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An ITS project sponsor could develop a Request for Qualifications [RFQ] that includes a CMMI maturity level for a systems development team as one of the evaluation criterion. Assuming that the competing firms have been formally appraised, this would provide the project sponsor additional assurance of the contractor's systems engineering capabilities. Remember that a maturity level normally refers to a specific group within a company. It does not apply to the entire company unless the whole company performed at the desired maturity level on the appraised projects. When reviewing the qualifications, make sure the team proposed at a maturity level is the team that was appraised.
In transportation today, few, if any, ITS development firms have had a Class A CMMI appraisal, so a maturity rating would have to be optional if it is included in the evaluation criteria. This creates a “chicken and egg” situation since firms will not be as motivated to undertake process improvement if process capability is not considered by agencies in their ITS project procurements. Since there has not been a significant push from the agencies to make this happen, development firms have not offered this in their proposals. Hopefully, as a result of this Guidebook, criteria for CMMI levels of maturity will start showing up in RFQ's, RFP's, and RFI's. Over time, it should be common for ITS development teams to perform at least at level 2 and preferably at level 3. This will provide the project sponsor the confidence that the selected development team will have the capability to perform well and reduce project risk.
When an organization makes the decision to achieve a CMMI maturity level 2, it requires from 1-2 years to document, train for, and implement the needed processes. Then, the formal appraisal takes place after the level 2 practices have been applied to a real project. This may take another 2 years [assuming an 18-24 month project]. In all, it may take from 3-5 years for a system integrator starting at level 0 to be assessed and recognized as being at CMMI level 2.
In the near term, while formal CMMI ratings are uncommon in ITS, evidence of progress towards good systems engineering processes should still be included in ITS project proposals. For example, systems engineering processes should be clearly described in the proposal including a discussion of the maturity of these processes (e.g., they are documented and have been used on previous projects). Professional certifications for key personnel such as the INCOSE Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) and Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP) may also be considered.
The systems engineering processes that are described in this Guidebook can reduce risk on your ITS projects, but the benefits will only be realized if the processes are documented and used in a systematic way on each ITS project. CMMI is a comprehensive tool for process improvement that can help with the process improvement efforts within your organization. Transportation organizations that are relatively new to systems engineering and CMMI should keep it simple at the start, focusing on those process areas that are most critical to their bottom line and using internal assessments to understand where they are and where they would like to be. As the transportation agencies and firms that support these agencies improve their processes over time, more formal appraisals can be used to verify process maturity and guide on-going process improvement efforts.