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Software & People CMM 

Widely recognized industry standards for software quality are the International Standards Organization's ISO 9000 certification and the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Most of us would agree that quality software could be defined as one that is generally bug-free. This is qualified by other useful metrics such as capability, usability, performance, reliability, interoperability, maintainability, availability, customer satisfaction, manageability, and ease of use. It is probably true, that because a wide number of parameters collectively define software quality, there seems to be little agreement on just what constitutes software quality - let alone the best way to achieve it. That makes it almost as difficult to assess Quality and harder still to verify! However, the CMM that comes in different flavors has tried to provide a “broad” framework to interpret these different metrics and serves as an effective way to assess process Quality. We shall explore two of the popular CMMs that are gaining relevance within the IT industry in this article – the Software CMM and the People CMM.

 The Software CMM with 18 Key Process Areas (KPAs) defines the essential ingredients for an optimizing software development process. These KPAs are however the necessary conditions but not sufficient conditions for the process characteristics that must exist. That is because, even if you have all the right systems in place, it is not an assurance that you will be operating at high process maturity. Again, having the right systems in place is only a necessary but not sufficient condition for operating at high levels of process maturity. A staged model such as the Software CMM provides a basis for organizations focusing on information technology to embark on a “sustainable, progressive and a balanced” improvement program addressing the development process. The primary focus of the Software CMM is therefore, to improve the quality of the development process. While it is true that Quality in a product is not possible without adequate quality in the process, quality in the process is impossible without the right people and the right management leadership that is committed to excellence. Here is where People CMM comes into play.

The People CMM with 20 Key Process Areas serves as a supporting framework for sustaining and attaining better results on process improvements to the software development process by establishing Quality people processes. People CMM helps to bring in the right management competence and leadership by focusing on defining and improving organizational core competencies with measured steps on the improvement initiative. Like the Software CMM, the People CMM is also a staged model where the value and gains at higher levels of maturity come from sustaining the process infrastructure and building on top of the lower levels of capability. If a non-IT company gets into trouble, turnaround specialists can come in, define a process-reengineering program around asset utilization, restructure the balance sheet, hire professionals, and move on. Not true with Information Technology! There is no balance sheet really: its assets are mainly know-how, intellectual property, and people. The most important assets leave the company each evening! Rescuing a high technology company requires a different approach. The best-known project management philosophy that I was exposed to very early in my professional life in dealing the IT solutions was – “hire the best and leave the rest”. There are a variety of good approaches, but no clear rules. How could such an important subject leave so much room for interpretation? Any discussion of quality is, by its nature, subjective. The good old "I know it when I see it" test works best in most instances.

While the two CMMs define the necessary conditions, let us explore the sufficiency condition that must exist which is being documented here from experience.

A strong Software Process Improvement mindset and orientation in all activities at all times.

While process improvements focus on targeting a maturity level, such as to get the level 5, what is more important is to have the right thinking in place. Process improvement programs must allow problems to surface. And when they do a competent group should facilitate and permit solutions to be developed to fix them immediately so that it never again appears. If the problem surfaces more than once, then you know that there is a problem with the Process Improvement process. 

Strongly humanistic to improve the way employees are treated, included and inspired in a software process improvement initiative.

Along with a strong emphasis on improving the software process, you will need to have robust plans to improve the people process using the People-CMM. For example in Intelligroup, a conscious management decision was taken at the very beginning to run the Software CMM and the People-CMM as inseparable management programs. Emphasis must be placed on improving the skills and knowledge through effective and timely training. Knowledge possessed by the so-called knowledge workers is the most uninsured commodity that becomes passé as soon as it is acquired. And much like the Phoenix, a legendary bird that emerged from its own ashes, professionals resurrect themselves almost on a daily basis. It is not uncommon to see professionals live, eat, drink and breath their company’s core competencies. 

Process Improvements must be applied holistically so that the principles of process improvement, policies and practices reach every nook and cranny of the organization.

Process only sets a framework within which individuals are required to function. But they must have the freedom to do what they were trained to do. And freedom to do what they want to do the way it is done best. They must also have the freedom to use their knowledge and experience to their best possible capability.

Empowerment at all levels, especially at the frontline.

When an individual does something different from expectations after the necessary inputs are provided, the management must support that decision because she did so for the right reason after exercising professional judgment. However, for empowerment to work, progress review based on trust is necessary. This is called Management by Exception.

It is my belief that only an empowered work force can make the day-to-day changes that are required to facilitate an organization scale the process maturity ladder – and in the process deliver Quality in products and services.


Raghav S. Nandyal

Chief Process and Quality Officer

Intelligroup Inc.

About Raghav S. Nandyal

Raghav Nandyal is the Chief Process and Quality Officer at Intelligroup, Inc. He was a General Manager heading Corporate Research & Development prior to becoming the CPQO. He has held several positions ranging from software engineer to senior manager in prestigious organizations worldwide such as Motorola and NYNEX Science & Technology. He held several management positions at LG Software Development Center (India) before joining Intelligroup Asia Pvt. Ltd. He was also the driving force behind implementing a CMM Level 2 process infrastructure in one of the LG affiliates in South Korea in eleven months.

He can be reached by email: and on the Internet, visit his URL at:


About Intelligroup, Inc.,

Intelligroup, Inc. is a global professional services firm that helps its clients improve their business performance by building and supporting innovative Internet-based solutions and enterprise applications. Visit Intelligroup on the Internet at


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