A little research about topics like best practices, CMMI model implementation and ISO certification may lead to a theoretical perception that they are vital for betterment of business in general and very profitable in the long run for any organization or company. Superficially, these processes seem to be very appealing for a successful launch of a new business or for the improvement of existing, not so good business. This section includes some research and discussion about the practical implementation of CMMI or the ISO certification, the problems and challenges faced in doing so, and the impact it had on the concerned organizations and businesses.
A study involving skilled professionals from software industries working in Brazil, China and India from 2009 focused on the perception these professionals had about the implementation of CMMI and its subsequent impact. Nearly 430 employees from 19 different software production companies participated in this study. It centered on three different dimensions namely the country, company’s maturity level and the company’s size impacting software project development, quality and productivity, professional career, team/working environment, problem identification, and analyses and modelling. The study found that CMMI model implementation improved software project management and quality and productivity in China and India than Brazil, while improvement in problem identification was more in Brazil than the other two countries. In general, professionals from all three countries agreed that though CMMI model implementation has overall positive results and that smaller firms have more impact, areas like HR management still seemed lacking. Improvements in such areas may be given more consideration when developing the future versions of CMMI.21
While improvements with the implementation of CMMI model cannot be denied, there are concerns whether the focus should be on the CMMI ratings or actual improvements recommended by CMMI model. In an interview, an expert in software and process improvement, Richard E. (Dick) Fairley has expressed this concern. According to him, data published by SEI indicates that if the improvements focus on CMMI ratings, a positive ROI can be achieved in two or three years. Dick Fairley dismisses this and remarks that CMMI ratings should in fact be the byproduct of improvement and no the goal of improvement. He informs that by reducing the avoidable rework and focusing on improving techniques can actually help achieve ROI within 12 months! Unfortunately, due to contracting issues, CMMI ratings are perceived as cost of doing business but without any perceptible benefit. Instead, focus on implementing CMMI best practices will lead to improvements and automatically ensure higher CMMI ratings.22
A group from South Korea realized the difficulties encountered by ISO certified organizations in implementing the CMMI model to their systems. While CMMI model would work for process improvement, ISO 9001 is a standard for quality management systems. So, improving processes in already ISO certified organizations seems to be a good choice. But, this implementation is not as straightforward as one would expect. The language, structure and details in these two sets of documents are very different. Also, it is not very clear as to what parts of ISO could be reused in CMMI adoption. The group proposed a unified model for the implementation of both ISO 9001:2000 and CMMI by ISO-certified organizations. By doing so, they claim that this unified model will not only be useful to complete the necessary gap analysis, but also in maintaining their quality documentation. Furthermore, the model will help simultaneous implementation of CMMI and ISO 9001:2000 even for the organizations that do not currently have ISO certifications. However, the efficiency with which this unified model will help the organization has not been evaluated yet and the group wants to finish this work in the future.23
Table 3: Methods for Unifying Classifications
Table 4: Structure of Unified Model
Trudel et al developed a software process quality evaluation method for smaller firms. They based their method on the already existing ISO/IEC 14598-5 standard methodology. To this, they combined the CMMI-based evaluation method to create their unique evaluation that not only reduced evaluation costs but also was tailored to the needs of smaller firms with 2 to 10 employees. The team used the six steps aligned with the ISO/IEC 14598-5 evaluation process and added an extra step to address the findings in the action plans with priorities and assignment of responsibilities. They claimed that this type of ISO/CMMI hybrid evaluation method could evaluate small firms and first draft of action plans addressing the major findings be proposed within a week.24
In yet another study conducted to evaluate the impact of ISO 9000 certification, nearly 500 Italian companies, both ISO certified and without certifications were considered. The goal of this study was to determine organizational effectiveness of the firms in question and the factors considered included customer satisfaction, profitability and productivity. The results obtained for the ISO certified companies and the ones without certification has comparable results. Though the ISO certified companies reflected slightly better results, the differences were not statistically significant. 20 % of these companies were multinational and most of them had market in the EU, although they were not required to be ISO certified. Moreover, there were companies that had been doing business for years now and many practiced TQM based strategies. Despite the fact that individual characterization of the firms before and after certification would have yield better results, a variability in the demographic characteristics that could not be controlled for the sake of study, combined with some of the above mentioned factors were important attributes in the results obtained.25
