Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
In the CMMI-SVC, are a project and a service system essentially the same thing? (Submitted via e-mail.)
They're certainly related, but they're also very different. Kind of like my brothers-in-law.
A project is executed over time. It has a beginning (and often an end), a plan that guides it, a schedule, a budget, and so forth. Some are even successful.
A service system is a set of resources. Ultimately, you hope to use those resources to deliver value to customers, which I admit makes it sound a bit like a project. However, a service system is typically something you have in place before you start executing a project, and the same service system in fact may be used by multiple projects.
Confused? I'll tell you how I interpret them for what my company does; hopefully that'll help.
I do public training, which means I rent space, promote classes, and deliver these classes to rooms packed full of students who are eager to learn the CMMI. (Okay, even I have to admit that sometimes that last part is wishful thinking.) I teach two different classes in a public setting: the SEI Introduction to CMMI and the SEI Services Supplement for CMMI. I teach each of these publicly once every six weeks or so. This makes for about 8 of each class per year, or 16 classes total.
Here's a quick quiz, then. How many different services do I provide? How many service systems do I use? Finally, how many projects do I have?
Well, it could be claimed there are no absolutely right or wrong answers here. But here's what works for me: 2 services, 1 service system, and 16 projects. (If that's what you also said, then "Wow!" -- because it took me weeks to be able to answer that question comfortably.)
Services. My 2 services are the Introduction to CMMI course and the Services Supplement for CMMI course. Each has its own unique description in what the CMMI-SVC would call my service catalog. (Follow the hyperlinks in the previous two sentences for descriptions of each service in the "catalog.")
Service systems. My 1 service system is public training delivery. Although I do deliver two different courses, the delivery commonalities are such that I've found I don't need two separately defined service systems. Instead, it's one system that can accommodate the small delivery differences between the two courses.
CMMI-SVC tells us that service systems are composed of service system components. For public training delivery, these components include a way for people to enroll (my website), a set of qualified instructors (typically me), a facility for the training events, standardized course materials, and so on. Importantly, many of these components are used by multiple projects.
Projects. I treat each of my 16 training events for the year as a project. Although each one uses the same training delivery service system, each also has its own unique budget, income projection, schedule, risks, etc. For example, my next Introduction to CMMI class is May 18-20. That project's "start date" was April 10, because that's when I began running ads. Its "end date" will most likely be sometime in late May, when I receive confirmation from the SEI that all students from the class have been entered into the SEI's training database. And along the way, there are milestones such as the dates by which I need to order various types of supplies, when I need to get enrollment numbers to the catering people, and when I need to begin pestering people for money.
Does that mean I have a separate project plan for each of my 16 instantiations of these classes? Yes. Each plan is contained in an Excel spreadsheet, with most of the key schedule dates automatically generated once I enter the start date of the actual training event. Anyone expecting a Microsoft project schedule or a 20 page project plan would be sorely disappointed! I document the minimum that I need in order to make sure I do things right.
(Note that I consider the project plan template to be a part of my service system. Once it becomes an actual plan, though, it's part of the project.)
Reasonable people can quibble with the details. Some might insist I really should have two different service systems, one for each class. To which, I would answer, "Whatever…" As in, "whatever" works for you and your business! Part of the beauty of the CMMI is its flexibility. Ultimately, the important thing is that you're using it to improve your efficiency and effectiveness. You're the best judge of how to do that for your business. Not me. Not a Lead Appraiser. And definitely not this guy.
If you need more clarification, browse through the Service System Development (SSD) PA, which describes how a service system may be developed. This should further emphasize that a service system is indeed a different animal than a project.
I hope this helped.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
And here's the thing. I've heard there's plenty to do "on the other side." But the other side looks like... um... well... weeds!
Bummed out by the river-lake, but still inspired by the beautiful day outside, I head downstairs in search of an exit. As an experienced traveler, I realize that most hotels are equipped with a way to get out. Except for maybe the one in the Eagles song where "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." But I'm in Georgia, not California, so there's gotta be a way to leave, if only for a few hours.
Now I lurk the lobby, silently assessing which door will get me to this "river" the fastest. And I'm not even sure why I feel driven to go there and get to the other side. Remember, it's just weeds! Okay, maybe some cattails. But for whatever reason, the Eagles are now joined by the Talking Heads in my brain. "Take me to the river..."
