process improvement efforts should focus on the needs of the organization in the context of its business environment and that process areas at higher maturity levels can address the current needs of an organization or work group.
For example, organizations seeking to move from maturity level 1 to maturity level 2 are frequently encouraged to establish a process group, which is addressed by the Organizational Process Focus process area at maturity level 3. Although a process group is not a necessary characteristic of a maturity level 2 organization, it can be a useful part of the organization’s approach to achieving maturity level 2.
This situation is sometimes characterized as establishing a maturity level 1 process group to bootstrap the maturity level 1 organization to maturity level 2. Maturity level 1 process improvement activities may depend primarily on the insight and competence of the process group until an infrastructure to support more disciplined and widespread improvement is in place.
Organizations can institute process improvements anytime they choose, even before they are prepared to advance to the maturity level at which the specific practice is recommended. In such situations, however, organizations should understand that the success of these improvements is at risk because the foundation for their successful institutionalization has not been completed. Processes without the proper foundation can fail at the point they are needed most—under stress.
A defined process that is characteristic of a maturity level 3 organization can be placed at great risk if maturity level 2 management practices are deficient. For example, management may commit to a poorly planned schedule or fail to control changes to baselined requirements. Similarly, many organizations prematurely collect the detailed data characteristic of maturity level 4 only to find the data uninterpretable because of inconsistencies in processes and measurement definitions.
Maturity Level 1: Initial
At maturity level 1, processes are usually ad hoc and chaotic. The organization usually does not provide a stable environment to support processes. Success in these organizations depends on the competence and heroics of the people in the organization and not on the use of proven processes. In spite of this chaos, maturity level 1 organizations provide services that often work, but they frequently exceed the budget and schedule documented in their plans.
Maturity level 1 organizations are characterized by a tendency to over-commit, abandon their processes in a time of crisis, and be unable to repeat their successes.
Maturity Level 2: Managed
At maturity level 2, work groups establish the foundation for an organization to become an effective service provider by institutionalizing selected Project and Work Management, Support, and Service Establishment and Delivery processes. Work groups define a service strategy, create work plans, and monitor and control the work to ensure the service is delivered as planned. The service provider establishes agreements with customers and develops and manages customer and contractual requirements. Configuration management and process and product quality assurance are institutionalized, and the service provider also develops the capability to measure and analyze process performance.
Also at maturity level 2, work groups, work activities, processes, work products, and services are managed. The service provider ensures that processes are planned in accordance with policy. To execute the process, the service provider provides adequate resources, assigns responsibility for performing the process, trains people on the process, and ensures the designated work products of the process are under appropriate levels of configuration management. The service provider identifies and involves relevant stakeholders and periodically monitors and controls the process. Process adherence is periodically evaluated and process performance is shared with senior management. The process discipline reflected by maturity level 2 helps to ensure that existing practices are retained during times of stress.
Maturity Level 3: Defined
At maturity level 3, service providers use defined processes for managing work. They embed tenets of project and work management and services best practices, such as service continuity and incident resolution and prevention, into the standard process set. The service provider verifies that selected work products meet their requirements and validates services to ensure they meet the needs of the customer and end user. These processes are well characterized and understood and are described in standards, procedures, tools, and methods.
The organization’s set of standard processes, which is the basis for maturity level 3, is established and improved over time. These standard processes are used to establish consistency across the organization. Work groups establish their defined processes by tailoring the organization’s set of standard processes according to tailoring guidelines. (See the definition of “organization’s set of standard processes” in the glossary.)
A critical distinction between maturity levels 2 and 3 is the scope of standards, process descriptions, and procedures. At maturity level 2, the standards, process descriptions, and procedures can be quite different in each specific instance of the process (i.e., used by a particular work group). At maturity level 3, the standards, process descriptions, and work procedures are tailored from the organization’s set of standard processes to suit a particular work group or organizational unit and therefore are more consistent except for the differences allowed by the tailoring guidelines.
Another critical distinction is that at maturity level 3, processes are typically described more rigorously than at maturity level 2. A defined process clearly states the purpose, inputs, entry criteria, activities, roles, measures, verification steps, outputs, and exit criteria. At maturity level 3, processes are managed more proactively using an understanding of the interrelationships of process activities and detailed measures of the process, its work products, and its services.
At maturity level 3, the organization further improves its processes that are related to the maturity level 2 process areas. Generic practices associated with generic goal 3 that were not addressed at maturity level 2 are applied to achieve maturity level 3.
Maturity Level 4: Quantitatively Managed
At maturity level 4, service providers establish quantitative objectives for quality and process performance and use them as criteria in managing processes. Quantitative objectives are based on the needs of the customer, end users, organization, and process implementers. Quality and process performance is understood in statistical terms and is managed throughout the life of processes.
For selected subprocesses, specific measures of process performance are collected and statistically analyzed. When selecting subprocesses for analyses, it is critical to understand the relationships between different subprocesses and their impact on achieving the objectives for quality and process performance. Such an approach helps to ensure that subprocess monitoring using statistical and other quantitative techniques is applied to where it has the most overall value to the business. Process performance baselines and models can be used to help set quality and process performance objectives that help achieve business objectives.
A critical distinction between maturity levels 3 and 4 is the predictability of process performance. At maturity level 4, the performance of processes is controlled using statistical and other quantitative techniques and predictions are based, in part, on a statistical analysis of fine-grained process data.
Maturity Level 5: Optimizing
At maturity level 5, an organization continually improves its processes based on a quantitative understanding of its business objectives and performance needs. The organization uses a quantitative approach to understand the variation inherent in the process and the causes of process outcomes.
Maturity level 5 focuses on continually improving process performance through incremental and innovative process and technological improvements. The organization’s quality and process performance objectives are established, continually revised to reflect changing business objectives and organizational performance, and used as criteria in managing process improvement. The effects of deployed process improvements are measured using statistical and other quantitative techniques and compared to quality and process performance objectives. The defined processes, the organization’s set of standard processes, and supporting technology are targets of measurable improvement activities.
A critical distinction between maturity levels 4 and 5 is the focus on managing and improving organizational performance. At maturity level 4, the organization and work groups focus on understanding and controlling performance at the sub-process level and using the results to manage projects. At maturity level 5, the organization is concerned with overall organizational performance using data collected from multiple work groups. Analysis of the data identifies shortfalls or gaps in performance. These gaps are used to drive organizational process improvement that generates measurable improvement in performance.