Building Centers Of Excellence

Knowledge is the raw material
of software development, and it is software engineers who transform knowledge into
software products. Although software tools can help record and manage knowledge, they do
not create and apply it. The level of talent on a software project is often the strongest
predictor of its results and personnel shortfalls are one of the most severe project
risks. Therefore, improving technology and process alone is not enough in the most
knowledge-intense industry in history.

Increasing the knowledge, skills and
performance of software developers is necessary to:
Compete with lower-priced talent in other
Satisfy the exponential explosion in the amount and
complexity of software required by most current and future products.
Increase the quality and reliability of software
systems to levels achieved by hardware, especially in life-and business-critical

To motivate continuous improvement of the
workforce, an organization must perceive its people as assets rather than as expense
items. It is tragic when this old labor relations model is carried over into high
technology, because it was based on jobs that were never as knowledge intense as those in
software development. Despite the importance of talent, human resources and other
workforce practices in many organizations are often ad hoc and inconsistent, and software
managers are insufficiently trained in performing them. Consequently, managers often
expect their human resource departments to be responsible for the administration of most
people-related practices. Compounding the problem, these practices are often applied with
little analysis of their impact. In many cases, even when software organizations are aware
of the problem and want to include people-related activities in their improvement
programs, they do not know where or how to begin.

A maturity framework for developing
human talent
The People Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM) focuses on continuously developing
the human assets of a software or information systems organization. The motivation for the
P-CMM is to radically improve the ability of software organizations to attract, develop,
motivate, organize and retain the talent needed to steadily improve their software
development capability.

The strategic objectives of the P-CMM are
Improve the capability of software organizations by
increasing the capability of their workforce.
Ensure that software development capability is an
attribute of the organization rather than of a few individuals.
Align the motivation of individuals with that of
the organization.
Retain human assets (i.e. people with critical
knowledge and skills) within the organization.

The maturity framework
The P-CMM is a maturity framework, patterned after the structure of the
Capability Maturity Model (CMM) for software that describes the key elements of managing
and developing an organization’s workforce. It describes an evolutionary improvement path
from ad hoc, inconsistently performed practices, to a mature, disciplined development of
the knowledge, skills and motivation of the workforce, just as the CMM describes an
evolutionary improvement path for the software processes within an organization. The
benefit of the P-CMM is in narrowing the scope of improvement activities to those
practices that provide the next foundational layer for developing an organization’s

Definition of the P-CMM maturity
As a capability maturity model, the P-CMM guides organizations in establishing
and improving their workforce practices through five evolutionary stages. Achieving each
maturity level in the P-CMM institutionalizes new capabilities for developing the
knowledge and skills of the workforce, resulting in an overall increase in the talent of
the organization. Growth through the maturity levels creates fundamental changes in how
people are developed and organized and in their working culture. Each maturity level
provides a layer in the foundation for continuous improvement of an organization’s
workforce practices.

Level 1-The Initial level: At
the Initial level, the performance of workforce activities is inconsistent. The
organization typically provides forms for activities such as performance appraisals or
position requisitions, but offers little guidance or training in conducting the activities
supported by these forms. Typically, managers have not been trained in performing most of
their workforce responsibilities, so their ability to manage those who report to them is
based on previous experience and their personal ‘people skills.’ These organizations are
not necessarily abusive or inconsiderate. Their problem is that they do not have the
ability to systemically develop the competitive capability of their workforce.

The P-CMM helps software organizations to:
Characterize the maturity of their workforce practices.
Guide a program of continuous workforce development.
Set priorities for immediate actions.
Integrate workforce development with process
Establish a culture of software engineering excellence.

Individuals in most Level-1
organizations do not take workforce practices seriously, since they do not believe the
practices have much relation to their real work and level of contribution to the

The workforce capability of a Level-1
organization is unknown, since there is little effort to measure or improve it. Turnover
is high when people feel there are better working conditions or growth potential in
another organization. Consequently, the level of knowledge and skills available in the
organization does not grow over time because of the need to replace experienced and
knowledgeable individuals who have left the organization.

