The last two years at TVS Infotech have been a revelation for everyone that has been involved in establishing our identity by way of defining our work culture. For technology companies and we’re no exception, our most critical resource is our people and when people write code for a living, there is the occasional error that creeps in. These mistakes can be expensive as they get in the way of extending business opportunities, both new and repeat. To stay ahead of the curve, anticipating and eliminating these errors is necessary but this is much easier said than done. Enter CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration), a process model that provides a clear definition of the structure and processes an organization should implement to improve customer satisfaction scores. We took a collective decision to pursue a CMMI Level 3 rating and in order to achieve this; we took several steps that brought us closer to our goal of making our customers a happy lot.
WHY GO THE CMMI ROUTE?
CMMI, as mentioned, clearly identifies process areas that needed tightening and tweaking and given the complex nature of our processes, there are several motions that need to be established, maintained and updated and this is a constant cycle. Institutionalizing this cycle as part of work culture is a challenging task, especially in India, where chaos is the norm. We could have stripped down each process in the system on our own but this would have been far less effective and far more time consuming. CMMI also introduces a consistency across the organization wherein everyone speaks the same language.
We chose to get appraised and rated at CMMI Level 3 as it covers 18 most significant process areas with 338 sub-areas in which a technology organization must display an advanced level of maturity. These areas cover the gamut of customer interaction including establishing scope, staffing, training, defining design, coding, testing, delivering, risk tracking, costing, outsourcing to vendors, communicating with clients, creating and leveraging a process asset library and more. Importantly, the appraisal mandates that all processes are defined by the organization’s pre-set standards and protocol. .
In effect, CMMI gave us a syllabus to follow, set us an exam (the audit) and based on our performance, assigned us a score (the rating certification). .
THE LONG ROAD HOME
Even as we understood CMMI’s expectations of us as a company we made a conscious decision that we would not buy our way into hastening the process of gaining the rating. .
The first step we took towards a CMMI Level 3 rating was that we established a new PMO (program management office), made a clear investment by hiring a head of PMO, who in turn, built a team and invested in a project management tool and a document repository for knowledge management. Most importantly, we gave the PMO a lot of authority in overseeing project activities by having the leader report directly to the same office that the Head of Delivery reported to. The Head of Delivery and Head of PMO worked in tandem to ensure they were completely in sync. Additionally, we institutionalized all of this in the organization by conducting review meetings and follow-ups involving these two departments along with HR, Finance, Sales, Recruiting and Marketing. In all, we had close to nine recurring weekly review meetings involving team members from different levels of the organization. These reviews had distinct status reports, follow-ups and escalation processes that were established along the way. In essence, this process set the operational framework of the company. We imbibed the CMMI standard and made it our operational reality. .
Our audit partners, CUNIX (an audit veteran with 151 CMMI audits under its belt), came on board about 18 months ago and played an instrumental role in validating our efforts taken to gain this formal certification. In due course, we established a knowledge management repository, a process asset library, global risk and issue tracker, project health dashboards, an escalation process and adequate checks and balances for significant activities at all levels of the organization. We also established a team of internal auditors and invested in getting them trained. .
QUEST FOR EXCELLENCE
Our performance in the final stretch was indeed commendable as we achieved our goal of attaining the CMMI Level rating certification. Of the 338 sub-areas that were assessed, we established that we have ‘fully implemented’ the desired standards to 330 areas. We are extremely proud of the tone we set as an organization and a special mention goes out to all the team members who have worked hard to pull off this feat. .
The best thing about pursuing the CMMI Level 3 rating was that this was truly just the beginning. CMMI ratings go up to Level 5 with the end goal being complete process optimization and we at TVS Infotech have our sights set on achieving this prestigious rating in the very near future. .
One may question the significance of pursuing these rating certifications and wonder if the efforts do result in tangible benefits and we can answer that with a resounding yes! With the CMMI Level 3 rating, we can already see a reduction in our costs due to enhancements in process management and the resultant production efficiency. This cost benefit is one of many positives that we hope to pass on to our customers. After all, this is a pursuit of their happiness as much as it is a pursuit of our efficacy. .