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After the Appraisal: A Systematic Survey of Process Improvement, its Benefits, and Factors that Influence Success

August 1995 Technical Report
Dennis Goldenson, James D. Herbsleb

This survey examines appraisals and process improvement efforts from a broad cross-section of software organizations.


Software Engineering Institute

CMU/SEI Report Number


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Very little published evidence exists about the impact of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) or CMM-based appraisals on subsequent software process improvement and organizational performance. A few credible case studies do exist, but it is uncertain how widely their results apply. We present evidence here from a much broader cross section of software organizations. Our results suggest that process maturity does indeed payoff in better product quality, ability to meet schedule commitments, and other indicators of organizational performance. The vast majority of survey respondents also report that their appraisals proved to be highly accurate and useful in guiding their subsequent process improvement efforts. Not all organizations have been equally successful, however, and improvement often takes longer and costs more than expected. We identify several factors, most of them under management control, that distinguish more successful from less successful organizations.