IBM achieves CMMI Level Three certification
through hard work and a team effort
In a triumph of organisational learning and
skills development and what has been
described as a competitive-edge-adding-
capability, IBM South Africa’s Application
Services division achieved SEI CMMI Level
Three certification in December 2005.
IBM SA now joins many other IBM organisations worldwide to
achieve the Software Engineering Institute Capability Maturity
Model Integrated Level Three certification.
According to the project sponsor, IGS Financial Service
Sector executive, Evans Munyuki, the key to this accreditation
lay with the Application Services team, who executed the
project on tight schedules, despite having to carry out their
full-time day jobs in addition to the CMMI workload.
“Despite the additional stresses of this project, the team
succeeded thanks to a must-win, never-say-die attitude. In
this regard, they were ably supported by a leadership team
which – aside from myself – included project owner Amil de
Moura, affectionately referred to as ‘The Bulldozer’ and project
12 manager Werner Kleinsmith, also known as ‘The Execution Evans Munyuki, IGS Financial Service Sector executive,
King’,” says Munyuki. IBM South Africa
“It was all about ensuring that everyone had the right roles
and responsibilities and in working together to make sure the
project kept moving forward, and with Kleinsmith dealing
with the conflict situations that occasionally came up due
to the workload and de Moura there to help knock out any
‘roadblocks’ we can now confidently take the ‘flame’ forward
for Application Services into 2006 and beyond.”
Asked to explain what CMMI Level Three certification is all
about, de Moura says that it is a model that assigns a maturity
level (of which there are a total of five) based on a set of key
software practices, each of which is defined by a select number
of key process areas (KPAs).
“The KPAs are a collection of related practices that
establishes a specific type of process capability and it is a
cumulative model, meaning that those certified on Level Three
must also be compliant with the KPAs at the lower levels,” says
“For an organisation to be assessed at a particular level, it
must have implemented and be executing all KPAs associated
with that level. In other words, a high maturity software
organisation can be characterised as one that is executing
software development practices that are well-documented,
repeatable, measured and continuously improving.”
De Moura says that there are numerous benefits to IBM’s
customers too, as this certification points to improved quality,
as predictable processes lead to defects being significantly
Africa Magazine / Issue 08
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reduced in the productivity stage; improved productivity,
as cost savings result from doing things right the first time;
increased predictability, as where roles and responsibilities are
well defined, outcomes are therefore predictable and process
status is measured and controlled; and reduced business risk,
as there is less downtime of mission critical applications.
“Basically CMMI incorporates the lessons learnt from other
areas of best practice – such as project management, risk
management and dependency management, and implements
more robust, high-maturity practices.”
According to Aldon Dickson, IBM SA’s Country Application
Services Executive, IBM also benefits in a number of ways.
“Firstly, this adds to the arsenal of value we bring to our
clients, by adding yet another string to our bow,” he says.
“Also it helps to expand both scope and visibility into the
product lifecycle and engineering activities, ensuring that IBM
Application Services’ products or services meet with customer
expectations, while supporting IBM’s growth strategy for the
division, as it helps to differentiate us in the market.”
Discussing the challenges the team faced in reaching
Level Three, Kleinsmith says that the real tricky part was
executing what was necessary for the certification on a part-
time basis while still fulfilling all the division’s regular customer
“It certainly was a challenge to maintain our customer
service level agreements while working on this continuous
improvement process, so it called for additional effort from
the staff involved and obviously required a bit of juggling of
tasks,” he says.
“The team was extremely responsive and resilient in this
regard and took up the challenge, despite how difficult it
seemed at times and not only did they achieve the goal, but
we actually saw an increase in customer satisfaction during this
period, which I put down purely to the energy levels of this
team, which were exceptional.”
He claims that another challenge was the concept of change
management, whereby it was necessary to get the people in
the division to follow these new processes.
“There are a total of 16 process areas in governed by this
certification, and we had to ensure that everyone - from the
junior IT specialists to the most senior players in executive
management – had to be trained in every one of these.”
Munyuki says that although the lead assessor in the
certification process was brought in from Italy, part of the
process also included training and certifying a local in-country
team of assessors.
“This again points to the value we can bring to customers,
as we can help them get certified thanks to our assessors, and
the key factor here is that we ‘eat our own cooking’, so to
speak. We have now done it ourselves, so we practice what
Speaking about the future for the team, Dickson says that
there will be a natural progression at the organisation towards a
Level Five certification over the course of the next two years.
“We will continue to develop our in-house capabilities,
in order to offer this service to our existing customers and the
new customers we are winning will also be transformed by this
methodology, so we will also be able to take them into this
environment with us,” he concludes.
Africa Magazine / Issue 08