Lower CMM levels still worthwhile

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Strength in numbers

Although many organizations strive to earn higher Capability Maturity Model (CMM) ratings, some companies find that achieving even a Level 2 is helpful in gaining the confidence of government customers.

It helps if the company is visibly striving to continue improving, said Mark Scheffel, vice president of product strategy and development at Integic Corp. The company has earned a CMM Level 2 rating on a project for the military's health care system, but officials are working to boost that to Level 3. Integic is also moving to the more comprehensive Capability Maturity Model Integration rating rather than the older CMM.

"The real issue is time to delivery," Scheffel said. "We're delivering this product in a three-month time frame. You can't get audited in three months. You probably can't even get scheduled for auditing in three months."

But the lower rating is useful, said Jim Meyer, Integic's director of marketing. "If you're qualified at CMM Level 2, that answers nine out of 10 of their questions," he said. "It gets you through the gates faster."

For some agencies, a Level 2 is adequate, said Ellen Glover, president of the government division at Impact Innovations Group LLC, a software engineering firm. The company has been rated at CMM Level 2 for work on the Veterans Personal Finance System project.

The firm is continuing to improve its software practices and boost its ratings, said Mike Tillman, the company's director of process improvement. However, he said, sometimes the time and expense of the external evaluation aren't justified.

"We selected the most logical organizations to tackle first — those that were of a reasonable size and scope, ones that were early enough along so that we weren't going to be submitting a project for review that was about to end," he said.

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