Standards and Frameworks for CM: A Different Perspective

Needs a summary

If you are expecting me to recommend one over the other, this is not your article. I recommend that you pick a standard that is best suited for your culture, office politics and maturity level. Choose carefully, because the standard you pick can be devastating to your group, team, or company. All too often in IT, decisions are made in search for the illusive, silver bullet that will solve the problems of the IT shop, group, or company. Unfortunately, the choice is made and based on false pretenses: If I make this choice, we can improve the way things are done and everything will fall into place and we will get better. The particular standard or framework will not have as much to do with success or failure as the external issues that no framework or standard can address.

The culture at your organization will have a lot to do with success or failure of your standard or framework implementation.  If you have a culture that allows developers to code despite the number of errors in their code and to continue to churn out defects, no matter how much process you put in place bad code will continue.  The only difference is, you will have a better idea of the number of defects and who is causing them.  The decision making aspect of your culture will also influence the success or failure of any framework or standard implementation.  If you have a top down decision making culture, many at the lower ranks will see this as merely another corporate edict to go along with the twenty others collecting dust on the shelf.  If you have a bottom up culture of change with little action or support by upper management, this can become equally counterproductive.  If the culture of your organization is based on quality results and doing things right, then your chance of success are better.  If the culture of you organization is organized chaos ruled by heroes saving the day, then failure will be more likely to prevail than success. 

The culture of your company, group, division or team will also play a major role in the success or failure of any standard or framework that is chosen.  How does culture differ from politics in the workplace?  I feel that the culture of the organization is the lifeblood of that organization; it determines how issues are approached, how issues are handled, and how lessons are learned from those issues.  Every organization from the top to the bottom has a culture that defines approach.  Are issues handle in a timely and methodical way, is consensus reached or do a few make the decision with a lot or little input from management?  Does the culture allow sufficient discussion or are decision made quickly and the results sorted out later?  Does the culture of your organization support input from all parties or do the department heads make the decisions and then pass those decisions up the ladder?  How does this affect the choice of a standard or framework?  It can have a profound impact on how the standard and framework is implemented and accepted.   This can be especially true if there are several differing opinions on which route to go.  This results in winners and losers and, depending on the organization, those cultural shifts and losses can spell doom for any standard or framework you pick.


This is always a touchy subject for most, but your office politics will also determine if the standard or framework works and succeeds.  Whether we admit it or not every office has a political structure and political workings.  This can be born from empires that are built, past relationships, and the thousand other things that play into the political pecking order in your organization.  This is also where culture clashes with politics.  


If the standard or framework is pushed down from an unpopular manager, it can be seen as a power move or grab.  It can also be seen as a revenge laden move.  If the push for quality truly comes from the bottom up, office politics can be reduced though never eliminated.  If the lower echelons request that a particular standard or framework be used, it has a greater chance of survival.  Of course the department, group or division it comes from may doom it before it gains traction; this is politics at work.  


The more people that support the framework or standard as it goes up the chain the better will determine success or failure.  This will depend on your culture. While I wish politics played no role, I think it would be foolish not to at least consider that this could be a major factor in the success or failure of your implementation.


The maturity level of your group or organization is also very important in the implementation of any standard or framework.  Depending on your organization and the standard or framework that is chose,n you will be placed in some sort of grid.  That can be a number scale or it can be a level scale or any variation of those two.  


If your group or organization is completely chaotic, the chances of success will be more difficult for two reasons: The ability to get to the first level will be harder due to culturally ingrained feelings and attitudes.  This, coupled with office politics, could make getting off of the ground impossible.  On the other side of the coin are the organizations that are more mature, have documented processes and a culture of quality and improvement, the standard or framework will be much better received and less likely to cause friction.


Now I will address the statement about a standard being destructive to your efforts.  There are several instances where this will ring true.  If you have a project that is in trouble, behind schedule, or over budget, a standard or framework will not correct the issues necessarily and it could cause the project to halt or self-destruct even quicker.  Standards or frameworks should be implemented before projects are started, if possible.  Making a project that is in progress adopt a certain framework or standard could do more harm than good.   


Another instance is when a standard or framework is followed strictly with little variation.  There is no one size fits all and the old adage “what cures one person can kill another” is true in this case.  The first thing to remember about any standard or framework is that it is a guide, and may only be the minimum of what you need.  While you may reach a certain goal or level, this does not insure future success.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to implement a certain standard or framework.  Process improvement should always be the goal of all IT projects.


When considering what standard or framework to use, please be aware of the three things I mentioned.  When choosing a framework or standard you are taking a big risk.  Anyone can look outside their team, group, company, etc., and say this is the way things should be done.  Standards and frameworks, though,  cause you to look inward at your own faults, deficiencies and shortcomings.  Depending on the culture this can cause a rift between groups inside your organization, a “we are better than you” effect can occur.  This can then cause the political forces to take control and squash any chance of success depending on how close to home it hits with the less than perfect groups.  Your culture can heal some wounds, but some rifts are too tough to heal.  Just be aware that bringing in a standard or framework doesn’t guarantee success unless it is given the chance to work.  This starts at the lowest of levels in the organization all the way to the top.


About the author

CMCrossroads is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.