Capability Maturity Model Part 2: Overview of the Six Levels

Published in October 2003

Articles in this series – Part 1,

In last quarter’s column I introduced the concept of the Systems Engineering Capability Maturity ModelSM (CMM) and illustrated the value that this model can provide to an enterprise. In this
installment I will explain the key CMM concepts and walk through each of the six CMM levels.

Key CMM Concepts

Before we walk through the CMM’s six levels it is important to understand the five key concepts. These concepts are Consistency, Repeatable, Transferable, Quantitative and Qualitative. As I walk
through these vital concepts I will use the IT task of project planning for illustrative purposes.

When an IT activity is Consistently performed it means that the task is performed much more frequently than it is not performed. For example, if the majority of your company’s IT
projects use written project plans then this activity would be performed consistently. It is important to note that consistency does not address quality or value that the task provided. Therefore,
some IT staff will prepare written project plans using Microsoft Project, others will use Microsoft Excel and others will write them out by hand. Also, the level of detail for the project plans
will vary. Repeatable refers to an IT activity that provides value and is followed by a particular project team/group within the company. For example, a data warehousing team may
have a standard method for constructing project plans (tool, level of detail, resource naming, etc.). Transferable means that the IT activity is standardized and followed
throughout the company. As a result, the success of this task is transferable across groups within the company. For example, all project plans throughout an organization would be standardized,
formatted consistently and have the same level of granularity. Quantitative refers to the measuring of an IT activity. For example, the time it takes to construct each project plan
would be measured and captured. Lastly, Qualitative refers to how well a task was accomplished. In our example, we would see if the project plan was accurate, followed by the team,

CMM Levels

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

  • 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

Level 0: Not Performed

Level 0 is common for companies that are just entering the IT field. At this level there are few or no best practices. Some IT activities are not even performed and all deliverables are done in
“one-off efforts.” Typically new applications are built by a small number of people (possibly even one person) in a very isolated fashion.

Level 1: Performed Informally

At level 1 consistent planning and tracking of IT activities is missing and deliverables are accomplished via “Heroic” effort. “Heroic” effort
means that a team might work long hours in order to build a particular application; however, there are very few IT standards and reuse/sharing is minimal. As a result, IT deliverables are adequate;
however, the deliverables are not repeatable or transferable.

As a general rule, the amount of money a company spends on their IT applications does not impact what CMM level they are at. The closest exception to this rule is the move from Level 0 to Level 1.
Typically, a company can move from level 0 to level 1 as a by-product of elevated IT spending. Aside from this exception, moving beyond level 1 is not impacted by money spent. A corporation
could be spending well over $500 million on application development and be at this level. Indeed, the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies and large government organizations are at a CMM level of

Level 2: Planned and Tracked

Level 2 has IT deliverables that are planned and tracked. In addition, there are some defined best practices within the enterprise (e.g. defined IT standards/documents, program version control,
etc.). Some repeatable processes exist within an IT project team/group, but the success of this team/group is not transferable across the enterprise

Level 3: Well-Defined

IT best practices are documented and performed throughout the enterprise. At level 3 IT deliverables are repeatable AND transferable across the
company. This level is a very difficult jump for most companies. Not surprisingly, this is also the level that provides the greatest cost savings.

Level 4: Qualitatively Controlled

Companies at level 4 have established measurable process goals for each defined process. These measurements are collected and analyzed quantitatively. At this level,
companies can begin to predict future IT implementation performance.

Level 5: Continuously Improving

At level 5 enterprises have quantitative (measurement) and qualitative (quality) understanding of each IT process. It is at this level that a
company understands how each IT process is related to the overall business strategies and goals of the corporation. Every programmer should understand how each line of SQL will assist the company
in reaching their strategic goals.

In my next column I will apply the CMM levels to data warehousing and provide you with a mechanism to rank your company’s data warehousing efforts.

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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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