What Is a Capability Maturity Model Integration?

John Lister

Capability maturity model integration is an system used to integrate multiple techniques for improving an organization's performance. The model is applied to a specific process carried out by an organization, such as creating new products or choosing a supplier. The system lays down five stages, described as levels of maturity, that define how well a process is working.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

The capability maturity model integration breaks down all elements of a process into process areas. Each of these deals with a specific element of the process. The idea is that this not only acts as a checklist for tackling all elements of the process, but it also helps bring the respective improvements together to complement and compound one another.

There are 16 core process areas that are used in all instances of the capability maturity model. There are then further process areas, depending on which of three categories, or "constellations," the process falls into. These categories are acquisition, development and services.

The goals achievements for each process area is assigned to one of five maturity levels, beginning with an initial level one, in which the process is not under control and the company is reacting to events. In level two, the process is better managed and is designed around a specific project rather than being "one size fits all." In level three, the process is refined so that it becomes proactive rather than reactive. In level four, the process is being measured and controlled. In level five, the process is under control and the emphasis is on improvement.

The concept of capability maturity model integration comes from research funded by the US Department of Defense. The research led to the creation of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The university holds certain intellectual property rights on the term "Capability Maturity Model," which described the initial framework developed from the research. Capability maturity model integration refers to models that have been adapted and refined from this original framework.

There are some criticisms of capability model integration. It is not always suitable for organizations that do not already have a process-based culture, for example. Critics also argue the system is prohibitively expensive and creates too much paperwork.

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