The truth about CMMI certification: It does not exist!

No matter where you look, everyone talking about CMMI will sooner or later mention the “c” word. Even Google, when you enter “CMMI” as a search term will try to help you by presenting “CMMI Certification” as a related search.

No wonder your surprise to learn that such thing ,as a CMMI Certification, does not exits! Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University issues a meager “appraisal”. Well, you might say, appraisal, certification what’s the difference? In the end, it’s the same thing and to reason to make a fuss about it.

Let’s see what does SEI has to say about it:

“The SEI does not certify the results of any appraisal nor is there an official accreditation body for CMMI. True certification of appraisal results would involve the ongoing monitoring of organizations’ capabilities, a shelf life for appraisal results, and other administrative elements. When an organization is appraised against the CMMI model, their Lead Appraiser’s findings may indicate that the organization is operating at a particular “maturity level.” The SCAMPI appraisal method maturity ratings are 1 through 5.

The SEI does not have a defined requirement for periodic follow-up after appraisals, nor does it accept legal responsibility for the performance of appraised organizations. All of these characteristics are required for a program that would provide certification of appraisal results. However, CMMI Appraisal results do expire after a period of three years.”

Source: SEI website

While difference is subtle, it is by no means innocuous, as it is explained clearly on the SEI website. SEI does not accept any legal responsibility for performance of companies they awarded appreciation report nor does it monitor them directly.

As you can see, the choice of words was not random, but carefully made. No reason then to be surprised by reports (and here) where companies that get CMMI “Certified” use only one department or team on order to get the logo, where companies after certification soon go back to old ways, where only motivation they have is winning a contract or a tender etc. Ever heard of the LCPBCs? If not you can google it, I will not spoil the fun :)

In the end, one can not but wonder how come that some agile circles were not able to avoid the certification trap, when even some of the organizations that inspired the whole movement, were smarter than that?

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