Uploaded by Iman Norouzizadeh


In light of the inherent shortcomings of single-perspective approaches in IT diffusion
research, in this paper, we develop a multi-perspective framework for studying the diffusion of IT
management techniques. The framework is then applied to explain the diffusion of Capability
Maturity Model (CMM). This research contributes to the Information Systems theory by (a)
illustrating how several different theoretical perspectives (i.e., forced-selection, efficient choice,
fashion, and fad) can be used to explain an IT management innovation diffusion, (b) identifying
the specific limitations of each perspective, and (c) demonstrating how these perspectives can be
reconciled and yield a holistic understanding of the diffusion trajectory. Building on 20+ years of
CMM research, the propositions of this paper shed more light on the underlying dynamics driving
the adoption decision among software vendors, and will inform IS scholars and practitioners about
the types of actions that can foster the dissemination of emerging IT management techniques.
Keywords: Diffusion of IT Innovation, Capability Maturity Model, IT Fads and Fashions,
Administrative Innovation, Paradoxes in Management
“Few innovations are widely adopted, by organizations or elsewhere, with most looking
more like the sociological characterization of ‘fads’ than social change….” (Zucker 1988: 26)
Over the years, the Information Technology (IT) industry has witnessed the emergence,
diffusion, and – often – abundance of popular IT management techniques. Structured systems
analysis and design method (SSADM), Rational Unified Process (RUP), eXtreme Programming
(XP), Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and Control Objectives for Information
and Related Technologies (COBIT) are a few examples of such techniques. While the diffusion
of technological innovations has received considerable attention in the IS research (see Jeyaraj
(2006) for a meta-analysis of this literature), only a limited number of IS articles have studied the
diffusion and adoption of administrative IT innovations (but see, Fichman and Kemerer 1993,
Riemenschneider et al. 2002, Weitzel et al. 2006).
Moreover, the majority of IT diffusion studies have subscribed to a single dominant
paradigm that is based on an economic-rationalistic perspective. This dominant paradigm began
to reach a point of diminishing returns after several decades of research (Fichman 2004). In
particular, the distinguishing characteristics of administrative IT innovations (aka, IT management
techniques), such as ambiguity around their effects, call for employing alternative perspectives
that go beyond economic-rational logic and take into account social and psychological drivers of
innovation adoption.
In light of the above introduction, our paper seeks to go beyond the dominant economicrationalistic perspective, and study the research questions of “if and how different theoretical
perspectives can be employed in better explaining the diffusion of administrative IT innovations.”
To this end, we first build on extant research in organization theory and develop a framework with
four alternative perspectives that can be used in studying diffusion of administrative IT
innovations, and then, demonstrate how these perspectives can be applied in explaining the
diffusion of Capability Maturity Model (CMM) as a representative of such IT management
techniques. As pointed out by Lapointe and Rivard (2007), only a limited number of IS studies
have explicitly applied different perspectives in studying a single phenomenon (e.g., Markus 1983,
Keil 1995; Venkatesh et al. 2003). Even in those studies, the focus has been on determining the
best perspective or unified model. In this study, however, we show how different perspectives can
be complementary in explaining a full trajectory of CMM diffusion.
The rest of the manuscript is structured as follows: the next section provides background
on the general theoretical framework developed in this paper. Then, we scrutinize each
perspective of the framework and examine their implications for explaining CMM diffusion. Formal
propositions are developed from the assumptions of each perspective and from a suggested
schema for integrating them. The paper concludes by discussing the theoretical and managerial
implications of this study.
A major stream of research in management focuses on the diffusion of managerial and
technological innovations. One of the most influential pieces in this stream was put forward by
Everett Rogers (1983) who authoritatively reviewed hundreds of diffusion studies and came up
with the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory, which identifies five generic innovation attributes
that could facilitate the dissemination process (Table 1). Building on these five classical attributes,
other researchers added a number of complementary attributes such as cost, communicability,
divisibility, profitability, social approval, voluntariness, image, usefulness, ease of use, result
demonstrability, visibility – see Fichman (2000) and [reference withheld to ensure anonymity] for
a review of this literature. The basic premise behind this stream of studies is that adopters first
assess these attributes and then independently make a rational decision to adopt those
innovations that show the most promising efficiency gains (Fichman 2004).
Table 1. Attributes of Innovation (Rogers 1983, 2003)
Relative Advantage
The degree to which an innovation is perceived as being better than
its precursor.
The degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent
with the existing values, needs, and past experiences of potential
The degree to which an innovation is perceived as being difficult to
The degree to which the results of an innovation are observable to
The degree to which an innovation may be experimented with before
Over time, the above-mentioned stream has emerged as the dominant paradigm in DOI
research. However, this paradigm is subject to certain theoretical biases. Among the main biases
are pro-innovation bias, i.e., the assumption that an innovation diffuses because it is
efficient/beneficial to adopters, and rational bias, i.e., the assumption that adopters always make
rational decisions (Abrahamson 1991; Fichman 2004; Jeyaraj et al. 2006). The documented
history of innovations nevertheless provides several examples of inefficient innovations (or those
with suboptimal efficiencies) that were subject to “fad-like” diffusion or efficient innovations that
were rejected by organizations (Strang et al. 2014; Zucker 1988). As mentioned earlier, since
assessing the efficiency gains of administrative IT innovations are particularly challenging, social
processes such as fad and fashions cycles are more common for this type of IT innovations.
Our proposed approach in this paper for studying the diffusion of administrative IT
innovations is to utilize multiple alternative perspectives that can collectively address each other’s
limitations. This framework (Table 2) extends Abrahamson’s (1991) seminal classification, which
is based on two dimensions: (a) whether or not the perspective acknowledges imitation as a
diffusion mechanism, and (b) whether the perspective assumes that organizations within the
potential adopters group impel the diffusion or outside organizations are influential in the diffusion
process. We extend Abrahamson’s (1991) model in two ways, as described below1.
Table 2. Theoretical Perspectives for Studying Diffusion of Administrative IT
Source of
Source of
Network Ties
Population of
Substantive or
Dyads and
Firstly, inspired by a classical multi-perspective study of organizations (Astley and Van de
Ven 1983), we studied the following dichotomies in the organizational decisions of adopting an IT
management technique: determinism vs voluntarism, and single organization vs populations of
organizations. Determinism holds that organizational decisions are caused by exogenous forces
We are thankful to the anonymous reviewer for this suggestion.
(such as regulations, standards, and peer pressure), i.e., managers have to react to such
exogenous pressures. Voluntarism takes the opposite stance, arguing that managers have
agency (or ‘‘free will”, as referred to in philosophy) and shape the organizational environment
through proactive decisions such as adoption of practices and standards. Likewise, perspectives
differ in their focus on single adopting organizations as the main object of study or their inclusion
of larger population of adopting organizations and their collective dynamics influential in shaping
focal organization’s decisions.
Secondly, we added another dichotomy in terms of the expected performance from an
adoption decision, i.e., symbolic vs substantive performance. Following the tradition of institutional
theorists (Meyer and Rowan, 1977) and building on recent conceptualizations of organizational
performance (Heugens and Lander 2009), we distinguish between two types of performance;
substantive performance which refers to the extent to which an organization makes accountingbased profits or increases its overall market value, and symbolic performance which is the extent
to which an organization generates positive social evaluations. Measures such as return on
investment (ROI) and return on asset (ROA) are used for the former (Melville et al. 2004), whereas
the latter is measured by regulatory endorsement, media endorsement, agency ratings and alike
(Deephouse and Carter 2005). While the substantive and symbolic types of performance are
clearly linked and interrelated, yet, the coupling between them is loose (Scott 2005). In the
following sub-sections, the four perspectives are introduced and the relevant applicable theories
are discussed.
The Forced-Selection Perspective
The forced-selection perspective focuses on the impact of powerful organizations outside
a group of organizations among which an administrative technology diffuses (Abrahamson 1991).
This mandate for adopting an innovation can be best described by the notion of coercive
pressures in neo-institutional theory (DiMaggio and Powel 1983; Zucker 1987). According to this
theory, organizational actors choose to give in to institutional pressures and adopt practices,
regardless of their immediate efficiency outcomes, to gain legitimacy, which in turn guarantees
their long-term survival in their environment (Meyer and Rowan 1977). Hence, this perspective
considers symbolic performance as the main outcome of IT innovation adoption.
Zucker (1987) proposes that the impacts of the institutional environment are mainly
exerted through the requirements set by a hierarchically superior element of the institutional
environment, which is, in general, another organization. There is evidence from the literature
supporting the existence of such forced-selection dynamics behind the diffusion of IT innovations.
For example, in the case of EDI diffusion, Lyytinen and Damsgaard (2001) posited that push from
powerful actors, e.g. government, industry associations, was the main dominant factor affecting
the adoption decision. The firms were forced to either “EDI or DIE!” (Kirkley 1992). Hence, in
analyzing adoption decisions, this perspective assumes a deterministic stance and focuses on
pressures exerted on a single organization, i.e., actions of other adopting organizations remain
irrelevant to this perspective.
