search menu icon-carat-right cmu-wordmark

Transforming Software Quality Assessment


The SEI's publication of the Capability Maturity Model for Software (Software CMM) in 1991 changed the view in government and industry about software quality. The model consisted of best practices in key process areas, giving organizations an objective standard for software development.

By 1986, the DoD and defense contractors recognized that some software engineering practices produced working software with greater consistency. Unfortunately, those practices were not documented or widely recognized.

Asked to conduct a study of "best practices," the SEI met with leading software professionals in the DoD, defense industry, commercial industry, and academia to develop a consensus on the practices that consistently lead to improved software development. To help organizations determine how well their work stacked up against these practices, the SEI produced a Maturity Questionnaire. Response to this questionnaire was overwhelmingly positive, from both the DoD and the defense industry.

After assisting several organizations with their assessments and subsequent improvement efforts, the SEI produced a guide for how organizations might manage that process. As the community began to adopt these ideas, some expressed a need for a more precise definition of the practices and the underlying model. As a result, the SEI published the Software CMM.

Many people contributed to the ideas in the Software CMM, and more than a few of those ideas preceded the SEI effort. It was the SEI's leadership that brought software community experts and practitioners together and its role as assimilator that filtered the ideas into a consistent framework and documents that became a worldwide de facto standard for software process improvement. The new structure for improvement, the capability maturity model, became a seminal information architecture that has been mimicked and adapted over time.

Eventually, the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) framework, managed with software community guidance by the SEI for more than a decade, evolved from the Software CMM.

Featured in