Become a better buyer through CMMI-ACQ

The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has unveiled a new set of best practices for IT acquisition and supply chain management that it hopes will change the way businesses acquire their IT software and services.

The Capability Maturity Model Integration for Acquisition (CMMI-ACQ) aims to help people in the acquisition process. It provides a model to manage the process of acquiring IT products and services, and developing a common language between those parties, with the ultimate goal of IT projects being delivered on time and on budget.

The CMMI-ACQ guidelines are geared toward technology professionals in sectors such as government, transportation, finance, health care and the entertainment. But, according to Paul Nielsen, director and CEO at the SEI, the role of software-based systems and services is not limited to those fields.

Where it comes from

The framework builds upon the best practices found in CMMI for Development, which is a set of standards used globally for software developers. CMMI-ACQ is part of the CMMI Product Suite, which collects best practices for IT departments to improve their processes. It also includes the Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement.

Who’s already using it

Some of the bigger players already implementing the CMMI-ACQ guidelines include General Motors’ Information Systems and Services, which actually helped to spearhead the initiative in 2004, when it approached the SEI to collaborate on a process maturity model that addresses the acquirer and supplier relationship.

According to Ralph Szygenda, group vice-president and CIO at General Motors, implementing the CMMI-ACQ model has resulted in improved software development, acquisition, integration, and most importantly, predictability in those areas. GM uses it to handle the more than 15,000 IT professionals the car maker employs worldwide. For instance, CMMI-ACQ would outline how and where the company would get its packaged software applications.

“We were spending a lot of time in the legal side of it, which has you sitting there with vendors, bidding, and arguing back and forth with lawyers; (there’s) basically no value-add,” said Richard Frost, global director of systems process and program management at GM.

“In choosing a select group of vendors, we’ve standardized the legal stuff and that’s all behind us now. So we focus on the IT content and value, rather than the T’s and C’s with these vendors.”

The bottom line rationale

Szygenda said it saves time on both sides of the equation because it standardizes the interactions between an IT services vendor (in GM’s case, Cap Gemini and HP), which allows for a more efficient process.

Szygenda said prior to implementing the system, GM was “buying more than we were building but didn’t have the processes in place, or the acquisition standards in place.” Historically, GM would direct its IT providers every day.

According to John McCain, senior vice-president at HP, the guidelines will help CIOs improve their overall ability and operational effectiveness.

“Companies disengage from a project once a supplier is brought in, which can result in details not getting passed along to suppliers and companies,” McCain said, adding that ultimately, without implementing a model such as this one, IT-based projects will often fail.

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