NEWS AT SEI
This article was originally published in News at SEI on: March 1, 2005
The SEI has long been a source of important innovations in software engineering. As they mature, these innovations can take the form of training courses or assessment services, but in order for these services to have an impact, they must be transitioned to the users who would benefit from them. To help get the word out, the SEI counts on the SEI Partner Network, an international group of organizations and individuals that are selected, licensed and trained by the SEI to provide leadership in transitioning mature SEI-branded services, including courses, into practice. Through this global network of SEI Partners, SEI courses and services are available to a wider audience than can be served directly by the SEI. “In addition, SEI’s branding and quality activities of the SEI Partner Network help to distinguish SEI Partners from others offering similar courses and services,” says Richard Cox, manager of the Licensing Program at the SEI. “These SEI Partners and SEI-Authorized and Certified Professionals are key to disseminating SEI-branded services, and the software engineering community understands the value of working with SEI Partners to obtain SEI services.”
Growth of the Partner Network
When the SEI licensing program was initially established and only ten organizations were partners, quality-related practices and principles applicable to the delivery of SEI-licensed services were not explicitly articulated. Rather, they were assumptions that were understood by these partners, who knew SEI business culture and worked very closely with the SEI. But a rapid increase in the number of partners has created a need for a more defined quality system with continuous process improvement. (As of May 2005, the SEI Partner Network has grown to over 235 partners.) “The trend now is toward global infusion in many business cultures with different assumptions and pressures and so organic processes must be designed and policies must be normalized rather than exception-based; and responses must be proactive, consistent and clear rather than reactive, inconsistent and fuzzy,” Cox suggests. “In short, the rules of engagement must be explicit rather than driven by unspoken assumptions.”
Building Quality: The Code of Professional Conduct
The SEI began building a quality system for the delivery of SEI-branded services in 2003. The first step that the SEI took was to draft and publish a Code of Professional Conduct for SEI Services. The SEI developed the Code with input from the community of SEI-Authorized and SEI-Certified Professionals and SEI Partners. John Maher, of Organization and Process Improvement Incorporated, led the effort. “Instead of simply adding requirements to the partner agreement, the SEI took a different approach,” Maher says. “They sought contributions from partners and tried to build consensus right from the start on the requirements of the Code.” The Code was first reviewed publicly in November 2003 and went through multiple iterations based on feedback from inside the SEI, SEI Partners and SEI-Authorized Professionals. All submitted change requests were posted publicly and reviewed by the SEI; responses to comments were then posted with each new version. Over 500 people commented on these early drafts.
The Code is designed to protect the reputation of the SEI, SEI Partners and SEI-Authorized and Certified Professionals. “The Code emphasizes the core values of the SEI Partner Network—integrity, excellence and impact—by setting a standard of behavior across the community for the delivery of SEI-branded services” says Cox. “It has become a part of the contractual relationship for authorization, certification and licenses and all SEI Partners and Authorized and Certified Professionals must commit by signature to the Code. The Code applies to all members of the community. In addition, the Code establishes some of the requirements for both a more robust service support system and quality system at the SEI.”
The Code, driven in part by the community of SEI Partners and SEI-Authorized/Certified Professionals defines the behaviors expected from this community when providing SEI-branded services. These behaviors further distinguish the providers of SEI-branded services from those delivering non-SEI services.
Commitments to the Code of Professional Conduct
As of June 1, 2005, 237 organizations and 745 individuals have committed to the Code. The license agreements for those organizations that elected not to commit or did not respond were cancelled for convenience, and the authorizations of those individuals who elected not to commit or did not respond are being revoked. Those organizations and individuals who have their licenses cancelled or authorizations revoked will no longer be permitted to deliver the associated SEI-branded services.
In order to assure that the Code is recognized both in description and practice as fairly representing all parties when violations to the Code have been investigated by the SEI, the Code provides for an elected Review Board for the Code of Professional Conduct for SEI Services (Review Board) from the community of professionals covered by the Code.
The Review Board provides an independent review of the data presented and any conclusions drawn, and its authority is limited to making a recommendation to the SEI Director. The Board (1) considers requests for review of Code investigations and conclusions; (2) conducts independent reviews, when appropriate; and (3) makes recommendations to the SEI Director based on these reviews. The Board may review all aspects of a request, including the data, the process and the conclusion, subject to confidentiality agreements. Maher adds "The Code, and the independent Review Board, help to maintain a level playing field and set ground rules that all partners and certified or authorized individuals have agreed to live by, regardless of organization or location."
The Future of the Code of Professional Conduct
Immediately upon completion of Version 1 of the Code, work began on developing the governance and guidance documents for the Review Board and the required infrastructure to support it. This work was completed in October 2004. As of this writing, the election process is being planned and then nominations will be solicited. Cox adds “As partners use the Code, we’ll get feedback about how it works in practice, and this will trigger changes for Version 2.”