Monday, July 6, 2009

TIPS for facing the CMMI Interview

The thought of CMMI interviews and audits are surely making some butterflies fly in some of our stomachs these days. I list down a few tips here which might
be helpful in preparing and facing the interview in a better way.

********************* Before the interview **************************

1. Check Artifacts
Before the interview go through the checklist and see if your project or process has all the relevant artifacts and check if they are at the mentioned common location.

2. Read the process documents.
Go to the Process Asset Library [PAL] and read the process document/s which is/are relevant to your role in the project.
If a Developer - Read the Software Engineering lifecycle document, Configuration Management, Decision analysis and resolution
BA - Requirement Management Process and Configuration Management
QA - Delivery Assurance and Configuration Management
But better if you can check all the process area docs.

3. Find the PIID document and check the questions and the artifacts listed under them.
Here you will come across the CMMI terminology and will get to know what is the artifact that you need to mention about when asked a specific question. If you are desperately out of time consider even memorizing the questions and the artifact in the PIID file, but better if you can understand it.

4. Have a story to tell
As the project team sit down and plan out a consistent story to tell. For example if the BA says he prepared the Requirement traceability then the others need to follow it up by mentioning about it when they answer questions. So plan and have a coherent thinking process to explain the flow of the project.

5. Make sure you know the following terms in CMMI context before you go to the audit,
Baseline, Commitment, PMP, PAL, Integration Testing, Check list, DAR, Configuration Management, Artifact, Work products, Process Documents, Process Templates

********************* At the interview *****************************

5. Remember that the auditor is an outsider.
Do not assume that he will be aware of all the things. Explain to him every artifact as if you would explain to a small kid. For example, Just because you know and use SVN everyday doesn’t mean he will know what it is, so tell him about it and explain how you base line code and how the integrity of the baseline code is maintained.

6. Make use of the first question.
Just like in one day cricket the first few over will be with fielding restrictions, rather to be more specific the auditor will usually throw a very simple question first up. Make use of it; elaborate a lot on the project flow using this question. If you mention most of the things he is looking for in this question, you will get lesser number of questions thereafter. But incase if you miss this opportunity you will end up getting a lot of questions which are really hard to understand with some strange terminology.

7. Ask if not clear
If you do not understand the question politely ask him to repeat it for you. It’s perfectly alright to do so.

8. Make sure you refer all the artifacts while answering the questions.
It’s an unpardonable sin if you miss out on mentioning all the artifacts in you process, so mention all the things, even small things like, xplanner, svn, checklists, review documents, bugzilla, project plan, dash board and so forth.

9. Do not try to innovate.
Remember that the auditor is not your customer and don’t try to impress him by trying to make up a story that you never practice at the organization. This can back fire a lot. Secondly do not try to show off what you had read in the process documents too much unless it has been made use of in the project.


JK said...

Hi Sayanthan,

No offense to any of those ideas.If it does look offensive, it just only shows my lack of knowledge in it !

Few of the concerns on CMMI process ... Hope you guys are adapting them

1) Doesn't CMMI and Agile contradict each other a bit ? The meat of the maturity model of current era is the agility. The more pragmatic the process is, more it is adaptable. How does CMMI ensure this?

2) Providing higher level of taxonomy isn't an overkill? What happens to medium sized projects? One of the greatest concerns of Zachman framework is this...

3) How is the governance ? Does it have good governance methodologies?

4) I always believed in home grown solutions (Nothing to do with politics ;) ) ... To be straight, is it just to makeup or you are really serious about it?

I just open up some discussion here... There is no right and wrong answers I suppose :)

sayanthan said...

Hi JK,

I personally have very strong opinion on CMMI and how we are adopting it. Anyhow at this juncture getting the certification seems to be one of the TOP most priorities and the piece that I wrote was to help people get through the big hurdle.

Coming back to what you had mentioned, I honestly do not think that the current process is something which will work for too long.

The fundamental mistake we had made in adapting CMMI is the fact that we had assumed that our development process is waterfall, which is indeed a big lie. If we really really wanted CMMI I still feel that we need to have adopted the AGILE CMMI. But I understand the risk involved in doing so because only a handful of organizations had succeeded in doing so. But still I feel its 1000 times better than assuming to be water fall model.

But after going through the CMMI docs a bit and the private conversations I have had with the lead auditor I think AGILE could have been made into comply CMMI standards, then for example the pictures of the white board models would have come in as artifacts and instead of having 500 odd docs per project we could have managed with 50 odd docs.

The current process kills some of our fundamentals at its root and I agree that some of the artifacts would add an unnecessary overhead for all the projects without much or any value addition.

But having said that , there are some good things in CMMI.

- its capable of introducing good governance as there is a process to monitor.

- It has the capability to introduce a cohesive way of looking at things from the top to bottom of the organization, when practiced properly.

Finally to comment about a home grown solutions...I have some reservation about it...It will always be a thing in the back burner. It will also give an opportunity for too much of discussion and not progress. From a company perspective they will look for an authority to give a certification and to get some marketing mileage out of it, which might be missing in the homegrown solution.

Thanks JK for starting this discussion.

yaalini said...

Hi Thambi,

Toyota way recommands "Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others."

Hope u do that too...

sayanthan said...

now now madam whats your problem....i am not trying to teach anyone here...

sayanthan said...

people interested in AGILE and CMMI need to read this.