Airline achieves SEI/CMM Level 2 and gets united

COMPANY: United Airlines, Information Services Division
PURPOSE: To build higher quality products to meet customers' needs on time and within budget and to define a repeatable process to improve the consistency and standardization of best practices across ISD.

APPLICATION: ADEPT -- Application Development Effectiveness Process Transition Modern technology enables today's corporations to strategically locate business offices throughout the country, even across the world in some cases. A company having numerous geographic locations serves market demand and accommodates customer need, but in terms of software engineering, operations existing separately can potentially cause incompatibility among methodologies and hinder the company's capability to deliver services, satisfy customers and manage companywide projects.

In November 1995, United Airlines' Information Services Division (ISD) found itself facing such circumstances with its four geographic locations -- Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. With the intention of eliminating the discrepancies among locations, United hired Jim Earnhardt to pilot its Application Development Effectiveness Process Transition -- ADEPT.

"What was going here was that United was unable to deliver, it had poor customer satisfaction, no project management and low morale among its employees," Earnhardt said. United needed to develop and implement a standard project management process and methodology at the four locations.

In January 1996 Earnhardt, director Architecture and Technology/ADEPT, began the effort to build higher quality products to meet customers' needs on time and within budget and to define a repeatable process to improve the consistency and standardization of the best practices across ISD.

To achieve its goals, Earnhardt said United followed the Software Engineering Institute's (SEI) Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and the Level 2 Key Process Areas (KPAs). According to SEI, Level 2 is defined as repeatable, and in order to achieve this status "basic project management processes are established to track cost, schedule and functionality. Realistic project commitments are based on previous projects and tailored to the requirements of the current project."

"We found the criteria for Level 2 to meet our needs as an organization," Earnhardt said.

Level 2 CMM KPAs are as follows: requirements management; software project planning; software project tracking and oversight; software subcontract management; software quality assurance (SQA); and software configuration management (SCM).

In order to implement ADEPT, LBMS Process Engineer Guide online repository was rolled out to the applications development department, according to Earnhardt. This included 14 process templates for everything from initiating a project to the maintenance efforts of those projects already implemented. The rollout also included several shells and checklists as sample deliverables. Primavera Project Planner (P3) scheduler was implemented and rolled out to project planners. SQA and SCM techniques were also included within the scope of the project, Earnhardt said.

LBMS provided a "rollout" process template that was initially used and then adjusted as the project progressed. United used some of the same processes and tools that were being implemented as part of the project. This included some of the LBMS processes as well as P3 as the scheduling tool. P3 was selected because of the capabilities it provided -- multiple project support, reporting and analysis tools, resource management and integration with the LBMS methodology, according to Earnhardt.

ISD wanted to use the existing OS on the user workstations, but they still needed upgrading in order to support the tools being implemented. What made this even more difficult was the fact that each workstation was configured differently both within and between geographic locations, according to Earnhardt. In addition, the network infrastructure could not handle the capacity/traffic required for United's client/server applications.

With the problem identified and a means to a solution selected, Earnhardt admitted ISD still faced the challenge of communicating the "achievable and worthwhile" benefits of ADEPT. He added, "It was a big challenge to include all 800 plus application developers across four different geographic sites in the initial rollout of the ADEPT processes."

ISD invested a lot in the training and education of all applications development personnel, according to Earnhardt. "We also provided project support, presentations and lots of patient reiteration of the benefits," he continued.

Earnhardt said that is part of the reason United found the project innovative. Other reasons included the resource constraints. Throughout the 19 months, United required an average of 10 people to bring ADEPT to fruition.

"We've had a major culture change here at United," Earnhardt said. "Our customer satisfaction is higher, we have a better defined scope and our defect rate has reduced."

United also implemented innovative means to maintain the methodology status, according to Earnhardt. Beginning with process coaches to mentor the staff and keep track of any issues that may arise with the new process in place, ISD also provided senior management support every few months.

Lastly, Earnhardt said, "My involvement played a large part. I was completely dedicated to this project. It helped to have the visibility and support from the director level." Earnhardt continues to take classes to maintain the effectiveness of ADEPT at United and said a SEI/CMM Level 3 rating is in the near future.

- Denise M. Dubie


JIM EARNHARDT, director, architecture and technology/ADEPT

ANDY STUDDERT, senior vice president and CIO; sponsor

DIANE SHAW, ADEPT project manager

MIDU BANSAL, systems analyst

CHRIS CANTRELL, Senior staff analyst

SUMAN SHARMA, staff programmer analyst

RICH BENSON, staff engineer

RICH GLEASON, staff engineer

NANCY HUSS, systems design analyst

PEGGY SPROUL, staff engineer

MIKE ACOSTA, senior staff analyst

CHRIS MAGIERSKI, senior. systems design analyst


BARBARA KOLKHORST; IBM Global Services contractor

KEVIN MCGUIRE; Austin-Taylor Consulting contractor

MAX DAVE; LBMS contractor
Achieving a Software Engineering Institute Capability Maturity Model Level 2 rating. Instituting a standard process allowing United to develop information systems faster and at a lower cost, while still maintaining quality.

LBMS Process Engineer, LBMS Inc.

Primavera Project Planner (P3), Primavera Systems Inc.

Timesheet Professional, Primavera Systems Inc.

Windows 3.1 desktops with a Novell server located in each geographic location. LBMS Process Guide and Primavera Project Planner (P3) are installed on the Novell servers.