A Capability Maturity Model for Research Data Management
CMM for RDM » 0. Introduction » 0.2 Background of the Capability Maturity Model

0.2 Background of the Capability Maturity Model

Last modified by Arden Kirkland on 2014/06/30 09:26

0.2 Background of the Capability Maturity Model

This document presents suggestions for assessing and improving research data management in the form of a capability maturity model. The original Capability Maturity Model (CMM) was developed at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University to support improvements in the reliability of software development organizations, that is, in their ability to develop quality software on time and within budget. More specifically, it was “designed to help developers to select process-improvement strategies by determining their current process maturity and identifying the most critical issues to improving their software quality and process” (Paulk et al., 1993, p. 19).

The model has evolved over time, but the basic structure remains roughly the same. It includes four key concepts: key practices, key specific and generic process areas and maturity levels. The development of the CMM was based on the observation that in order to develop software, organizations must be capable of reliably carrying out a number of key software development practices (e.g., eliciting customer needs or tracking changes to products), that is, they must be able to perform them in a consistent and predictable fashion. In the original CMM, these practices are clustered into 22 specific process areas, that is, “related practices in an area that, when implemented collectively, satisfy a set of goals considered important for making improvement in that area” (CMMI Product Team, 2006, Glossary). For example, eliciting customer needs is part of requirements development; tracking changes to products, part of configuration management. Achieving the goals is mandatory for good performance; the practices given are the expected (though not required) way to achieve those goals. The process areas are further grouped into four categories: support, project management, process management and engineering.

In addition to the specific process areas, those related specifically to software engineering, the SEI CMM included a set of generic goals and subgoals that describe the readiness of the organization to implement any processes reliably, namely:

1.     achieve specific goals (i.e., the processes are performed),

2.     institutionalize a managed process (i.e., the organization has policies for planning and performing the process, a plan is established and maintained, resources are provided, responsibility is assigned, people are trained, work products are controlled, stakeholders are identified, the processes is monitored and controlled, adherence to process standards is assessed and noncompliance addressed and the process status is reviewed with higher level management);

3.     institutionalize a defined process (i.e., a description of the process is maintained and improvement information is collected),

4.     institutionalize a quantitatively managed process (i.e., quantitative objectives are established and subprocess performance is stabilized), and

5.     institutionalize an optimizing process (i.e., continuous process improvement is ensured and root causes of defects are identified and corrected). 

As with the software-specific goals, these goals are required for a fully reliable organization; for each, there is a set of practices that are the expected though not required way to accomplish these goals. 


CMMI Product Team. (2006). CMMI for Development Version 1.2. CMU/SEI-2006-TR-008. Pittsburgh, PA, USA: Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute. Retrieved from http://repository.cmu.edu/sei/387

Paulk, M. C., Curtis, B., Chrissis, M. B., & Weber, C. (1993). Capability maturity model, Version 1.1. IEEE Software, 10(4): 18-27. Retrieved from http://www.computer.org/csdl/mags/so/1993/04/s4018-abs.html

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