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For many organizations, achieving and maintaining CMMI high-maturity practices is a hard-earned goal. For Warner Robins Air Logistics Center Software Maintenance Group, it was a step toward a richer, deeper application of best practices through close collaboration with the SEI. The Software Maintenance Group provides technical expertise to develop, maintain, and enhance systems by sustaining software vital to the mission, operation, and sustainment of weapon systems, airborne electronics, electronic warfare, space communications, and support equipment.
“The implementation of any improvement model is dynamic, and CMMI is no exception,” says Bob Stoddard, a member of the SEI staff who has been working closely with the Software Maintenance Group. “Technology is always changing, and best practices are constantly being refined. The Software Maintenance Group put together a plan for continual improvement that includes an ongoing collaboration with the SEI.
By targeting cost and schedule issues for improvement, the Software Maintenance Group was able to statistically demonstrate improvements in both cost and schedule variance by comparing results before and after CMMI high maturity.
”Immediately after achieving its most recent Maturity Level 5 rating, the Software Maintenance Group began expanding its implementation of CMMI. The group arranged to have Stoddard on-site for coaching one week per month throughout most of the year. CMMI training and coaching were extended from a handful of software-engineering process specialists to dozens of other leaders, including measurement specialists, strategic planners, and squadron directors. By working with more people in a wider variety of organizational roles, Stoddard helped the Software Maintenance Group target new areas of improvement with a variety of industry proven implementations of CMMI practices, including Six Sigma techniques.
They began by tackling the difficulty of predicting costs, schedules, and several other performance outcomes. Stoddard coached them to initially develop several statistical process performance models to predict these outcomes based on factors the organization could control, such as work product size, complexity, risk codes, and average domain experience. In addition, they created numerous charts to help them track and visualize their leading indicators, providing them early warning of process-performance issues. Six Sigma simulation and optimization techniques were used to determine how to use leading indicators to improve performance. This approach identified potential efficiencies for some tasks.
By targeting cost and schedule issues for improvement, the Software Maintenance Group was able to statistically demonstrate improvements in both cost and schedule variance by comparing results before and after CMMI high maturity. The process-performance models and baselines are expected to support future improvements surrounding reduced internal rework, shorter cycle times, lowered costs, and fewer schedule crunches.
The Software Maintenance Group continues to work on new improvement techniques. Most recently, Stoddard has been leading them through an innovative process to define their vision and goals for how the organization contributes to the goals of the Air Force and the Department of Defense. Through this process, the Software Maintenance Group is identifying new goals that will help to achieve the success articulated in its vision.
“This collaboration has helped our group better understand high-maturity practices from a consultant who has actual experience implementing these practices in industry,” says Millee Sapp, the Software Maintenance Group’s software engineering process group lead. “It also helps the SEI understand the challenges that our organization experiences implementing CMMI.”
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