Developers shop for standards at recent show in Toronto

Managing its software development process is something that Tucows Inc. has always done, but now the Toronto-based company is ready to take a more measured approach to developing its software by implementing the Capability Maturity Model (CMM).

“Our process is not written, but it’s understood by everyone in the organization,” said Doug Thompson, director of development at Tucows, a Toronto-based Internet service provider.

The company hasn’t been assessed for CMM – a model that is used for judging the maturity of an organization’s software processes and for identifying the key practices required to increase the maturity of those processes. Thompson said Tucows is likely in the early stages of maturity, at a level one. A level five classifies the highest stage of maturity.

Now that Tucows is embarking on a large project and is considering deploying a new platform, having CMM in place would benefit the company, he added.

“We need a commitment to process management,” he said. “We’re inefficient. It takes longer than it should [to develop software]. We don’t always learn from our previous projects as much as we could.”

By implementing CMM, Tucows, similar to many other

software development companies that attended a recent

seminar on software process and methodology in Toronto, are looking to bring more efficiency and predictability back into their businesses.

Most of the standards, models and frameworks within the software development market were created to address problems with performance when companies are developing software. Some of the processes and methodologies discussed at the seminar include CMM, Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), ISO/IEC 9000-3, as well as Agile Software, Rational Unified Process and Six Sigma.

“It’s a deep topic, and one that many organizations wrestle with,” said Omid Hodaie, CEO at Toronto-based Osellus Inc., a software automation company that hosted the event. “There is a general acceptance of the notion of the importance of processes and methodology.”

The seminar offers Canadian-based software development companies a chance to explore the variety of structured processes and methodologies available and be in a better position to chose methods that suit their own companies, he added.

Dave Zubrow, team leader for the software engineering measurement and analysis initiative within the Software Engineering Institute, discussed the CMMI framework with a focus on the role of measurement. CMMI is an integrated version of CMM that covers systems and software processes, rather only than software processes in CMM.

“It’s a fundamental principle to integrate measurement into the process,” he said. “CMMI integrates multiple disciplines into one process improvement framework that eliminates inconsistencies and reduces duplication.”

As companies move up the maturity levels within CMMI, they become more predictable – something that companies should strive for, he explained.

CMMI builds on and extends the best practices of CMM, Zubrow explained, with the main focus on getting the discipline in place and measuring the success along the way. CMMI is a framework and not a methodology, he added.

“What is important is that you get started and this gives you guidance,” he said. In the end though, whatever framework a company decides to follow, the company shouldn’t become a slave to it, Zubrow said.

“If you misuse the framework and woe comes to you, it’s not the framework’s fault,” he said.

For Denise Haney, director of the project management office at Solcorp, adopting the CMMI framework came as a recommendation from a senior manager at her office.

She said Solcorp is looking to implement CMMI but wanted to start with a CMMI assessment.

“We are trying to see where we’re at and then decide if it’s something that we want to move forward with,” Haney said.

The seminar provided her with a good overview of what CMMI is and how to implement it, she explained. Having support from Solcorp’s senior management – something that Zubrow said was essential – and the potential cost associated with the framework, are two main issues that Haney said she needed to communicate to her company.

She also said customer demand could be another impetus for having a CMMI framework.

“We haven’t seen it so much yet, but I think that it’s one of those things that our clients are going to start asking for,” she explained.

Many of the companies that attended the one-day seminar were in the process of adopting frameworks and methodologies into their development cycle or were weighing their options before making a final decision.

David Constant, a partner with Process Inc., a management consulting service that helps with training and appraisals of both CMM and CMMI, said the decision to implement one of the frameworks into an organization must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

CMMI brings solutions to problems and not best practices into an organization, he said. “You could [implement] a practice that doesn’t fit with your organization if you don’t have that problem.”