In our introduction to mapping RMM levels to CMMI levels, we presented background info on CMMI, introduced the IBM article on RMM levels, and posted an initial mapping structure. In this article, we will look at the definition of RMM level 1. We also cover the tradeoffs and benefits of the practices it requires. Finally, we look at the mapping from RMM level 1 to various CMMI levels.
RMM Level 1 – Written Requirements
Level 1 of the requirements maturity model is defined at a high level as simply having written requirements. IBM defines written requirements as persistent documentation. They point out that post-it notes and whiteboards don’t count. Email discussions, word documents, spreadsheets and presentations all count.
IBM presents an argument of tradeoffs – as long as the cost of documenting requirements is exceeded by the benefits, it makes sense to write the requirements. They point out three benefits of having written requirements:
- A contract is explicit, or implicit in the requirements. The documented requirements can be used to manage the customer’s expectations, and can also be used to validate that what was promised was delivered.
- Clear direction for the implementation team can be found in the requirements documents.
- New team members can rely on the documented requirements as a means to get up to speed.
While we strongly agree with the first two points – we think the third one is a bit of a stretch. While having requirements documentation does help people get up to speed, it isn’t a first-order benefit. Videotape a couple 1-hr presentations. One presentation discussing the goals of the project, and one discussing (and whiteboarding) the architectural approach of the solution. Put these on the server and let new people watch them. Much more cost-effective at helping people get up to speed. [Note – I’m pretty sure that I heard Alistair Cockburn suggest this approach or something like it in a podcast interview, so the credit for the idea is his, not ours.]
We would also add that documenting requirements is all but worthless if we don’t use the documents as tools to support conversation with our team members. Incremental delivery is a process that is dependent upon feedback. We must get feedback from stakeholders, and from the implementation team.
The implementation team will provide feedback about the clarity, verifiability, and feasibility of the requirements as written.
Requirements need to be written to support verification. The QA team and stakeholders are responsible for verifying that what was delivered is what was expected. Technically, the delivery must match the requirements – but the requirements should match the expectations of the customer.
One Step Above Chaos
I like that the IBM guys name level zero as “Chaos.” I’ve worked as a developer on projects without requirements. It is chaos. There’s a reason we write requirements. They set expectations. And theres a reason why we review and approve the requirements. It’s essentially a form of structured active listening.
Mapping to the CMMI Levels
In our diagram, we show the following mappings for RMM Level 1:
- CMMI level 0 – Requirements Should Be Written
- CMMI level 1 – Requirements Must Be Written
- CMMI level 2 – Requirements Must Be Written
- CMMI level 3 – Requirements Must Be Written
- CMMI level 4 – Requirements Must Be Written
- CMMI level 5 – Requirements Must Be Written
For CMMI level 0 – even if we don’t have a formal process, we really should be writing our requirements – and using those documents to manage expectations, provide feedback (that we’re doing the right stuff), and scope and focus our efforts.
For CMMI levels 1 and higher – all of the measured CMMI levels require that we have a defined process. Even with the disorganization of a team operating at CMMI level 1, we still need to have a process defined. And a requirements management process that doesn’t involve documenting the requirements isn’t worth very much at all.
Note that documentation might be in the form of prototypes, wireframes, and JAD Session notes. No one is saying that they have to be documented in any particular way. In fact, at RMM level 1, they aren’t in a consistent format, and don’t use a structured requirements framework. Consistent formatting is an element of RMM level 2. And RMM level 3 is focused on structured requirements.
The requirements documents may be scattered through a series of email debates, collaborative databases, and files on network share drives. That’s fine for RMM level 1 – in fact, it is part of the definition of RMM level 1. Organized requirements are a characteristic of RMM level 2.
Remember – CMMI Levels only represent how a process is implemented – they don’t characterize the effectiveness of any one process.
From a CMMI Level Perspective
The previous analysis basically looked at the “RMM level 1” column in our grid, and inspected the relative decisions for each “CMMI level” row. Now we will look at it by reviewing the CMMI levels, and seeing how they map to the RMM level.
A quick review of the same chart (so you don’t have to scroll up and down):
At CMMI level 1, we require that requirements be written. We suggest that they be organized and structured.
At CMMI level 2, we require that the documentation be organized. A managed process without some form of organization and consistent documentation is a poorly managed process.
At CMMI level 3, we are standardizing our approach across our company. And at CMMI levels 4 and 5 we are measuring and improving on our process. We’ll address the higher CMMI levels in more detail as this series of articles continues.
- RMM level 1 specifies that requirements are documented.
- CMMI .evel 1 specifies that there is a process – in our case, one for managing requirements.
- A process must be at RMM level 1 to be at CMMI level 1.
- A process should be at RMM level 2 or 3 if it is at CMMI level 1.
Note that this implies that we would spend the extra effort to get to CMMI 2 before we would try and reach RMM level 4.