The Efficient-Choice Perspective
The efficient-choice perspective, a.k.a. the economic-rationalistic logic (Fichman 2004) or
rational-efficiency theory (Abrahamson and Rosenkopf 1993), focuses on the economic returns
gained from adopting an innovation. Simply put, this perspective considers efficiency gains as the
main driver for adopting a “better mousetrap”. It assumes that managers take economic factors
into account in a normatively rational manner and adopt an innovation if it can efficiently close the
performance gap (i.e. a gap between actual and desired performance) in their organizations
(Abrahamson 1991). Hence, this perspective has a voluntaristic orientation, and it mainly focuses
on a single organizations’ substantive outcomes.
As reviewed in Akhlaghpour and Lapointe (2012), the majority of IT innovation studies in
the IS field have used this logic to examine the spread of technological innovations among
organizations. A few examples include Electronic Data Interchange (e.g. Iacovou et al. 1995),
Material Requirements Planning (MRP) (e.g. Cooper and Zmud 1990), smart-card payment
systems (e.g. Plouffe et al. 2001), and Group Support Systems (Dennis and Garfield 2003). The
same logic can be applied to study the diffusion of organizational strategies, policies, structures,
and practices (Strang and Soule 1998). Only a limited number of IS studies have taken this
approach in studying administrative IT innovations. For example, Fichman and Kemerer (1993)
built on Rogers’ DOI theory and proposed a framework for assessing the diffusion of Object
Oriented methods in software development. Riemenschneider et al. (2002) adapted a number of
widely used technology adoption models, including Moore and Benbasat’s (1991) extension of
Rogers (1983), to study the problem of software development methodology acceptance. Similarly,
Mustonen-Ollila and Lyytinen (2003) used DOI for analyzing a longitudinal case study of IS
process innovation adoptions in different locales of a company over a 40-year period. Likewise,
Wang et al. (2012), studied adoption (assimilation) of agile software development processes using
Cooper and Zmud’s (1990) innovation process framework.
The Fashion Perspective
Abrahamson (1996) and Abrahamson and Fairchild (1999) built on neo-institutional theory
and developed a general model of management fashions (Figure 1). They defined fashions as
“relatively transitory collective beliefs, disseminated by the discourse of management-knowledge
entrepreneurs, that a management technique is at the forefront of rational management progress”
(Abrahamson and Fairchild 1999, p.709).
According to this perspective, knowledge
entrepreneurs (e.g., management gurus, mass media, consultants, and business schools) sense
an unmet collective demand among fashion followers. This demand for a management technique
is caused by a perceived performance gap. Socio-psychological and techno-economic forces play
a key role in shaping such perceptions. The fashion setters then compete for supplying their
management techniques aimed at addressing a performance gap. They disseminate these
techniques by articulating powerful rhetorics championing certain management techniques. The
fashion perspective predicts that adoption occurs when managers confronted with performance
gaps on the one hand and stakeholders' expectations concerning the use of the modern and
efficient techniques on the other, decide to use the “hot” innovation promoted by fashion-setting
Figure 1. The Management-Fashion-Setting Process (adopted from Abrahamson 1996)
Although this perspective acknowledges that managers are embedded in webs of
institutional arrangements, it does not necessarily portray an under-rationalized image of
organizational decision makers (Strang and Macy 2001; Strang et al. 2014). They do have agency
in adopting innovations aimed at improving their performance. Thus, this perspective is
voluntaristic oriented and does take into account populations of organizations both in demand
and supply sides of fashion markets (Abrahamson 1996). Since this perspective deals with
transitory waves of popular ideas and arguably deceptive perceptions of novelty, its focus is on
the symbolic performance of organizations. This has been confirmed in empirical studies such as
Wang (2010) that analyzed published discourse and annual IT budgets of 109 large companies
over 10 years and found that firms associated with IT fashions benefited from better reputation
(symbolic performance), but not higher accounting (substantive) performance.
