What is Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)?

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
Updated May 12, 2021

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) has its origins as a software improvement model, but it is now a flexible framework that can be applied across many industries.

In this article, we’ll cover what the model entails, why it matters, and how to gain the most value from it in the digital age.

Background and breakdown

CMMI was developed by Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, in conjunction with the U.S Office of the Secretary of Defense and the National Defense Industrial Association.

It was an expansion of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), a narrower framework that was focused specifically on the development of software products. While both models share many of the same ideas—and while CMM can still be used—CMMI is more flexible and preferred by many.

Like its predecessor, CMMI evaluates the maturity of business processes according to five stages:

  • Initial. This is the lowest level of maturity, corresponding to ad hoc processes that are inefficient, unpredictable, and minimally controlled. 
  • Managed. The second level is still considered immature, and businesses tend to be more reactive than proactive.
  • Defined. At this stage, organizations have a deeper understanding of their processes, have defined them clearly, and take a more proactive approach to execution and improvement.
  • Quantitatively managed. In the fourth stage, quantitative and data-driven approaches are used to measure, control, and enhance processes.
  • Optimizing. At the highest level of maturity, processes are fully established and are undergoing continuous improvement.

CMMI further breaks down process maturity into a set of key areas that can be addressed and improved upon.

A few of these essential process areas include:

  • Organizational innovation and deployment
  • Causal analysis and resolution
  • Organizational process performance
  • Quantitative project management

In the previous version of CMMI, each of these areas belonged to specific organizational maturity levels, which were assessed using “representations.” 

The Staged Representation, for instance, assigned a general maturity level to the organization. This view differed from Continuous Representation, which analyzed each of the 22 process areas separately.

In CMMI version 2.0 released in 2018, however, these representations were combined into a single cohesive model. This version moved its focus away from “process” towards “practice” and “performance.” 

Several other changes were also made, such as the addition of new categories and terminology, as well as the emphasis upon new business methodologies.

The value of CMMI today

How useful is the CMMI for performance improvement?

CMMI 2.0 has been redesigned for the modern business world and explicitly emphasizes current business concepts, such as the agile methodology.

It also takes a more granular approach to business appraisals than previous versions. This makes it a good tool for organizations that are seeking insights into specific processes, rather than an overarching and abstract “maturity level” assigned to the entire organization.

While no business framework is perfect—and it may need to be augmented with other models to maximize its utility—CMMI can offer major benefits when used properly.

A few of those include:

  • Higher quality products and services
  • Lower risk and improved risk management
  • Greater insight into business performance
  • Improved productivity and efficiency

One important point to note is that businesses must make use of the tool appropriately, rather than viewing it as a “cure-all” or a “magic bullet.”

Making the most of CMMI in the digital era

Most business professionals are aware that today’s economy is built upon digital innovation and disruption. Most are also aware that these digitally-powered changes accelerated dramatically during 2020. 

To compound matters, many research firms predict that even more volatility lies ahead.

Research firms such as Deloitte, Accenture, and McKinsey, have suggested that we are entering a new era which some are calling “the new normal” or “the next normal.” They claim this era will be characterized by continued disruption, uncertainty, and change.

Success in this era is heavily reliant on process improvement and performance improvement, which is where CMMI enters the picture. After all, in such a fast-paced environment, it essential to stay agile and consistent.

For that reason, those using CMMI should adopt tools and strategies that integrate both with this framework and with the demands of the modern age. In virtually every industry, technology has been driving organizational change and process improvement initiatives. 

Organizations that want to stay ahead of the curve should therefore consider implementing digital-first strategies and solutions that synchronize with CMMI, while also leveraging the latest trends and technologies.

WalkMe’s digital adoption platform (DAP) is one example of a software adoption solution that can help organizations improve processes and performance. Regardless of a business function’s maturity level, WalkMe can streamline software implementation, employee training, process improvement, and more.

For those truly interested in leveraging CMMI—while also modernizing for the digital era—WalkMe is the ideal solution.

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
WalkMe pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for organizations to utilize the full potential of their digital assets. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and contextual guidance, WalkMe adds a dynamic user interface layer to raise the digital literacy of all users.