South African software development companies need to realise the importance of a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) rating for competing on the world stage, say members of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) who visited South Africa from the US last week. 

The SEI has sent a team out to South Africa to look for ways in which it can support its partner, the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE), and for ways to get involved with the software development sector locally.
Phillip Miller, SEI technical expert, says the local software development sector needs to consider where it has come from, where it is currently positioned and what it wants to achieve in future.
“Countries like Ireland, India, Brazil and Israel have all embraced process improvement, moving themselves from being smaller players on the global software development stage to countries which are having a significant impact. South Africa needs to consider what it needs to do to join its peers in having the same kind of impact,” Miller says.
Apart from positioning local companies in the international stage, there are the obvious business benefits, Miller says. A CMMI study by the SEI in 2005 showed CMMI gave companies a 34% reduction in production costs while boosting productivity by 61% and quality by 48%. Return on investment was measured at 4:1.
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE director, says CMMI was developed by the US government, industry and the Carnegie Mellon SEI in Pittsburgh in the USA to assist companies from a host of sectors to improve their processes in developing high quality software and systems.
“The SEI is looking for ways in which it can use its resources and knowledge of CMMI’s rollout in other developing nations to support the CMMI programme in South Africa,” he says.
During its visit, the SEI team met with the likes of the State IT Agency, Comsec, companies in the JCSE’s CMMI pilot programme and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) at a CMMI breakfast briefing yesterday, which was organised by the JCSE, City of Joburg and the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“The SEI is very interested in exploring the way in which CMMI can be used in SMEs. Part of this visit was therefore to explore what is happening locally and see what scope there is to provide international funding for locally based SME projects. The JCSE will be assisting us in understanding the market and exploring these options,” Miller says.
Another interest of the SEI is seeing how CMMI will work in other sectors. It is exploring the use of CMMI in the public health sector and the SEI team is meeting today with representatives from local health organisations on its visit.
“CMMI begins with planning, project monitoring and control, measurement, requirements management and putting in place proper contracts with clients and suppliers. It then moves on to assist organisations in to defining policy frameworks and introducing best practise,” Miller says. “The principals are just as important in a sector like public health.”
Dwolatzky says the JCSE will be working closely with the SEI over the next couple of months and plans to bring out SEI experts to South Africa on a regular basis.
“This SEI visit forms part of a CMMI awareness campaign we are currently running. The campaign will culminate in an event in September where international speakers including a representative from the SEI will be coming out to South Africa to address local companies on the benefits of CMMI and how it can assist them in improving business processes as well as positioning themselves to secure off-shore development contracts from Europe and the US,” he says.