It took 5 years, the formation of a specialized team and many hours of work for Kingland to move from a maturity level three to maturity level five from the CMMI Institute. And the company did that while embarking on an agile journey.
Fewer than 55 U.S. companies have achieved a maturity level 5 appraisal rating from the CMMI Institute as of June 2018. This appraisal means Kingland is focused on continuous improvement and is built to pivot and respond to opportunity and change, according to the institute.
"This gives us predictability in how we deliver solutions for our customers," said Kingland Chief Strategy Officer Tony Brownlee. For example, a company can ask, "What's your process and your software development cycle?" Kingland can provide a program guide, answer requirement questions, and show clients that the company has rigorous, time-tested, and controlled processes that can deliver what a client needs.
Attaining a maturity level 5 appraisal and incorporating processes to deliver products on time is something Kingland has developed through the years. The company had to figure out what work looks like, discover best practices, and provide levels of visibility into the work - all in an iterative fashion.
Chief Technology Officer Jason Toyne explained that Kingland created statistical models which allowed the company to tune and manage its software development process and align with the requirements of each customer.
"One example model that we use to manage our projects allows for defining variables that can be controlled by the project release team such as task duration, acceptable duration of a defect and ratios of testing time to development time," said Toyne. "Our level 5 practices allow us to measure our key project performance metrics in real time, understand statistically what those metrics mean to the release, and correct in near real time for improved and predictable release outcomes."
This ability to provide predictable outcomes is at the core of CMMI. "It's very much around quantitative project management where we use data to predict outcomes instead of using data to understand the outcomes as exhaust to a process," said Toyne. "Let's say Kingland says it will deliver a solution in August, but the client suggests they want the solution sooner - by three months - and they want to double the size of the release," he says.
That can be troubling for most vendors since it's difficult to accurately predict the risks involved in changing the scope of a project. Toyne said because of the data Kingland has collected through the years and on numerous projects, and the company's process rigor and level five appraisal, Kingland can provide a clear picture of predictable outcomes.
"We can statistically talk to a customer from a business perspective and say, 'Okay, we can move this into May, but here's what the risks are,'" said Executive Vice President of Professional Services Alex Olson. "We are likely to have 12 more defects when we go to production, for example. We can talk about the true business impacts to their problem that a business person can actually understand. That's all done by statistical models." He added the company takes it a step further by not only using statistical models, but also by improving upon that model. "We have the proven ability to show a positive change in our development practices by defining the business problem, identifying an underlying cause, changing steps of the process, and comparing the before and after to show a positive change," he said.
Which brings us back to predictability.
Kingland chose CMMI because of its track record of being used by some of the largest companies to create some of the most business- and government-critical software, according to Toyne. Companies such as BNY Mellon, MetLife, Apple, and Boeing use CMMI in one or more organizational units. He said the maturity and predictability of the CMMI approach allow Kingland to provide the best value for customers.
Olson said clients "can have confidence that we're going to be creative and we'll look at the problem in a different way." All of this ties back to the Kingland Way. A cultural approach to how the company gets things done.
The Kingland Way is a combination of how the company organizes its people, processes, and technology innovations into its development process. Teams are organized by expertise, yet use the same processes, which provides consistency throughout the company. By connecting this expertise with rigorous processes, the company is able to deliver complex solutions in aggressive timeframes.
Brownlee said, "it's this culture, the way we do things at Kingland that sets us apart. Taking on and achieving a level five appraisal will help make our products better and help clients sleep at night due to our predictability."