The Fad Perspective
The fad perspective assumes that an adoption decision is highly influenced by the number
of neighboring organizations that have already adopted the innovation and not merely its
efficiency-improving attributes (Abrahamson 1991). Here, contact with prior adopters is the main
driving force behind further diffusion. The fact that late adopters imitate early adopters (a.k.a.
innovators) is a consistent theme in the DOI literature. Several theoretical angles have been used
to explain such imitation among firms. In Rogers’ original work, and in social contagion theory
(Greve 1995; Angst et al. 2010) the emphasis is on the communications among early adopters
(innovators) and late adopters (imitators) which help in reducing the ambiguity about an
innovation. A different possible explanation comes from Abrahamson and Rosenkopf’s (1993)
concept of competitive bandwagon forces. According to this perspective, non-adopters feel the
threat of a competitive disadvantage when they observe that most of their rivals have adopted an
innovation. Hence, in order to avoid the risk that this innovation might be potentially used by their
competitors to gain an edge, they too adopt it although it may not benefit or may even harm their
performance. Finally, normative institutional pressures (Tolbert and Zucker 1983) can be another
source of fad-like diffusion. According to institutional theory, acceptance and wide-scale adoption
of a structural form will lead to its social legitimation and it will become a “taken for granted” norm
which results in further adoption. In Tolbert and Zucker’s words, “as an increasing number of
organizations adopt a program or policy, it becomes progressively institutionalized, or widely
understood to be a necessary component of rationalized organizational structure.”
The fad perspective considers the influence of the population of existing adopters on a
focal firm’s adoption decision. In contrast to fashion perspective, this population consists of similar
organizations within a field (and not fashion-setter institutions). Also, unlike the former, the fad
perspective is deterministic oriented and assumes that adoption is automatic and is driven by
forces of imitation. Depending on the employed theory, the focus might be on substantive or
symbolic performance. For example, competitive bandwagons (Abrahamson and Rosenkopf
1993) and diffusion of innovation (Rogers 1983) streams are concerned with expected accounting
based performance, while studying normative institutional pressures (Tolbert and Zucker 1983)
imply a legitimacy seeking goal and hence symbolic performance.
In the rest of this study, we use the four perspectives explained above, and apply them to
studying the diffusion of CMM. This can be seen as a move towards building a substantive theory
(Gregor 2006) applicable to CMM diffusion.
Capability Maturity Model (CMM)
In the mid-1980’s, facing with a huge cost and time overruns of its major software system
contracts, the US Department of Defense (DoD) funded the Software Engineering Institute (SEI),
based at Carnegie-Mellon University, to propose a model of a more reliable software development
process. The result of this initiative was first released in 1987 as the “Capability Maturity Model
(CMM)” (Paulk et al. 1993). Later on, the software CMM was complemented by other CMM tools
(for systems engineering, people management, and software acquisition), and the package was
re-branded as “CMM-Integration (CMMI)”.
Our focus in this paper is on the software CMM (SW-CMM), which offers a framework for
software quality and process improvement. CMM is formally defined as a description of stages
through which software organizations evolve as they define, implement, measure, control and
improve their software process (Paulk et al. 1995). The model defines five successively more
“mature” levels of process capability (Table 3). Software process maturity is defined as “extent to
which a specific process is explicitly defined, managed, measured, controlled, and effective”
(Paulk et al. 1995). Authorized CMM appraisers –trained by the Software Engineering Instituterank software development organizations on the five-level scales illustrated below.
Table 3. The Capability Maturity Model
Maturity Level
1: Initial
Little or no formal project management. Software development is adhoc and sometimes even chaotic. Few processes are defined and
development is based on individual heroics.
2: Repeatable
Basic project management. Formal planning and controls are in place.
Process discipline allows repeating earlier successes.
3: Defined
Engineering teams are dedicated to specifying and improving the
development process. Standardized architectures define technical and
management roles, as well as a clear set of methodologies and tools
for development.
4: Managed
Detailed quantitative data are gathered about software products and
processes. Products and processes are controlled using these
5: Optimized
Most of the data gathering is automated. Quantitative feedback data
are used to continuously improve the development process.
The CMM is founded on the premise that as a software development process achieves
higher levels of maturity, it becomes more similar to a factory process, with highly disciplined
operations and very predictable final outcomes. Hence, organizations with more mature
processes are expected to better meet client requirements within the scheduled time and budget
constraints (Cusumano 2004; Slaughter et al. 2006).
During the 1990’s, the software industry, as a collective, was changing its focus from
“software as a product” to “software development as a process” and the ways to improve this
process (Yourdon 2004). This reframing was in part inspired by the “quality movement” (Westphal
et al. 1997) of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Once at the forefront of this software industry’s reform
(Ayres 2003), CMM qualifies as an innovative IT management technique – diffusion of which will
be investigated in this paper.
Allegedly Paradoxical Diffusion of CMM
Although corporate investment in software development and implementation projects has
continued to significantly grow in the past 30+ years (Gartner Group 2016), the failure rate of such
projects has not changed much, remaining worryingly high at around 70 percent, depending on
the source (Cecez-Kecmanovic et al. 2014). For example, after examining 1,471 IT projects
globally, Flyvbjerg and Budzier (2011) reported an average cost overrun of 27%, with a large
number of gigantic overages of 200% in cost and 70% in schedule.
