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People vital to process improvement

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The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University and
Dimension Data on Tuesday hosted a Process Improvement briefing, focusing on
Managing Organisational Change and how the Capability Maturity Model
Integration (CMMI) process improvement product suite can support the
effectiveness and competitiveness of local organisations.

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE CEO and Director, says the message that came
out loud and clear is that people are central to process improvement and
moving organisations forward.
"This is particularly true in a sector like ICT where we have such a skills
shortage and where staff retention is a real problem. The key for most
organisations is therefore how to manage people to make them more effective
within the organisation," he says.
John Megannon, CTO of the GijimaAST subsidiary GMSI, spoke on why the
company had decided to initiate a process improvement programme.
"When Gijima and AST merged we realised that the company had a very viable
but challenging business case. The key was to include the efficiencies of
the two companies and leave the inefficiencies behind. The company needed to
create momentum with 3500 employees, which proved to be a big challenge," he
says.
GMSI was therefore chosen to do a targeted implementation of CMMI and other
process improvement frameworks as a test case on behalf of the broader
organisation. The aim was to use process improvement as a way to provide
innovative, value adding solutions to its clients and provide superior
returns to shareholders.
"To do this we needed a workforce that was energised, which enjoyed working
for the company and was productive. What we realised upfront was that people
process was vital and we faced huge skills and retention challenges," he
says.
Estimates by GMSI and others have shown that it costs a company
approximately R500 000 when an employee of five years experience of local
knowledge leaves and a further R500 000 to train an employee to replace
them.
"We therefore needed to ensure that we had the right people; that we
equipped them for the task they were required to do; and that they were
energised to do this task. With this as a platform, we were able to
introduce process improvement initiatives," he says.
Other important factors for the success of process improvement using CMMI
were the right partners and good leadership, he adds. "The strong support
we've received from the JCSE as the local CMMI partner has been a key
factor," he says. By improving staff retention, GMSI was able to pay for the
cost of implementing process improvement for the next three years and
GijimaAST is now looking to capitalise on the lessons learnt and roll out
CMMI to the rest of its organisation.
"The benefits of process improvement for GMSI included an improvement in
client satisfaction, improved staff retention, increased innovation, and an
improvement in efficiency, with 98 percent of projects being completed on
time and to budget," he says.
Dr. Palma Buttles-Valdez, technical staff member at the Software Engineering
Institute in the USA, addressed the briefing on the challenges of change
management with employees in an organisation.
"Organisations generally have four types of people culture: traditionalist
(born prior to 1945); Baby boomers (post World War II to the mid 60s) who
are used to working hard; Generation X (mid 60s to 1980), who are
technically savvy and communication focused; and Generation Y, who prefer
informality and embrace diversity.
"The challenge is that organisations have behaviours, norms, values and
cultures and each of these cultural generations respond differently to each
of these different elements," she says.
The SEI has therefore developed People CMM, which assists organisations with
'enculturing' their workforces to be more effective within their
organisation.
"What People CMM does is take organisations through seven steps to motivate
the workforce including providing a vision; resources; having a capable
workforce; capable processes; a culture that supports change; incentives for
employees and an action plan for process change," she says.
The problem of a lack of skills and staff retention is a global problem
across sectors, Buttles-Valdez says. This means that managing people has
become even more critical in assisting organisations to continue to
innovate, acquire customers and grow.
The briefing included two panel discussions, where companies participating
in the JCSE's CMMI pilot programme and the various speakers took questions
from the more than a 100 or so people who attended, Dwolatzky says. The
companies represented on the panel were asked why they had decided to adopt
CMMI.
"GMSI, BSG Africa and African Defence Systems were all able to give very
positive report backs on how being on the JCSE's CMMI pilot has benefited
their organisations.
"BSG Africa commented that it aimed to use CMMI to position it for
international contracts while ADS said the company intended to align with
its shareholder, the Thales Group International's CMMI process improvement
policy and use the lessons learnt during appraisals to implement effective
changes to technology," Dwolatzky says.
The JCSE was also able to elaborate on its planned TSP (Team Software
Process) and PSP (Personal Software Process) adoption plans. Dwolatzky
commented that these relatively new CMMI-based methodologies offered South
African companies the opportunity to become internationally competitive in
software development by developing very high quality software and running
projects on-time and within budget.
"These methodologies add the 'how' to the 'what' provided by the CMMI
framework. The recent trip to Mexico and the USA had introduced the JCSE and
some of its partners to companies showing dramatic improvements in
productivity and effectiveness of their software development activities
through the adoption of TSP and PSP principles, painting a bright picture
for their possible adoption in South Africa," he says.