SEI CMMI Capability Levels - SEI Capability Maturity Model Implementation (SEI CMMI)

What is SEI CMMI - Capability Levels?

A capability level is a well-defined evolutionary plateau which describes the organization's capability in respect to a process area. A capability level consists of specific and generic practices related to a process area which can improve the organization's processes associated with that particular process area. Each level is like a layer in the foundation for continuous process improvement.

Thus,the capability levels are cumulative, i.e., a higher capability level includes the attributes of the lower capability levels.

In CMMI models with a continuous representation, there are six capability levels and are designated by the numbers 0 through 5.

  • 0 - Incomplete
  • 1 - Performed
  • 2 - Managed
  • 3 - Defined
  • 4 - Quantitatively Managed
  • 5 - Optimizing

A short description of each capability level is as follows:

Capability Level 0: Incomplete

An "incomplete process" is a process which is either performed or partially performed. One or more number of the specific goals of the process area are not satisfied and no generic goals exist in this level because there is no reason to institutionalize a partially performed process.

This is equivalent to the Maturity Level 1 in the staged representation.

Capability Level 1: Performed

A Capability Level 1 process is a process which is expected to perform all of the Capability Level 1 specific and generic practices. Performance in this level may not be stable and may also not meet specific objectives such as quality, cost, and schedule, but some useful work can be done. This is just a start or a baby-step in process improvement. It means that we are doing something but cannot prove that it really is working.

Capability Level 2: Managed

A managed process is a planned, performed,controlled and monitored for individual projects, groups, or stand-alone processes to achieve the given purpose. Managing the process achieves both model objectives for the process as well as the other objectives such as cost, schedule, and quality. As the title of this indicates,you are actively managing the way things are being done in your organization. You have some metrics which are consistently collected and applied to your management approach.

Note: Metrics are collected and are used at all levels of the CMMI, in both the staged and continuous representations. It is a bitter fallacy to think that an organization can wait until Capability Level 4 to use the metrics.

Capability Level 3: Defined

A capability level 3 process is characterized as a "defined process." A defined process is generally a managed (capability level 2) process that is made from the organization's set of standard processes according to the organization's tailoring guidelines, and it contributes for the work products, measures, and the other process-improvement information to the organizational process assets.

Capability Level 4: Quantitatively Managed

A capability level 4 process is designated as a "quantitatively managed process." A quantitatively managed process is a defined (capability level 3) process that can be controlled using statistical and other quantitative techniques. Quantitative objectives for quality and process performance are established and are used as a criteria in the management of the process. Quality and process performance is understood in terms of statistics and is managed throughout the life of the process.

Capability Level 5: Optimizing

An optimizing process is a quantitatively managed process which is improved, based on the understanding of common causes of process variation inherent to the process. It focuses mainly on continually improving the process performance through both incremental and innovative improvements. Both defined processes and the organization's set of standard processes are the primary targets of improvement activities.

Capability Level 4 focuses on establishing baselines, models, and measurements for the process performance. Capability Level 5 focuses on studying performance results across the organization or entire enterprise to find some common causes of problems in how the work is done and fix the problems in the process. The fix would include updating the process documentation and training involved where the errors were injected.

Organization of Process Areas in Continuous Representation


Process Area

Project Management

  • Project Planning
  • Project Monitoring and Control
  • Supplier Agreement Management
  • Integrated Project Management(IPPD)
  • Integrated Supplier Management (SS)
  • Integrated Teaming (IPPD)
  • Risk Management Quantitative Project Management


  • Configuration Management
  • Process and Product Quality Assurance
  • Measurement and Analysis Causal Analysis and Resolution
  • Decision Analysis and Resolution
  • Organizational Environment for Integration (IPPD)


  • Requirements Management
  • Requirements Development
  • Technical Solution
  • Product Integration
  • Verification
  • Validation

Process Management

  • Organizational Process Focus
  • Organizational Process Definition
  • Organizational Training
  • Organizational Process Performance
  • Organizational Innovation and Deployment

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