The traditional approach to addressing this chaos has been to rely on software “factory
processes” such as CMM (Cusumano 2004). These processes, characterized by bureaucratic
standardization, formalization, and management control of software development activities, are
said to provide architectures that can incorporate needed changes before problems can have a
negative impact on the system.
A number of empirical studies have shown a positive impact of CMM adoption on certain
performance outcomes (Galin and Avrahami 2006; Filbeck et al. 2013; Harter et al. 2000), yet for
researchers with an interest in software development, the merits of CMM and its potential
outcomes has always been a disputed topic (Bach 1994, 1999; Bapna et al. 2016; Cusumano
2004; Ply et al. 2013). There has been considerable criticism of the model from IS scholars and
practitioners alike, who have argued that software development is an innovative, knowledgeintensive activity that requires high degrees of autonomy and cannot be effectively performed by
following the highly bureaucratic step-by-step recommendations of disciplined processes (Adler
2005). In addition, these processes are perceived to add significant overhead to development
projects that the overall pace of development is slowed down (Jones 2002). It has also been
argued that these methods –whose roots reside in Taylorism and assembly line models (Bollinger
and McGowan 1991) – overlook the essential role of humans by characterizing them as nonlinear, first-order components in software development (Cockburn 1999). There are also
questions regarding the benefits of CMM for small or unstable organizations (Baskerville and
Pries-Heje 1999), and time-sensitive “internet-speed” projects (Baskerville et al. 2003). Empirical
evidence illustrates mixed results of CMM implementation on IS workers’ attitudes and beliefs,
e.g., IS employees in organizations at CMM level 3 reported significantly lower professional
efficacy and lower job satisfaction, compared to those working in CMM Level 1 organizations (Ply
et al. 2013). Mixed performance outcomes of CMM is echoed in the context of outsourcing
relationships as well. For example, Bapna et al. (2016) found that although higher CMM rating
was associated with higher vendor revenue, it nonetheless had a negative impact on outsourcing
contract outcome (it was associated with contract cancellation or renegotiation).
As mentioned earlier, despite these limitations in technical and managerial substance,
CMM can be considered a successful innovation in terms of being globally diffused. Explaining
this diffusion of an allegedly inefficient IT innovation is the subject of the remainder of this paper.
A Review of Existing CMM Literature
In order to gain a better understanding of the existing knowledge in this domain, we
performed a review of the extant literature on CMM in top IS journals. The goal of this step was
to find a reasonable body of evidence relevant to the CMM diffusion phenomena. An exhaustive
systematic review of all the literature on CMM is beyond the scope of this paper. We limited our
search to the top 6 IS journals as identified by the AIS Senior Scholars Basket of 6 journals
(Saunders and Benbasat, 2007), i.e., MIS Quarterly, European Journal of Information Systems,
Information Systems Journal, Information Systems Research, Journal of Management
Information Systems, and Journal of the Association for Information Systems. Using EBSCO’s
Business Source Complete database, we searched article title, abstracts, and full texts for
combinations of phrases such as “Capability Maturity”, “Maturity Model”, CMM, SW-CMM, or
As the flowchart in Figure 2 illustrates, the original search results were 117 articles, dated
between January 1995 and September 2016. After the initial screening based on reviewing the
title, abstract and an overview of the full text, 72 articles were dropped from our set. Most of these
articles came in the search results either because they used the term maturity or capability in a
different context, or because they cited a paper on capability maturity model, but the authors did
not address the model at all. Following Webster and Watson’s (2002) recommendations, during
the review of the remaining 45 articles, whenever necessary, we went backward from the
bibliographical references of the articles to review the abstracts of relevant studies in other outlets,
such as Management Science, or IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. Among these, 20
articles were identified to be particularly useful in our study of CMM diffusion. This yielded a final
sample of 65 CMM-related articles that were fully reviewed and informed our theory development.
A summary of the main insights derived from these articles can be found in the table presented
in Appendix A. As explained in the next section, these articles along with the four perspectives
introduced earlier, guided our theory development effort.
