A discussion on comp.software-eng asked what people thought of eXtreme Programming, suggesting that it might be approximately an SEI Level 1 process. In these pages, we'll look at the descriptions of the CMM levels and at some corresponding aspects of eXtreme Programming as practiced on the Chrysler C3 project.

My assessment overall is that XP has some characteristics in common with the higher SEI levels, up to and including level 5. However, I would not assert that an XP team is a level 5 team. It takes a lot more documentation and “proving” going on in CMM than we recommend for XP. XP is in some ways a “vertical” slice through the SEI levels 2 through 5.

In the following, sections in italics are quotations from The Capability Maturity Model, CMU/SEI, Paulk et al, Addison-Wesley, 1995, ISBN 0-201-54664-7.

SEI Level One

At the Initial Level, the organization typically does not provide a stable environment for developing and maintaining software. Overcommitment is a characteristic of Level 1 organizations, and such organizations frequently have difficulty making commitments that the staff can meet with an orderly engineering process, resulting in a series of crises. During a crisis, projects typically abondon planned procedures, and refert to coding and testing. Success depends on having an exceptional manager and a seasoned and effective software team.

Success in Level 1 organizations depends on the competence and heroics of the people in the organization and cannot be repeated unless the same competent individuals are assigned to the next project. Thus, at Level 1, capability is a characteristic of the individuals, not of the organization.

ExtremeProgramming specifically prescribes two levels of scheduling, which make up the PlanningGame. These levels, called CommitmentSchedule and IterationPlan, are based on developers’ own estimates for the production of the necessary software. The joint CommitmentSchedule process results in a comprehensive estimate of what will be produced, and when. The joint IterationPlan schedules a short interval, and results of each iteration feed back into the CommitmentSchedule to refine the schedule. C3 progress is in no way characterized by a series of crises.

The C3 team specifically prohibits heroics, and works almost no overtime. Instead, the team treats a desire for heroics as an indication that there is something wrong with the process. They dig in and determine what is going wrong, and fix the process.

While the C3 team members are quite competent, they are generally not exceptional. The team’s PairProgramming practice brings two good minds to bear on each problem: this is generally better than bringing one excellent mind to bear.

The team manager offers no exceptional support. Rather, he serves only to track progress, and to interface to management, with all technical decisions and assignements being done jointly by the team and by a volunteer process.

A second Extreme Programming project, with a new team, has not yet been attempted at Chrysler, so we cannot yet speak to how well the success will be replicated. Our thoughtful opinion, however, is that it is our process, not us as individuals, that is making C3 work so well.

SEI Level Two - Repeatable

At the Repeatable Level, … projects implement effective processes that are defined, documented, practiced, trained, measured, enforced, and improvable.

ExtremeProgramming clearly specifies a number of practices (Extreme Programming Rules). These are well-defined, and are documented. The team has been trained at the beginning of the project, has a full-time coach, and trains new members in the team practices. Practices are generally measured and enforced by the shared responsibility of the team. Pair Programming and an open process ensure that all developers know what is happening all over the system. In the rare instances where a developer may violate one of the team’s practices, the offending developer will be advised, reprimanded, or, in rare cases, allowed to work on some other project.

The practices are improvable, and in fact (see SeiLevelFive) are improved as we go along.

…managers for a project track software costs, schedules, and functionality; problems in meeting commitments are identified as they arise.

In ExtremeProgramming, we track FourVariables, Resources, Scope, Quality, and Time. These variables let us determine whether we are meeting the schedule, with the desired quality, as we go along. We report these variables uniformly, from ourselves all the way to the top of the organization.

SEI Level Three - Defined

At the Defined Level … a defined software process contains a coherent, integrated set of well-defined software engineering and management processes … characterized as including readiness criteria, inputs, standards and procedures for completing the work, verification mechanisms …, outputs, and completion criteria. Because the software process is well-defined, management has good insight into technical progress on the project.

ExtremeProgramming’s rules encompass the readiness criteria (e.g. completion of UserStories, presence of key resources), inputs (UserStories), standards and procedures (the many “Extreme Programming Rules”), verification mechanisms (UnitTests and FunctionalTests), outputs (the software plus anything else defined in the UserStories), and completion criteria (user-acceptable scores on the FunctionalTests).

Using the FourVariables, ExtremeProgramming provides management with simple and clear insight into actual project performance.

SEI Level Four - Managed

At the Managed Level, the organization sets quantitative quality goals for both software products and processes.

ExtremeProgramming requires that quality goals for products be set via the FunctionalTests. We require UnitTests to be at 100% all the times, so that’s not very interesting as a statistic. We measure our LoadFactor, which relates elapsed time to developers’ estimates of difficulty. We have not set quantitative goals for this figure, but we do use changes in LoadFactor as a cue to look into the process and see where we can improve.

When the schedule is tracking and test scores are good, we have not found it necessary to track other quantitative values. Some candidates to consider would be: number of unit tests vs number of system classes; rate of change of test creation; number of system classes; class/method/code lines ratios, and so on.

Looking at XP through CMM eyes, especially if XP were being done throughout an entire large organization, we would expect that more measurement might be needed than we require in a single project. An interesting question in those circumstances is how much to invest in measurement “in case we need it”. The XP advice would be to measure only things that have low cost, and start measuring when you see the need. We would advise recording additional (low-cost) measures but (literally) not looking at them unless and until there is a perceived use for the figures. Otherwise you’re just wasting time that could be used writing more software - which is, after all, the point.

SEI Level Five - Optimizing

At the Optimizing Level .. software teams analyze defects to determine their causes. They evaluate software processes to prevent known types of defects from recurring and [they] disseminate lessons learned throughout the organization.

ExtremeProgramming practice is to meet every defect by implementing tests that display the defect, then fixing the software so that the tests run. Other tests are to be built in the same or related areas, to catch similar or related problems.

It is fair to say that the C3 team, being human, sometimes falls a bit short in terms of creating tests for things that are outside our current scope. This is an area that needs continual attention from the ExtremeCoach, and it may need shoring up in some other way as well.

ExtremeProgramming teams prefer to implement software to check for and detect errors, whether in the base software or in process, rather than to set up involved procedures which leave open the possibility of human error or laziness. Thus, an XP team will write software to make sure that changes are not stepped on by subsequent developers, rather than set up a more involved release procedure.

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