Level 2-The Repeatable level: The
primary objectives at the Repeatable level are to eliminate problems that keep people from
being able to perform their work responsibilities effectively and to establish a
foundation of workforce practices that can be continuously improved in developing the

A primary objective in achieving a
repeatable capability is to establish a sense or responsibility and discipline in
performing basic workforce practices. These practices ensure that the people in each unit
will have the knowledge and skills required to perform their current assignment. When
these practices are institutionalized, the organization has laid a foundation on which it
can build improved methods and practices.

Structure of the P-CMM
The components of the P-CMM structure include:
Maturity levels   A maturity level is a well-defined evolutionary plateau that establishes a
level of capacity for improving workforce capability.
Workforce capability  Workforce capability describes the level of knowledge and skills in the
organization’s workforce and the ability of the workforce to apply them to improving
business performance.
Key process areas   Each maturity level is composed of key process areas. Each key process
area contains a set of goals that, when satisfied, establish that key process area’s
ability to affect workforce capability.
Goals   The goals of a key process area summarize the states that must exist for
that key process area to have been implemented in an effective and lasting way. The extent
to which the goals have been accomplished is an indicator of how much capability the
organization has established at that maturity level.
Common features   The key practices of each key process area are divided into five clusters
called common features. These five types of common features include:
Commitment to perform
Ability to perform Activities performed
Measurement and analysis Verifying implementation
Key practices   Each key process area is composed from a set of key practices that, when
implemented, help to satisfy the goals of that key process area. The key practices
describe the elements of infrastructure and workforce practice that contribute most to the
effective implementation and institutionalization of their key process area.

At the Repeatable level, those who have
been assigned responsibility for performing workforce activities accept personal
responsibility for ensuring that all workforce practices are implemented effectively. When
people take their workforce responsibilities seriously, they begin to develop repeatable
methods for performing specific activities such as interviewing or establishing
performance criteria.

The effort to implement improved workforce
practices begins when executive management commits the organization to constantly improve
the knowledge, skills, motivation and performance of its workforce.

The organization documents policies and
develops basic workforce practices that the units will implement. These initial needs are
in the areas of the work environment, communication, staffing, performance management,
training and compensation.

Level 3-The Defined level: Organizations
at the Repeatable level find that they are performing basic workforce capabilities, there
is inconsistency in how these practices are performed across the units. The organization
is not capitalizing on opportunities to standardize its best workforce practices, because
it has not identified the common knowledge and skills needed across its units and the best
practices to be used for developing them.

At the Defined level, the organization
begins to adapt its workforce practices to the specific nature of its business. It
identifies best practices in its own workforce activities or those of other organizations
and tailors them as the basis for adapting its workforce practices.

The organization analyzes its business
processes to determine the core competencies involved in its work and the knowledge and
skills that constitute these competencies. It then develops strategic and near-term plans
for developing these competencies across the organization. The organization administers
its workforce practices to develop and reward growth in its core competencies and to apply
them to improve performance.
A common organizational culture can develop at the Defined level, because the organization
becomes focused on developing and rewarding a set of core competencies. Such a culture is
reinforced when workforce practices are adapted to encourage and reward growth in the
organization’s core competencies. This culture can be enhanced by establishing a
participatory environment where individuals and groups are involved in decisions regarding
their work.

The workforce capability of organizations
at the Defined level is based on having a workforce that possesses the basic knowledge and
skills to perform the core business functions of the organization. The organization has
improved its ability to predict the performance of its work activities based on knowing
the level of knowledge and skills available in its workforce. Also, it has established a
foundation on which continuous development of knowledge and skills can be built.

Level 4-The Managed level: At
the Managed level, the organization takes the first step in capitalizing on managing its
core competencies as a strategic advantage. It sets quantitative objectives for growth in
core competencies and for the alignment of performance across the individual, team, unit
and organizational levels.