Potentially relevant references in the AIS basket of 6 journals
identified and reviewed, title and abstract (n = 129)
Studies excluded after reviewing the title and
abstract, and an overview of the full text (n=76)
Examples of exclusion criteria:
Referencing CMM papers not for reasons directly
related to CMM
Use of capability and/or maturity terms irrelevant to
Potentially relevant studies in the AIS basket of 6 journals
identified and reviewed, full text (n=51)
Seminal studies added (from outlets other than the
AIS basket of 6 journals) after reviewing the full text
Studies included (n=74)
Figure 2 Flowchart of the article selection process
Out of the 74 identified articles, only 34 of them had CMM as the main element (e.g., as a
central object of study, or included in the model or hypotheses). CMM was peripheral to another
topic (e.g., team leadership, or virtual team collaboration) in the rest of the papers. There were 53
empirical (e.g. surveys and case studies), 3 commentaries, 15 conceptual and literature review
pieces, 1 design science article, 1 action research, and 1 meta-analysis in our sample. The
majority of studies (44 out of 66) in our review, were – explicitly or implicitly – assuming an efficient
choice perspective. There were eleven papers with relevance to the fashion perspective and one
with forced-selection assumptions. Eight papers were adopting a multi-faceted approach by using
more than a single perspective (e.g., a combination of fashion and fad). Six articles in this set
were specifically critiquing CMM and questioning the efficiency gains it supposedly provides.
In light of our reading of the CMM diffusion literature and DOI literature in general, in the
following sub-sections, each of the four perspectives mentioned earlier, i.e. forced-selection,
efficient choice, fashion, and fad, will be used to develop an explanation with respect to CMM
diffusion. To this end, we put forward formal propositions that reflect the underlying assumptions
of each perspective with regards to the antecedents of CMM adoption decision. Then, these
perspectives are critically analyzed in order to reveal their respective limitations. Table 4 below
provides an overview of our review findings by summarizing relevant studies in each quadrant.
Table 4. Illustration of Existing CMM Studies in Each Perspective
No. of
Articles (incl.
those with
Performance Measures Employed
Compliance (with the goals of the Air
(as a model),
TQM (as a
Resourcebased view,
Diffusion of
Project Success, Project
Performance improvement (Error
Density, Productivity, Rework, Cycle
Time, Schedule Fidelity, Error
Detection Effectiveness, ROI),
Competitive Performance, Software
Quality, Effort, Dynamic Capability,
Outsourcing Flexibility (robustness,
modifiability, and ease of exit),
Predictability, Defects, Lead time,
Cooperation, Staff motivation,
Reusability, Offshore Software
Project Performance, IS employees’
professional efficacy, job satisfaction,
role ambiguity
Harter et
Software Export, Inclusion in
potential offshoring bids, Firm’s
financial performance
Gao et
Inclusion in potential offshoring bids
Applying the Forced-Selection Perspective
As introduced earlier, this perspective is applicable in cases where an organization is –
involuntarily – forced to adopt an IT innovation. CMM was originally developed to address
Department of Defense (DoD)’s serious coordination problems with its contractors and the
problems associated with software project execution. In this sense, the hierarchically superior
element exerting the institutional pressure was the DoD. Considering DiMaggio and Powell’s
(1983) assertion that coercive pressures arise in an organization's legal environment and through
the existence of standards imposed by structures on which the focal organization is dependent,
CMM can be seen as a means to exert coercive pressures on software vendors. Such pressures
for development process improvement and CMM adoption were originally initiated by the DoD in
the form of “policy letters” sent to “subordinate” organizations (Ayres 2003). Coercive pressures
were also exerted on potential contractors by making the software capability evaluation a part of
source selections. Soon thereafter the model was adopted by other federal and state agencies
for their vendor selection and contracting activities. Even non-governmental large enterprises
sometimes set CMM certification as a prerequisite for their potential partners (Port 1999). This
rationale is often evident in the CMM acquisition announcements when the commercial firms
make a reference to the policies of the Department of Defense or other governmental agencies.
