Capability Maturity Model (CMM): An Introduction

Published in July 2003

Every corporation wants information technology (IT) systems that are robust enough to meet their current requirements and flexible enough to adapt to their changing business needs. However, most
corporations have very poorly designed IT applications; thus, when these companies need to implement a major enhancement to their existing systems or build new applications their probability for
project failure is exceedingly high: 65% – 80% according to most surveys. This failure rate is surprising as the average company spends approximately 5.3% of its annual revenue on IT related

The executives of these same companies are trying to understand why their major IT initiatives fail at such a high rate and why seemingly simple changes to their applications are so costly and time
consuming. These executives wanted a technique for comparing their IT development methods with those of other firms. These desires have helped fuel the popularity of the Systems Engineering
Capability Maturity ModelSM (CMM). This article marks the first in a series on the CMM. In these articles, I will explain what the CMM is, what each of the six CMM levels mean, apply the CMM to
data warehousing along with metrics for each level, and illustrate why a meta data repository is the most vital application for any company looking to move up the CMM levels.

What is the Capability Maturity Model?

There are many different applications of the Capability Maturity Models. Some of these models target software development, staffing, etc. In this series I will focus on the Systems Engineering
Capability Maturity ModelSM (CMM). The CMM is service marked by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University and was developed by the SEI, the Department of Defense and a
host of other entities. For more information about the SEI, please feel free to visit

The CMM is designed to be an easy to understand methodology for ranking a company’s IT related activities. The CMM has six levels 0 – 5 (see illustration below):

  • Level 0 – Not Performed
  • Level 1 – Performed Informally
  • Level 2 – Planned and Tracked
  • Level 3 – Well-Defined
  • Level 4 – Quantitatively Controlled
  • Level 5 – Continuously Improving

The purpose of these levels is to provide a “measuring stick” for companies looking to improve their system development processes.

Figure 1: CMM Levels

Why is the CMM Valuable?

The CMM is valuable for several reasons. First, it is simple and easy to understand; therefore, it speaks to the executives of a corporation. Many corporate executives are already familiar with
this model and it is probable that your company’s executives are also familiar with it. Over the years I have been able to successfully use this model to illustrate major IT issues/concepts
to senior executives. I have found the CMM to be a very valuable tool for attaining project funding for key initiatives like enterprise data asset management and meta data repository development (I
will talk about these concepts in greater detail as my series on the CMM moves forward). Second, as you view the model it is intuitive that a company cannot currently be ranked at a level 2 and
directly jump to level 4. Instead, an organization must first develop a strategy to elevate themselves to level 3. Third, many large companies and government institutions are actively using this
model to compare themselves with other entities. In fact, many corporations have IT goals centered on the CMM levels. Fourth, the model gives companies a mechanism to compare themselves with other
companies within their industry.

Copyright ©2002 Enterprise Warehousing Solutions Inc.

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David Marco

David Marco

Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on metadata.  Mr. Marco is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”.  Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40". He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture and managed metadata environment technologies (

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