Table 5: Comparison between ISO Certified and Non-certified Firms
The region considered for such studies and types of ISO certifications or best practices may play a key role in such studies. For example, a research conducted in Saudi Arabia to study the effects of ISO 14001 certification revealed a very positive response, although costs involved were a major concern. This study, which involved over 140 firms in the sectors of private manufacturing, private services and public firms, studied the attitudes of managers towards the effects of ISO 14001 certification. The benefits cited by the managers included contribution towards making the environment better, safer internal workplace and safer products to customers while the difficulties were costs involved including fees of external house of experts, costs of internal changes and fees of the certification agencies. Though this certification has not been made mandatory and very few firms in Saudi Arabia (including those involved in this study) have the certification, there seemed to be an overwhelming positive response towards ISO 14001 certification.26
On the other hand, another research conducted in Bangladesh selected a sample of 150 companies to study the implications of the ISO 9000 certification. Again, the perception of the managers was being examined. The intent of the author in selecting Bangladesh was to determine the problems in the implementation of ISO standards in developing economics. Though Bangladesh is still developing, it was clear that ISO 9000 was pretty seriously considered. There is evidence that managers consider ISO certification vital for having an edge over competitors and for survival in the global market. Even though problems exist, implementation of ISO 9000 is definitely beneficial.27
Even though practices like CMMI could be implemented and ISO certifications obtained, a question that comes to mind is – Are these certifications enough for successful and sustainable business in the long run? Roslina Wahid from Malaysia found out that top management commitment, employee involvement, recognition and reward, continuous improvement, teamwork, and quality culture are some of the critical factors for successful maintenance of ISO 9000. There is need to ensure that quality system is running effectively, data about process, system and customers is being collected and analyzed, management review, internal and external audits are being taken seriously to ensure proper maintenance of ISO 9000. Often, problems like lack of commitment. Lack of cooperation, lack of knowledge and training, lack of awareness and understanding of ISO 9000 and lack of communication has been sighted as obstacles for successful ISO 9000 maintenance. The proposed solution to these problems involve major overhaul on top management’s orientation towards quality and ISO 9000, quality orientated managers and employees, commitment and involvement of people, communication and relationship building amongst people along with proper education and training about ISO 9000. These steps, if followed properly and incorporated as a part of work culture will not only help the organization go beyond the certification, but only distinguish them apart from their competitors.28
A quantitative analysis to determine the success of ISO implemented systems in Portuguese Organizations was performed in sector from agro-food to construction. The aim was to econometrically analyze the impact of ISO 9001 on productivity, business value and sales and the variables considered for different hypotheses were sales, gross added value (GAV), current profits, net profits, certification ISO, asset and productivity. The results obtained confirmed that the positive effect of ISO 9001 certification in the agro-food industry was more significant than in the construction industry. Although there was a general increase in the net profits after ISO 9001 implementation, result could not successfully ascribe them to the certification itself. As far as productivity is concerned, the positive effect of certification was not statistically significant in both sectors. It seemed that more research in this direction was needed.29
A Portuguese research studies the impacts of ISO 9001 in educational sector. The results and findings of the work were categorized into internal benefits, external benefits, disadvantages and success factors. Improvements in the internal organization of the vocational institutions was the gist of the internal benefits while improved market creditability was the external benefit gained by the certification. As far as the disadvantages of the ISO certification were concerned, they were limited to the actual implementation of ISO 9001:2000 and to the increased bureaucracy after the implementation. The critical success factors identified in this study circled around management, communication, people involvement and communication and quality teamwork.30
To conclude, it is pretty evident that implementing CMMI best practices and / or ISO Standards has a positive impact on the organization or business in question. There are some concerns about the costs involved, but in the long term, these investments seem to be very effective and worthwhile. That said, the actual implementation is not very easy and seems challenging, depending on the country, the industry and business involved, the size of the organization and the goals and commitment of the people involved. Furthermore, keeping up with these adopted ISO/CMMI standards is not easy and requires considerable commitment and effort. Also, just having these standards and certifications does not guarantee success. To make your mark and stand out of from the crowd of competitors, no matter whether at local or at global level, requires even more work and innovation.