The following is an excerpt from one of such announcements:
“[CompanyName] announced yesterday its [..] subsidiary has been awarded
a Level 3 Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) certification […] The
Defense Department uses CMMI appraisals to assess risks, determine a
company's level of process maturity and predict performance. CMMI maturity
level ratings are often a prerequisite or discriminator for companies bidding
on defense contracts.” (Defense Daily – Dec 9, 2005)
As stated by DiMaggio and Powell (1983), organizations can resist the demands of those
to whom they are not depending on. Otherwise, coercive pressures built into exchange
relationships will result in isomorphic change, i.e. a constraining change process that forces one
unit in a population to resemble other units. The roots of CMM began in the military agencies and
outside the software industry. These types of bureaucratic organizations, which function in highlyinstitutionalized fields, tend to impose their formal bureaucratic structures on software
development. For example, enterprises tend to use similar contracts to obtain either software or
other types of resources. These fixed-scope, fixed-price, and fixed-schedule contracts might not
be pertinent to the innovative nature of a development project (Fowler 2005), but when software
development companies are coerced into signing such contracts, they become more inclined
toward disciplined factory processes in order to ensure the fulfillment of contract specifications
(Cusumano 2004). On the other hand, when software companies target individual end-users as
their market segment, such coercive pressure is much less evident. This might well explain the
considerably lower CMM adoption rates in industry clusters such as prepackaged software
development (SEI 2009; 2012). There is evidence from case studies (Adler 2005) that even in a
single organization, those units that serve the commercial sectors invest in structured processes
significantly less than the units working with the government agencies. Similarly, large software
firms, e.g. Microsoft, Symantec, which hold extensive political power and are not dependent on a
few clients, do not typically adhere to CMM recommendations (Bach 1994). This observation
further intensifies the commonly raised critique that CMM does not provide firms with improved
efficiencies, but it is only a coercion imposed to those firms which serve as contractors to
state/military or large enterprise clients (as opposed to individual end-users and SMEs ). Based
on the above reasoning we put forward the following proposition:
Forced Selection Proposition: The higher the dependency of a software vendor on
agencies of the state/military and on large enterprise clients, the greater its propensity to
obtain CMM certification.
Limitations of the forced selection perspective
Proposition 1 may appear sufficient for predicting the diffusion of CMM among
military/government contractors. However, it falls short in terms of its power to explain why in
recent years, military/government agencies or their contractors no longer account for the majority
of CMM adopters. According to SEI (2012), of all the organizations that reported appraisal results,
only 3.7% and 15.9% were military/government agencies and their contractors, respectively, while
80.4% fell in the commercial/in-house category (Figure 3). These numbers raise questions vis-àvis the assumption that the main driver of CMM adoption is the coercive forces created by state
regulations, and suggests that the adoption decision is, in fact, voluntary2. This failure of the
forced-selection perspective to predict diffusion brings us to consider the following alternative
Figure 3 Reporting organizational categories – based on appraisal of 4,657
organizations (SEI 2012)
CMM appraisal results do expire in 3 years. We are thankful to the anonymous reviewer for pointing out the
relatively lower number of RE-appraisals (as illustrated in Figure 6) and the possibility that only
military/government agencies and their contractors continue to perform mandatory reappraisals. Although the data
is inconclusive, this is a plausible explanation and reinforces the fact that – as discussed later – fashionability and
use of CMM as a “marketing tool” can be a driver of CMM diffusion, particularly among “commercial/in house”
Applying the Efficient-Choice Perspective
This perspective assumes each organization voluntarily decides to adopt an IT innovation
based on its relative advantage. CMM is essentially a quality improvement approach. From an
economic point of view, it is expected that CMM adoption can benefit the organization by reducing
product cost and improving the quality and timeliness of development processes (Adler 2005). A
survey of key decision makers in organizations has revealed that they expect that their CMM
adoption decision will lead to increased productivity, greater predictability, fewer defects, and
reduced lead time (Trienekens et al. 2007). Similarly, the promotional presentations and white
papers issued by SEI suggest that executives should consider adopting CMM if their
organizations suffer from symptoms such as quality problems, customer complaints, spiraling
costs, and late delivery of projects. Announcements and reports on successful adoptions of CMM
often included statements about the pre-CMM challenges that firms were facing:
"[Before CMM adoption,] even though there was some attempt to organize
the development process, in certain areas of the bank, it was also evident
that there were significant problems with documentation” (quality specialist
in an adopting bank, quoted in GRafP (2006))
Figure 4 Example of promotional slides from SEI explaining the rationale for adopting
CMM (CMMI Executive View 2006)
Hence, deficiencies in the proper execution of software projects impel managers to
consider voluntary adoption of CMM. On the other hand, if a company is already running smoothly,
it will have little motivation to adopt CMM because, based on the efficient choice perspective, the
“relative advantage” (a.k.a. performance expectancy) of CMM would be – at best – marginal. This
explanation is consistent with Cyert and March’s (1992) behavioral theory of the firm, which
proposes that it is the performance problems that provide managers with an incentive to search
the environment and adopt innovations that claim to solve those problems efficiently, i.e. fill the
performance gap. Since CMM specifically addresses the operational performance of a software
vendor, based on the above, the efficient-choice perspective implies the following proposition:
Efficient-Choice Proposition: The less efficient the software vendor’s development
process, the greater its propensity to obtain CMM certification.
