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An industrial taxonomy extended to process industries

January 08, 2014
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A commonality, usually unremarked, exists across companies in how things like product-design, engineering, production and distribution get done.  It’s an obvious observation, no doubt, but you have to admit the nuances involved are endless.

The CMMI (capability maturity model integration) model was developed at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute to help the Defense Department and contractors like Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing improve their software engineering. It is said many require CMMI as a pre-requisite for contract bidding, to make sure their processes are recognizable.

But what if what you’re contracting for isn’t software but materials? For example, one reason companies in emerging China might implement an enterprise-resource planning (ERP) system is to enforce more globally accepted accounting practices.

On other levels, every company has unique customizations and quirks, some necessary and some arbitrary. The problem is, how do you tell which is which? Oftentimes, “evolutionary dead-ends,” once-necessary steps no longer relevant, persist due to systemic entropy or change resistance. We so love our work routines.

Carnegie Mellon University and the CMMI Institute are home of the CMMI model -- for development, services, and acquisition – and the PCMM model for high-performance, high-maturity cultures.

The Institute is extending CMMI for businesses of every size in every industry. This year it will introduce an on-line self-assessment tool and new professional credentials for practitioners.

“The model is used wherever products are introduced and not just software or systems. It is used extensively in IT services provision and in automotive industry supplier assessments,” says CMMI Institute CEO Kirk Botula. Using companies include Samsung, Accenture, Proctor & Gamble, and Siemens, among others.

“The model’s success is based on its being agnostic,” Botula says. “It asks as to capabilities without prescribing how something be done or imposing formal written requirements. Rather it assigns levels of maturity.”

Management consultancy firm KPMG has had a decade-long partnership with CMU. “We help use the CMMI Institute product suite—frameworks, training, certifications, and appraisal methods—to achieve organizational goals by enhancing processes,” says KK Raman, a partner with KPMG India.

CMMI provides a framework of practices “that can help identify and address key challenges to improve performance and the bottom line. We all know work is not the way it is supposed to be—CMMI helps make it better,” says Botula.

The CMMI product suite covers product development, service delivery, procurement, and staff management. “Services” is for the “flow side of things,” says Botula.

The online tool, by asking a brief set of questions, allows users to gain insights and an analysis of an organization’s strengths and weaknesses as well as insights that lead to improving capabilities.

For process industries, says Botula, the model will prove relevant for those either interested in assessing suppliers or those looking for a comprehensive understanding of their own capabilities. “I used it as head of a software company to reduce customer-facing errors by more than 70%.”

At the end of the day, it’s really about a taxonomy that leads to a model that can be compared against reality. And that’s something we all do every day.

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