What is Capability Maturity Model Integration? (CMMI)

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process improvement approach that provides organizations with the essential elements of effective processes.

CMMI for Development Ver 1.2 consists of 22 process areas with Capability or Maturity levels. CMMI should be adapted to each individual company, therefore companies are not "certified." A company is appraised at a certain level of CMMI.


The CMMI is the successor of CMM. The goal of the CMMI project is to improve usability of maturity models for software engineering and other disciplines, by integrating many different models into one framework. It was created by members of industry, government and the SEI.


There are three different types of appraisals, type A, B and C. In Appraisal Requirements for CMMI (ARC) the requirements for CMMI appraisal methods are described. The Standard CMMI Assessment Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) is the only appraisal method which meets all of the ARC requirements for a Class A appraisal method. The results of the appraisal can be published on the SEI website.


The SEI states that 25 organizations measured increases of performances in the categories cost, schedule, productivity, quality and customer satisfaction. The median increase in performance varied between 14% (customer satisfaction) and 62% (productivity). However, the CMMI model mostly deals with what processes should be implemented, and not so much with how they can be implemented. SEI thus also mentions that these results do not guarantee that applying CMMI will increase performance in every organization. A small company with few resources may be less likely to benefit from CMMI.

Interestingly, Turner & Jain (2002) argue that although it is obvious there are large differences between CMMI and agile methods, both approaches have much in common. They believe neither way is the 'right' way to develop software, but that there are phases in a project where one of the two is better suited. They suggest one should combine the different fragments of the methods into a new hybrid method. The combination of the project management technique Earned value management (EVM) with CMMI has been described (Solomon, 2002). To conclude with a similar use of CMMI, Extreme Programming (XP), a software engineering method, has been evaluated with CMM/CMMI (Nawrocki et al., 2002). For example, the XP requirements management approach, (which relies on oral communication), was evaluated as not compliant with CMMI.


The CMMI comes with two different representations - staged and continuous. The staged model, which groups process areas into 5 maturity levels, was also used in the ancestor software development CMM, and is the representation used to achieve a "CMMI Level Rating" from a SCAMPI appraisal. The continuous representation, which was used in the ancestor systems engineering CMM, defines capability levels within each profile. The differences in the representations are solely organizational; the content is equivalent.

The CMMI uses a common structure to describe each of the 25 process areas (PAs). A process area has 1 to 4 goals, and each goal is comprised of practices. Within the 22 PAs these are called specific goals and practices, as they describe activities that are specific to a single PA. There is one additional set of goals and practices that apply in common across all of the PAs; these are called generic goals and practices. Table 1 describes CMMI terminology in more detail. The page numbers refer to the Staged Representation. Common Features are historical artifacts from the software CMM; they do not appear in the CMMI v1.2.

CMMI concept definition list

  • Capability Level
    • These levels belong to the continuous representation, apply to an organization’s process-improvement achievement for each process area. There are six capability levels, numbered 0 through 5. Each capability level corresponds to a generic goal and a set of generic and specific practices.
  • CMMI Model
    • Since the CMMI Framework can generate different models based on the needs of the organization using it, there are multiple CMMI models. Consequently, the phrase “CMMI MODEL” could be any one of many collections of information. The phrase “CMMI models” refers to one, some, or the entire collection of possible models that can be generated from the CMMI Framework.
  • Continuous Representation
    • Uses capability levels to measure process improvement.
  • Discipline Amplification
    • These are model components that provide guidance for interpreting model information for specific disciplines (e.g., systems engineering, or software engineering). Discipline amplifications are added to other model components where necessary. These are easy to locate because they appear on the right side of the page and have a title indicating the discipline that they address (for example, “For Software Engineering”).
  • Generic Goals
    • These are called “generic” because the same goal statement appears in multiple process areas. In the staged representation, each process area has only one generic goal. Achievement of a generic goal in a process area signifies improved control in planning and implementing the processes associated with that process area, thus indicating whether these processes are likely to be effective, repeatable, and lasting. Generic goals are required model components and are used in appraisals to determine whether a process area is satisfied.
  • Generic Practices
    • These provide institutionalization to ensure that the processes associated with the process area will be effective, repeatable, and lasting. Generic practices are categorized by generic goals and common features and are expected components in CMMI models. (Only the generic practice title, statement, and elaborations appear in the process areas.)
  • Generic Practice Elaborations
    • After the specific practices, the generic practice titles and statements appear that apply to the process area. After each generic practice statement, an elaboration may appear in plain text with the heading “Elaboration.” The GPE provides information about how the generic practice should be interpreted for the process area. If there is no elaboration present, the application of the generic practice is obvious without an elaboration.
  • Goal
    • A required CMMI component that can be either a generic goal or a specific goal. When you see the word “goal” in a CMMI model, it always refers to model components.
  • Maturity Level
    • This is a defined evolutionary plateau of process improvement. Each maturity level stabilizes an important part of the organization’s processes. Maturity levels, which belong to the staged representation, apply to an organization’s overall maturity. There are five maturity levels, numbered 1 through 5. Each maturity level comprises a predefined set of process areas.
  • Process Area
    • This is a cluster of related practices in an area that, when performed collectively, satisfy a set of goals considered important for making significant improvement in that area. All CMMI process areas are common to both continuous and staged representations. In the staged representation, process areas are organized by maturity levels.
  • References
    • These are informative model components that direct the user to additional or more detailed information in related process areas. Typical phrases expressing these pointers are “Refer to the Organizational Training process area for more information about identifying training needs and providing the necessary training” or “Refer to the Decision Analysis and Resolution process area for more information about evaluating and selecting among alternatives.”
  • Specific Goals
    • These apply to a process area and address the unique characteristics that describe what must be implemented to satisfy the process area. Specific goals are required model components and are used in appraisals to help determine whether a process area is satisfied.
  • Specific Practice
    • This is an activity that is considered important in achieving the associated specific goal. The specific practices describe the activities expected to result in achievement of the specific goals of a process area. Specific practices are expected model components.
  • Staged Representation
    • This uses maturity levels to measure process improvement.
  • Statement
    • This is designed to be used for process-improvement and appraisal purposes.
  • Subpractice
    • These are detailed descriptions that provide guidance for interpreting specific or generic practices. Subpractices may be worded as if prescriptive, but are actually an informative component in CMMI models meant only to provide ideas that may be useful for process improvement.
  • Work Product
    • The term is used throughout the CMMI Product Suite to mean any artifact produced by a process. These artifacts can include files, documents, parts of the product, services, processes, specifications, and invoices. Examples of processes to be considered as work products include a manufacturing process, a training process, and a disposal process for the product. A key distinction between a Work Product and a product component is that a work product need not be engineered or part of the end product.