Every corporation wants information technology (IT) systems that are robust enough to meet their current requirements and flexible enough to adapt to their changing business needs. However, most corporations have very poorly designed IT applications. Thus, when these companies need to implement a major enhancement to their existing systems or build new applications, their probability for project failure is exceedingly high: 65 to 80 percent according to most surveys. This failure rate is surprising as the average company spends approximately 5.3 percent of its annual revenue on IT-related activities. The executives of these same companies are trying to understand why their major IT initiatives fail at such a high rate and why seemingly simple changes to their applications are so costly and time-consuming. These executives wanted a technique for comparing their IT development methods with those of other firms. These desires have helped fuel the popularity of the systems engineering capability maturity model (CMM). This column marks the first in an ongoing series on the CMM. Over the next several columns, I will explain what the CMM is, what each of the six CMM levels means, apply the CMM to data warehousing along with metrics for each level, and illustrate why a meta data repository is the most vital application for any company looking to move up the CMM levels.

There are many different applications of the capability maturity models. Some of these models target software development, staffing, etc. In this series, I will focus on the systems engineering capability maturity model (CMM). The CMM is service marked by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University and was developed by the SEI, the Department of Defense and a host of other entities. For more information about the SEI, please feel free to visit http://www.sei.cmu.edu/sei-home.html.

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