CMMI for Acquisition—The First New Constellation



Mike Phillips

This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Process Improvement

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: June 1, 2007

First, the Development

The History

The first effort to address acquisition best practices began shortly after the release of the Software Capability Maturity Model (SW-CMM). A team from government and the SEI created the Software Acquisition CMM (SA-CMM) in 1994. That model was used by a variety of Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agency teams for about a decade. During that time, it was updated twice. In 2004, the DoD directed the creation of a CMMI-compatible collection of best practices for acquisition as an acquisition module. This release of the CMMI-AM was a concise version for use within government program offices.

In 2005, work had begun on CMMI for Development (CMMI-DEV) V1.2, and the CMMI model architecture was updated. This update of the architecture allowed a more complete approach to process improvement in the acquisition processes of organizations. Initial leadership for developing acquisition improvement came from the chief information officer of General Motors, Ralph Szygenda. His vision was to improve how GM’s regional centers acquired the critical software needed to manage GM’s infrastructure around the world. The initial draft of this guidance, Adapting CMMI for Acquisition Organizations: A Preliminary Report, was published by the SEI in June 2006, just before the rollout of CMMI-DEV V1.2.

Over the past year, a combined team from government, industry, and the SEI has reviewed pilot feedback to develop the material and assure that it covers government acquisition as well as the outsourcing efforts typical in industry. The tested processes used for the CMMI V1.1 and V1.2 updates were reused, and an advisory group with rich acquisition experience reviewed proposed changes and the actual implementation. The result is the CMMI for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ) V1.2 model. This model is now in draft form and has now entered the final quality-assurance phase of its development. Release of CMMI-ACQ is planned for November 1, 2007.

What Are the Major Differences Between CMMI-ACQ and CMMI-DEV?

As described in earlier columns, the constellation approach is designed to maximize the commonality of CMMI models while recognizing the need for both additional coverage and some differing process areas that better define best practices in the selected area of interest. Sixteen of the process areas appear to be suitable for all CMMI constellations. Material additions were allowed to these 16 process areas, but no deletions were allowed. The other six process areas have significantly different material from that in CMMI-DEV and were therefore renamed to recognize this distinction.

Additions to the CMMI Model Foundation (CMF)

The CMMI-ACQ team recognized two elements of project planning and project monitoring and control processes that are not covered in CMMI-DEV, but are particularly important to acquisition best practice.

The first of these is establishing an effective acquisition strategy. An acquisition strategy is often created early in a planning effort. A practice was therefore added early in Project Planning (PP) to cover this important acquisition activity.

The second of these elements is the transition of acquired products into use. Program offices frequently employ extensive efforts after product delivery to ensure customer satisfaction. After debating whether or not to create a new process area covering this topic, the team decided that adequate coverage could be achieved by adding specific practices to the Project Planning and Project Monitoring and Control (PMC) process areas.

These model updates result in an approach similar to the one in CMMI-DEV that addresses data management. The importance of cost and schedule tracking to acquisition projects also suggested an improved emphasis on this area in the model. The team decided to add a chart in the Measurement and Analysis (MA) process area to meet that need.

The final change to the 16 process areas deserves mention as well. One of the unique challenges in acquisition is the need to form effective teams across organizational boundaries. Often multiple products or systems must be acquired to satisfy a customer need. Teams often must coordinate the functions, manage the risks, and handle information flow as part of complex relationships with other organizations. The CMMI-ACQ team concluded that practices like those in the integrated product and process development (IPPD) addition in CMMI-DEV would be useful to address these challenges. Therefore, material intentionally similar to the IPPD material in CMMI-DEV was added to CMMI-ACQ and positioned in the Organizational Process Definition (OPD) and Integrated Project Management (IPM) process areas. The key difference in the new model is that these practices are considered expected, rather than an optional addition that can be selected, as it is offered today in CMMI-DEV.

How About the New Process Areas?

Below I provide a short discussion of each of the new process areas contained in CMMI-ACQ. However, it may be useful to recognize the influence of CMMI-DEV on these process areas, since most readers of this column are already familiar with the Development constellation.

It should come as no surprise that a major emphasis of CMMI-ACQ is to increase the attention to the area covered by the Supplier Agreement Management (SAM) process area in CMMI-DEV. While this process area was allowed to be not applicable for development organizations that do not have suppliers external to the project, these practices are the essential purpose of organizations addressed by the new acquisition constellation. To give the greater granularity appropriate to this focus, two process areas take the place of what SAM covered in CMMI-DEV.

