The Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) launched in 2005 as a joint venture between Wits University, the City of Joburg and others. Part of its stated intent is to promote software engineering best practices, and build capacity and skills in the software sector. In that vein, it kicked off a project called ‘Bringing CMMI to South Africa` in 2006.
JCSE research manager Estelle Trengove says CMMI (capability maturity model integration) is a collection of software engineering best practices. “It provides a framework for prioritising and organising process improvement activities and can be used to rate the maturity of organisational processes.”
The initiative involves training CMMI instructors, offering the introduction to CMMI courses, training people to lead Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) assessments and the pilot project. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has provided funding to the tune of R1.5 million for the initiative and the City of Joburg has provided funding for a CMMI awareness campaign.
Says Trengove: “The first thing we wanted to do was to be able to offer the introductory course to local companies at an affordable rate.”
The introductory course has only been available overseas, at a cost of $3 300 per person, excluding travel, accommodation and so on. The first two instructors were trained by November 2006, a further two by April this year, and a fifth qualified in August. “Instead of $3 300 plus travel and accommodation, we can now offer the course locally for around R9 000 per person,” says Trengove.
Courses are held on a monthly basis in Johannesburg and Cape Town and, as at early September, 134 people had completed the introductory course. The JCSE has also introduced international trainers to conduct the intermediate concepts course and SCAMPI team lead training. At the time of writing, South Africa had one SCAMPI lead.
A beneficial introduction
The JCSE CMMI pilot programme involves the certification of a number of organisations, including a mix of small software development companies, big corporates and government departments. The aim of the pilot project, says Trengove, is to allow the DTI to evaluate the benefits, costs and potential problems associated with introducing CMMI into South Africa.
CMMI aligns Sita operations
Sita is working closely with the JCSE to participate in the CMMI pilot that will appraise its overall operation.
In a drive to assist South African companies to be introduced to CMMI, the State IT Agency (Sita) accepted the support from Wits University's Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) to perform a pilot Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI), says Sita quality manager Gideon Smit.
"The appraisal was performed on Sita projects and processes to scientifically determine the maturity level of its projects and related processes," he says.
"The results highlighted weaknesses and gaps that must now be concentrated on for improvements. The baseline is set from where Sita will improve its processes and work towards an improved level of maturity. Sita resources have been trained in CMMI and SCAMPI and have participated in the SCAMPI-A assessment team.
"Sita's longer-term aim is to follow the continuous approach and select groupings of process areas to institutionalise practices up to a level three capability level. The aim is to perform a second CMMI maturity level appraisal within the next 18 months. In addition to this, Sita intends to perform procurement CMM, people CMM and services CMM appraisals in due course," he notes.
“We will produce a report at the end of the pilot and present it to the DTI. The report will indicate if and when it would be appropriate to roll out in South Africa.”
The pilot also forms part of an international research project being conducted by the Software Engineering Institute (the JCSE is an SEI partner), which is examining the use of CMMI in smaller organisations. There are currently nine companies involved in the pilot project. “We are still taking on pilot sites,” Trengove notes, “and part of the trade-off is that because this is a research project, we make the services available and ask participants to allow us to report on their results. Ordinarily, SCAMPI results would be completely confidential. We will not be identifying the people or companies involved, but will need access to them to complete the research.”
Ten months have elapsed since the 18-month pilot project kicked off. JCSE director Professor Barry Dwolatzky says things are going well. “The JCSE has trained five local CMMI instructors who are able to deal with all of the CMMI training needs for the pilot companies. The JCSE already has one local lead assessor (able to perform formal CMMI maturity ratings). By the end of November, we will have three local CMMI ‘SCAMPI B` team leaders, able to do CMMI gap analyses and consulting. The number of pilot companies has also grown, thanks to financial support to the JCSE from the City of Joburg.
“The next step will be determined by the lessons learned in the pilot, and we cannot pre-judge what these lessons might be. We are, however, seeing a growing demand for CMMI training and consulting, and the JCSE will probably grow its capacity to provide some of these services.”
The end goal
For the companies participating in the pilot project, the end goals are all slightly different. Says Lungile Mdletshe from Bytes Systems Group: “We got involved because we don`t have any standards to comply with. The pilot has provided us with an opportunity to have a benchmark against which to measure ourselves,” he says.
Fujitsu head of application services Pierre van der Merwe says that experience on multiple large development projects has highlighted the importance of having proven processes in place to ensure that a quality product is developed within the predicted time and budget. Therefore, Fujitsu has developed ADBM (Application Design and Build Methodology), which is the Fujitsu Services best practice application development methodology of choice. Due to the fact that the use of ADBM within a project will facilitate conformance to CMMI, it was a natural progression to join the pilot programme to become CMMI certified, adding another stamp of approval to the way Fujitsu develops and delivers quality products and services.
“During the pilot phase, we will be concentrating on getting the Application Services Capability Unit CMMI accredited to level three. Over the next two years, we will further enhance delivery to allow us to be accredited to be level five compliant,” notes Van der Merwe.
Says Sita quality manager Gideon Smit: “As part of the commitment to the Sita policy, and in accordance with quality frameworks to ensure continuous improvement of product and service delivery to our clients, CMMI has been approved as a cornerstone of the Sita quality framework. Sita aims to be rated at maturity level three within the following 18 months.”