Thursday, February 13, 2014

Finding evidence for Decision Analysis and Resolution (DAR). It’s easier than you think.


The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) models are collections of best practices used to help organizations improve their processes. One of the more puzzling process areas for many new to CMMI is Decision Analysis and Resolution (DAR). The purpose of DAR is to establish guidelines to determine which issues should be subjected to a formal evaluation and then apply that formal evaluation to those issues. One of the selling points for implementing DAR is that it takes the blame out of decision making. By using it, there will be evidence that objective data was collected and a decision was made based on a standardized process. It’s CYA heaven!

DAR is unique in that there is no requirement to the number of formal evaluations that need to be performed. Yes, evidence has to be shown that DAR was performed, and it should be pervasive across every aspect of the organization, but that’s not a requirement. How will you know when it’s implemented enough? Unfortunately, that’s a subjective call. A call that gets progressively harder to make for an organization with a paucity of DAR evidence.

One of the bits of advice I give to organizations I consult is to try their best to find existing processes that fit the goals and practices of the CMMI process areas. If a new process or procedure needs to be created to address a deficiency, then that’s fine and bound to happen from time-to-time. However, creating a new document or process just to make the CMMI assessor happy is counterproductive and just plain stupid.

What are some existing areas of an organization that may already be doing DAR and don’t realize it? Let’s explore three areas common to most organizations seeking CMMI assessment: contracts, purchasing, and project management.

Contracts

Choosing contractors and subcontractors is probably a well-defined process in your organization. Whether you’re a small or large company, strategic partnerships are inevitable. Suppliers put demands on organizations to ensure all contractors and subcontractors will work together amicably. There should be no shortage of documentation in this area. Does your organization have a “Request for Proposal” process? How does the organization determine if it’s a competitive or sole source bid? Is there a Statement of Work (SOW)? Is there past history with a contractor or subcontractor? Are there existing guidelines within the selection process?

Purchasing

Just like contracts, an organization's purchasing department needs to make many similar decisions. Vendor evaluation and qualification is a prime example of a process that’s probably already in place and can be mapped to DAR. Is the purchase under a contract or a non-contract expense? Sole source or competitive bid? Does the vendor accept net terms? Do dollar thresholds trigger additional criteria to be collected and evaluated?

Project Management

How are cost estimates performed? How is schedule determined? Guidelines to perform a DAR could be based on a project’s risk assessment. Perhaps low risk projects don’t require a formal evaluation? What alternative solutions are proposed to a problem? Are there legal or regulatory requirements? Modeling and simulation, engineering studies, surveys, and expert opinions are all valid methods of evaluation and can be used as guidelines and/or criteria in DAR.

How to Start

Create a table mapping the DAR goals and practices for each existing documented process where evaluations and decisions are made. This table can be added as an appendix to the document and referenced during a CMMI assessment. Map the sections of a process (or plan) to the goals and practices of DAR. While it wouldn’t be advisable to unnecessarily complicate the existing process to get it to fit the DAR mold, perhaps the wording of the process being examined can be modified to help clarify the connection to DAR. Include key terms like “criteria,” “guidelines,” “alternatives,” “evaluation methods,” “decision analysis,” and “solutions” in the process descriptions.

Remember, evidence of DAR can come from anywhere. It’s not just technical evaluation of materials and software. It can be part of an organization’s Human Resources department’s hiring practices. As long as it relates to the projects being evaluated, it’s fair game.

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