Why is your group investing in a CMMI-based improvement programme at this time?
The reasons are two-fold: Firstly, we are responding to the demands of operational separation,
new networks, and the increasing complexity and sheer scale that modern operations build into our business.
We need a common playbook for our activities to avoid disparate responses that add overhead and burden, and
that sometimes prevent us from getting it right first time. Secondly, telecommunications is an industry that’s
very competitive, very regulated and very capital intensive. We need to make sure we deliver the best value for
every dollar – this wouldn’t be possible without a method like CMMI.
How did you come to choose CMMI as the improvement framework?
I’m relatively agnostic about this sort of thing. I was at IBM where CMMI was the common method
used, and my experience with it was good. But it is also a language for improvement that is globally accepted and
adopted, so it has history, prominence and a track-record of good experiences from around the world.
What are the greatest challenges for the programme?
There are two key challenges: The first is cultural adoption. A common playbook requires everyone
to be on the same page, and this can be hard to achieve in any organisation. The second is that things continue to
come at you from business-as-usual, so priorities and resources sometimes need to be reallocated. This had added a
little to some of our timings.
What are the implications for your suppliers as you improve using CMMI?
Suppliers are already starting to see greater clarity from us about roles, responsibilities, and
how everyone can better ‘play in position’. This is just the more evolved conversation created by CMMI. Of course
several of our larger offshore providers already have well established capability based on CMMI, but I genuinely
believe that local suppliers should be considering CMMI too. They don’t have to be aiming for the highest levels
of maturity, but just start using CMMI for the clarity and discipline it brings to the day-to-day practices. I
think it’s inevitable and good for the industry that some of the supplier community will recognise the benefits
and go on the journey as well. This is not something to be afraid of.
What were the key factors for gaining Telecom Board support for this initiative?
Well there was already strong support from a couple of board members who were asking why we
weren’t using CMMI already to minimise capital leakage and make the very best possible use of money. So there was
no shortage of passion and sponsorship for this work at board level.
Few New Zealand organisations are using CMMI - why do you think this is?
I think there’s a perception it’s ‘for the big boys’. I think there are also fears about overhead
and worries about relevance. These concerns may be the result of anecdotal stories about high maturity applications
of CMMI, but as I’ve said earlier, these are not things to be afraid of. CMMI can make a relevant contribution to
enterprises of all sizes when they just start improvement using the framework’s foundational material.
What has been the reaction of the business to the initiative?
The internal customers are very keen to see the impact we can deliver on reduced capital leakage.
Of course they have some nervousness because of the perceptions we just talked about - no one wants increased
overheads or to slow things down. So our implementation approach has been measured and steady. This is not a short
sprint, but a long race, and I am determined to see the improvements become embedded as part of our culture. It
is a change, which is always challenging, but we are committed to dealing with concerns as they arise, on an issue
by issue basis. I think we are all excited to see what happens as we strap on this work and enjoy the ride.
What message would you have about CMMI for other industry executives and senior managers?
I would actively say embrace it, because if you are a business executive it will create an
inevitable improvement to your quality and profits. You have to get past perceptions about overhead; the simple
reality is it contributes to an improved bottom line.