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SMEs get serious about CMMI

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The majority of all software ever written is not in production due to requirements deficiencies, functional short-comings, high maintenance costs or general quality issues says Markus Jäger, a director of Blue Sphere Technology, one of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) participating in the JCSE’s “Bringing Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) to South Africa” pilot programme. 

Blue Sphere, along with GMSI, a subsidiary of the GijimaAst group and BSG Africa have joined the pilot after being chosen by the JCSE and the City of Johannesburg (CoJ). The JCSE’s CMMI pilot programme started in November 2006 with the aim of assisting a small number of local companies wishing to improve their project management and software development processes. The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) has provided funds that will allow the three Johannesburg-based SMEs to join the pilot programme as part of its strategy to stimulate growth within the city’s ICT sector.
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) CEO and Director, says that “only 35% of software development projects globally are delivered on time, within budget and to specification.”
This means revenue is lost while software is worked and reworked, and time and money wasted as customers and developers miscommunicate during the course of poorly-managed IT projects.
Unlike some South African industries, software development is not subject to checks and balances to ensure process and product quality. CMMI seeks to address this shortcoming, he says.
“Improving software development lifecycle processes is of fundamental importance for both development companies and organisations that commission large software applications and systems. The CMMI model is already extensively used in the US and Europe to provide assurance of process maturity when awarding tenders.
“The Department of Trade and Industry has gone on record as saying it recognises that CMMI is not only beneficial for the private sector, but can assist with improving processes in the public sector as well. CMMI could become a requirement for government tenders by 2009,” Dwolatzky says.
WH Janse van Vuuren, GMSI Service Manager, says the benefits to users of the CMMI model are clear. It increases productivity, reduces re-work wasted time and assists in delivering software that hits the mark and meets the clients expectations.
He estimates that according to CMMI benchmark benefits, GMSI can expect to realise a 42% improvement in productivity which would favourably impact their profit margin.
Jäger of Blue Sphere Technologies speaks of a “huge impact” it has had on the company since it began using CMMI. “There was chaos beforehand. Everything is now better managed, with greater accountability; processes are a lot more transparent which means that customers are more comfortable with us than before because we are managing projects better.”
Lungile Mdletshe, CMMI project manager for BSG Africa, says it is important that SMEs establish their operations as reputable and reliable deliverers of quality solutions to their customers. CMMI will provide them with the necessary grounding to achieve this.
BSG Africa sees CMMI as an opportunity to assess project delivery and software development processes against a global standard, and to make the changes necessary to ensure that they continuously improve the quality of their solutions. “This will translate into better quality solutions for our clients and increased client satisfaction as a result,” she says.
Having a CMMI maturity rating will also help local software development houses bidding for outsourced/offshore contracts from organisations in Europe and the US. The growth that would result from this additional work is another challenge with which the CMMI model can assist. Janse van Vuuren comments: “Some companies go under because they cannot handle the requirements of growth. CMMI provides a management framework that helps SMEs to grow in maturity as they grow in size.”
To Janse van Vuuren, the benefits to the South African economy of employing CMMI are obvious. “If we can achieve just 30%-50% of the benefits claimed to be possible through CMMI on the basis of international experience, the South African economy can be much more competitive, produce more goods and services and go much further with the funds available resulting in greater margins on capital invested.”
The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) is a three way partnership between government, academia and industry. Based at Wits University, the JCSE is multifaceted with various programmes and facilities positioning it as a focal point of a software development industry in Gauteng.