The first new process area, Solicitation and Supplier Agreement Development (SSAD), covers the activities required to get a supplier agreement in place. The second process area, Agreement Management (AM), covers the needed business aspects of the relationship between the acquirer and supplier over the life of the project once the agreement is in place. Thus SSAD and AM extend the coverage provided in SAM Specific Goals 1 and 2, respectively.

Three other process areas are closely related to CMMI-DEV Engineering process areas. Acquisition Requirements Development (ARD), Acquisition Verification (AVER), and Acquisition Validation (AVAL) share much with their CMMI-DEV counterparts.

The remaining process area, Acquisition Technical Management (ATM), covers the role of the acquisition organization when the developer is both developing the product or service and overseeing integration of products and services. Central to this role is providing appropriate technical reviews to check progress and resolve technical problems that are frequently part of the development of a complex software-intensive system. To resolve integration-related problems, practices that ensure good interface management are included. We think the addition of ATM will also help acquirers deal with today’s increasing attention on systems of systems and network-centric needs in many acquisitions. This improvement in coverage is similar to the elevation of integrated teaming coverage mentioned a few paragraphs earlier.

Two differences from CMMI-DEV that I will mention here are that, based on pilot feedback, the team determined that ARD needed to be at Maturity Level 2 to provide the right emphasis on the acquirer’s role in getting the requirements right as soon as possible. One other difference to note is that for this constellation, we put the six new process areas in an Acquisition process area category. We decided not to maintain the Engineering category with a single process area, Requirements Management, in it. Instead, we gave REQM a new home in the Project Management process area category.

What About Training?

The team has begun working on a course revision to reflect a multi-constellation approach for CMMI. At initial release of CMMI-ACQ, however, we will first offer a modular approach to the training similar to our transition from V1.1 to V1.2 in CMMI-DEV. Access to the Internet-provided module will require successful completion of the existing CMMI-DEV V1.2 Intro course, or its V1.1 predecessor. This course builds on the solid foundation in the workings of CMMI models given in the existing Introduction to CMMI course and describes the best practices that the acquirer should be seeking in his or her suppliers of choice.

Based on our experience providing CMMI-DEV to several acquisition organizations in the DoD, we will provide a limited number of offerings of a course that addresses both development and acquisition before release of the integrated course next year. Our course offerings will depend on community interest. We anticipate chartering an initial cadre of SEI Partners with experience in the field, and will add others consistent with community demand.

What About Appraisals?

The introduction of a significant variant to the established benchmarking model in SCAMPI Class A appraisals has caused us to take an approach different from previous CMMI releases. No SCAMPI Class A results using the CMMI-ACQ model will be accepted by the SEI for the first six months after release on November 1, 2007. Other classes of appraisals may be used to encourage process improvement progress during that period. We are also investigating ways to accommodate organizations that have significant parts of their organizations responsible for acquisition while other parts are responsible for development. We plan to provide an approach that maintains the needed confidence in appraisal results but recognizes the need to avoid the cost of two separate appraisals.

And for the Rollout …

In November, the SEI will announce CMMI-ACQ V1.2 and provide it in both PDF and Microsoft Word formats on the SEI Web site. Over time, summary versions similar to the predecessor CMMI-AM V1.1 also will be provided on the same Web page. The existing CMMI V1.2 Tutorial will be updated to address the CMMI-ACQ constellation, and this updated version will be presented at various conferences over the coming year. The SEI will also provide a comparison document that shows the strong similarities between the CMMI-DEV and CMMI-ACQ models as well as the differences between these two related areas of interest.  


We are excited about the coverage that this new constellation provides to focus on what some call “acquisition,” that others call “outsourcing,” and still others call “supply-chain management.” We also believe that there are improvements in coverage of topics, such as integrated teaming, that will, over time, suggest changes to the next version of CMMI-DEV. Together these two constellations, combined with the technical report Understanding and Leveraging a Supplier's CMMI Efforts: A Guidebook for Acquirers, offer significant progress in improving the systems we provide to our various end users.

About the Author

As the director of special projects at the Software Engineering Institute, Mike Phillips leads the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) project for the SEI. He was previously responsible for transition-enabling activities at the SEI. Prior to his retirement as a colonel from the Air Force, he managed the $36B development program for the B-2 in the B-2 SPO and commanded the 4950th Test Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Phillips has master’s degrees in nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech, in systems management from the University of Southern California, and in international affairs from Salve Regina College and the Naval War College.

Please note that current and future CMMI research, training, and information has been transitioned to the CMMI Institute, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Carnegie Mellon University.

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