At the Managed level, high-performance
teams composed of people with complementary knowledge and skills are developed where
conditions support their functioning. Team-building activities are performed to improve
the effectiveness of these teams. Mentors are made available to both individuals and
teams. These mentors use their experience to provide personal support, guidance and some
skill development.

Organizational growth in each of the
organization’s core competencies is quantitatively managed. Data on the level of core
competencies in the organization are analyzed to determine trends and capability.

In addition, performance data are collected
and analyzed for trends in the alignment of performance at the individual, team, unit and
organizational levels. The workforce capability of Level-4 organizations is predictable
because the current capability of the workforce is known quantitatively.

Future trends in workforce capability and
performance can be predicted because the capability of the workforce practices to improve
the knowledge and skills of the workforce is known quantitatively. This level of workforce
capability provides the organization with an important predictor of trends in its business

Level 5-The optimizing level:
At the Optimizing level, there is a continuous focus on improving individual competencies
and finding innovative ways to improve workforce motivation and capability. The
organization supports individuals’ effort toward continuous development of personal

Innovative practices and technologies are
evaluated and the most promising are used in exploratory trials. The workforce capability
of Optimizing organizations is continuously improving because they are perpetually
improving their workforce practices. The culture created in an Optimizing organization is
one in which all members of the workforce are striving to improve their own, their team’s
and their unit’s knowledge, skills and motivation in order to improve the organization’s
overall performance. The workforce practices are honed to create a culture of performance

Key process areas
Each key process area (KPA) identifies a cluster of related activities that, when
performed collectively, achieve a set of goals considered important for enhancing
workforce capability.

Key process areas identify the capabilities
that must be institutionalized to achieve a maturity level. They describe the practices
that an organization should implement to improve its workforce capability.

Themes in the P-CMM model
By definition, key process areas are expressed at a single maturity level. There
are, however, relationships between the key process areas that stretch across maturity
levels. These relationships establish four themes that run through the P-CMM:
Developing capabilities
Building teams and culture
Motivating and managing performance
Shaping the workforce

The existence of these themes implies that
improvements in some areas need not be restricted to a single KPA, but can include an
integrated set of practices from several process areas.

Applying the P-CMM model
The value of the P-CMM is in the way that organizations use it. The P-CMM can be
applied by an organization in two primary ways:
As a standard for assessing workforce practices.
As a guide in planning and implementing improvement

P-CMM-based assessments
The P-CMM provides a standard against which the workforce practices of an
organization can be assessed. An assessment based on it may be conducted by itself, or
jointly with some other assessment of the organization, such as an employee opinion
assessment or software process assessment.

An assessment based on it will look at
workforce practices as actually performed across the organization. The P-CMM assessment
team determines whether a practice is implemented broadly across the organization and is

The results of this kind of assessment are
presented as a profile of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses against the KPAs of
the P-CMM.

Using P-CMM as a guide
There are two levels of guidance provided by the P-CMM: guidance on a strategy
for developing the organization over time and guidance on practices that the organization
can employ to solve explicit problems or shortcomings in its workforce practices.

The P-CMM does not provide guidance on how
to implement the improvement program itself. It is a road map for organizational growth
and needs to be coupled with a model on how to implement an improvement program.

Implementing a P-CMM-based
improvement program
The SEI has developed a model for improvement programs that is grounded in
several years experience with and lessons learned from software process improvement
programs. This model is a life-cycle for organizing the phases of an improvement program.
It is called the IDEAL model after the first letters in each of its five phases:
initiating, diagnosing, establishing, acting and leveraging.

Thus software organizations must become
centers of excellence that take talented individuals from universities and other sources
and develop them into motivated and productive software engineering teams.

Excerpted from People
Maturity Model by Bill Curtis, William
E Hefley and Sally Miller
© Carnegie Mellon University.

Available from
Quality Assurance Institute (India), 7 Community Centre,
East of Kalish, New Delhi – 65, email:

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