That's when I hear someone say "Hi Bill!" I look over and see Heather Oppenheimer checking in at the front desk. I've met her once before, at last year's SEPG Conference in San Jose. We chat for a minute, and she eventually agrees to accompany me across the river. Cool! Because if I'm going to be walking through a swamp, I'd at least like somebody to chat with. And maybe to help pull the leeches off afterwards. If we survive the crocs.
Stepping outside, the day is indeed glorious. Sun bathers abound, and I realize that my all-black outfit doesn't quite... blend. But there it is in front of me -- the Savannah River! Big and bold, with what appears to be lots of civilization on the other side! Where are the weeds?
Heather politely informs me that what I saw from my window was simply a wetland, not the actual river.
So we take a ferry across and it's obvious I'm with the right person. Heather has much more of a plan in mind than me, which I appreciate. Truthfully, I never had much of a plan other than to cross that river. We browse some nifty little shops, I buy a little wire sculpture of an Alien/Predator dude, and we end up eating at a place called Kevin Barry's Irish Pub. And we talked and talked and talked. About the CMMI for Services and Miami Beach, about SEI training and aging parents. The conversation flowed, just like the river. (I guess wetlands flow too, just not so fast.) I discovered much more about a person who had previously just been a very casual acquaintance. We even found out enough about each other and our businesses that it wouldn't be ridiculous to think of working together on something in the future. (At least, that's my perspective; I can't necessarily speak for her!)
When I got back to my room later that evening, I realized this is a key part of what SEPG is all about. Sure, there are plenty of planned activities. There are presenters to hear and booths to visit and even a gala to attend. But the unplanned can sometimes be even better. Who knew?
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Maybe they chose their presenters by using a dart-throwing monkey, because somehow they chose me to give not one, not two, but THREE talks there! One of these will be about my company's process improvement efforts using the CMMI for Services as a model. Because you, the public, demand it --- or perhaps because I'm too lazy to write a real blog entry right now -- here's an abstract of the presentation I'm working on at this very moment:
The CEO of a small consulting company invites you to listen to how practical and creative application of the CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC) has measurably improved his organization’s bottom line.
In January 2009, Leading Edge Process Consultants began applying portions of the CMMI for Services to its business. Instead of pursuing a maturity level rating, though, we’ve been obsessed with using the CMMI-SVC for real process improvement. Because we lack the time and money required for a highly formal, comprehensive, internal improvement initiative, we’ve adopted a more flexible (and yes, sometimes “agile”) approach. Our simple but effective strategy has been to (1) decide on an area of our business that most needs improvement, (2) address that area by using relevant portions of the CMMI-SVC as a guide, and (3) repeat as needed. This approach has successfully mitigated the risk of biting off more than our limited resources can chew, and has virtually guaranteed that that our process improvement effort has bottom-line relevance. Although much work remains to be done, we’ve already realized sizable gains.
During this presentation, we’ll discuss some of the keys to our success so far: creative selection of the services most in need of improvement; just-in-time process improvement and as-we-go process documentation; laser-beam focus on our biggest problem areas; emphasis on capability level 1; and success measured by net income rather than maturity level attainment.
Attendees will walk away with an understanding of how practical, creative application of the CMMI for Services (CMMI-SVC) has been used to generate real business value in a small consulting company.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I say that cautiously, because I don't want to come across as big-headed, and I also don't want to jinx it. But... the CMMI for Services has been working for me -- phenomenally. So much so that with the increase in business, I simply haven't had the time to blog! Sure, I can tell you about the CMMI best practices I've implemented in my company -- and I probably will, in future blog entries. Instead, at least for this zombie/phoenix entry, let's focus on results. Specifically:
- My company's net income through September 30 of this year is about seven times what it was all of last year.
Now, do I honestly attribute all of our income gain to the CMMI? Well, probably not. Some of it may simply be normal business growth; after all, last year was our first full year in business.
On the other hand, we grew as the economy tanked. Something happened, other than simply "momentum." As I resurrect this blog, I'll tell you about it, and I'll try really hard to not wait six more months until my next entry! In fact, next week's entry will give you the 30,000 foot overview of what we've done.
(Wait a second... did I just commit to another blog entry next week!!? Gulp.)