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CMMI Levels of Quality Assurance

By G.E. Morris

The Capability Maturity Model Integration (commonly referred to as CMMI or just CMM), the world standard software development and QA process, was pioneered by the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute. It can be applied to the development of most products, but CMM is most effective for software QA. Understanding CMM is essential in developing solid software. The table below defines the 5 CMM levels and explains when they can, and should, be used.

Almost every QA department contains elements of all CMM levels, but the payoffs for using CMM development only come when level 3 is fully reached.

Of all of the milestones involved in implementing a CMM approach to QA, level 3 is the most important. Once level 3 is reached, the availability of standardized forms and processes & procedures make it easy to apply it to new projects.

CMM Level


When to use

Level 1 - Chaos

Little documentation and few if any processes and procedures are in place. Success is only achieved by the heroic actions of team members.

Used for one of a kind projects of very limited scope.

Level 2 - Repeatability

Enough documentation exists that the QA process is repeatable.

Used for any project that will be done again, whether as an upgrade or a somewhat similar variation.

Level 3 - Standardization

QA documentation and processes & procedures are standardized. Templates exist for all documentation and a QA "system" exists.

Critical for a QA department that must provide QA for multiple projects. Avoids reinventing the wheel for each project.

Level 4 - Manageability

The exact time & resources required to provide adequate QA for each product is known precisely so timetables and quality levels are met consistently, and without surprises.

Requires an existing data set based on previous QA projects. This level can only be achieved by well documented experience.

Level 5 - Optimization

QA processes and procedures are understood well enough to be refined and streamlined.

Actually should be used in every Stage. By Level 5, this is the only thing left to work on.

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QA and the Software Development Lifecycle

CMMI Levels

Writing Repeatable Test Cases

Writing Thorough Test Cases

Writing Product Requirement Documents

Basing Test Cases on Requirements Documents

Test Case Formats

Multipart Test Cases

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