the ideas that Crosby had expressed in his book, Quality ...., a five-level model. And you kind of go through a sequence of questions in terms of what the different issues are at each of the levels. And kind of the first question that Watts asked was: Is project management a good thing? And when he was talking to executives and senior managers, as you might expect, the answer would be: Well, yes, management is a good thing. Secondly, is organizational learning, a standardization, a good thing? And as you might expect, the answer would typically be yes. Is measurement and management by fact a good thing? Well of course, obviously. Is continual improvement a good thing? Of course, you know, this is trivially obvious, easy to answer kind of stuff.
Mark: And then of course the ending question is: Well why aren't you doing any of those things? And so the five-level model basically focuses on project management issues; on creating standards and organizational learning through common processes and measures and training and then using the measurement to drive the decision-making processes; and, lastly, to continue the journey of continual process improvement and quality management. And that's the five-level framework which we refined quite a bit over the years since Watts initially expressed that five-level framework.
Carol: And it's interesting. Because ever since it was first, I guess, now it's the first published, most of the companies that went through an assessment in the first place were very low maturity companies.
Mark: Yes that's certainly true. Back in 1989 and 1990 when we were doing the first reports on the maturity of the organizations that had been assessed using the model, we were at that time running about 90 percent of the organizations as Level 1 organizations. Which meant that they had very fundamental problems in terms of having a common understanding with a customer about what was to be built, in terms of planning, in terms of tracking what was going on; in some cases, actually losing the source code, not knowing what the releases were. They were out in the field in terms of problem reports that might come in. You could ask yourself: Well, what version is that against? And nobody would be able to reproduce that version. So there were some pretty fundamental issues that has changed over the years. It is certainly a biased sample, because we talk primarily with organizations that are doing assessments. And so that's not a random sample of the software community at large.
Mark: But we've gone from roughly 90 percent being at Level 1 in 1990, to less than half of the organizations being assessed today being at Level 1 and a pretty fair percentage at levels 2 and 3 and a sprinkling of a little bit less than five percent at Levels 4 and 5, the top levels of the model.
Carol: And conceptually, when you talk about high maturity, what does that really mean to the Software Engineering Institute?
Mark: Well, what that really means is that you have a process, a way of building software that you have standardized as appropriate for various environments that you may be building products for, where you can measure what's going on in your process, use some statistical analysis, quantitative management techniques so that when unusual things happen, you can identify that something odd happened and take corrective or preventative action as appropriate, that you can make decisions based upon a consistent use of measurement data. And that's a real culture shift for most software