Limitations of the efficient choice perspective
Proposition 2 is based on the premise that adopting CMM can actually improve the
software vendor's performance. There are a number of studies that have shown such a positive
correlation between CMM adoption and increases in some measures of performance such as
higher product quality (although often at the expense of increased development efforts)
(Subramanian et al. 2007; Harter et al. 2000) and project performance (Subramanian et al. 2007).
However, critics have advanced several arguments and empirical findings that are at odds with
the findings of these studies. It has been argued that researchers might be more inclined to report
success stories and withhold failures. The prominence of success stories is a salient empirical
feature of business discourse on innovations, i.e. compared to failures, successes of managerial
innovations gain higher visibility in the business discourse; managers also pay more attention to
these stories (Strang and Macy 2001). The roots of this effect lie in what social psychologists call
a “confirmation bias”, present in most human decision makings (Nickerson 1998). In addition,
there could be a social bias in the availability of positive and negative news about an innovation,
i.e. those managers blessed with success are more likely to broadcast their performance gains
from CMM. In the case of a similar quality improvement practice, i.e. TQM, Zbaracki (1998)
examined how managers were influenced by a rhetoric of success about TQM, used the rhetoric
to implement the program in their organizations, and then “filtered” the implementation results to
broadcast their own rhetoric of success. The model explains how this process has resulted in an
“overly optimistic” view of TQM in management discourse. Similar evidence can be found with
regards to CMM. In a meta-analysis of the literature, Galin and Avrahami (2006) found that “all”
the academic manuscripts and white papers reported solely CMM success stories. Similarly,
Hansen et al. (2004) suspected a bias in the findings, since most of the CMM data was provided
by SEI-affiliated individuals, consultants who were themselves promoting CMM, and companies
that had already invested large amounts of money in acquiring CMM and needed to market
themselves. These authors claimed that CMM is, at best, found to be successful in “large
American software companies writing software for defense contractors” (p. 467) and expressed
doubt that the same results would be found in other cultures and environments. Another major
criticism stems from the fact that most CMM performance studies do not consider alternatives
(e.g., adaptive agile methods); effectively assuming that complying with CMM is better than
having no process at all. There are also some controversies about the efficiency of specific CMM
levels. For example, Cusumano (2004) report on a case study in an IBM facility with a 5 level
maturity ranking, yet suffering from very high development costs. Thus, one might claim that
adopting CMM is beneficial at some levels, yet after a certain threshold, it imposes too much
process to the software organization. Finally, as mentioned earlier, the considerable success of
many software vendors (such as Microsoft, and Symantec) that provide “shrink wrap” software
and are definitely not considered “mature” according to CMM standards, raise questions regarding
the validity of CMM-type practices. Based on these arguments and on the ample evidence of
practitioners’ skepticism about CMM, it can be argued that CMM cannot be considered an
objectively efficient innovation. Hence, the efficient-choice perspective might not always be
applicable in explaining the “hype-like” (Koch 2004) popularity of CMM. This brings us to consider
the next theoretical perspective.
The Fashion Perspective
Fashion perspective studies voluntaristic IT innovation adoption decisions, however, in
this perspective the drivers of adoption are not immediate economic gains, but the expected
positive image of the IT innovation and its signaling capabilities. Several characteristics of a
fashion-driven adoption cycle can be observed in the special case of CMM. The original fashion
setter in this case was SEI at Carnegie Mellon University. The school is particularly well-known
for its IS-related programs and research, and it has the required status to act as a legitimate
fashion setter. Of course, later on, other IT consultants, practitioners, and scholars continued to
disseminate the new fashion through academic and industry discourse. These fashion setters
make performance gaps more salient and bring them to the followers’ collective attention
(Abrahamson 1996; Baskerville and Meyers 2009). A well-known example of such attempts is the
“CHAOS report” (Standish-Group 2011), which has become a touchstone for researchers
concerned with IT project management. Although serious doubts have emerged over the validity
and rigor of these statistics (Reich et al. 2007) and whether or not the Standish Group's data is
systemically over-inflated (Jørgensen & Moløkken-Østvold 1994), the report has been very
successful at bringing the low performance of IS projects to the field’s collective attention, clearing
the way for process improvement techniques such as CMM. Also, certain characteristics of CMM
make it particularly appropriate for a fashion-type dissemination. According to Abrahamson
(1991), adoption of “administrative” innovations is more likely to be driven by fashion hypes
because, unlike pure technical innovations, their direct outputs are difficult to observe. Hence,
ambiguity about the effects of an innovation makes it more appropriate for fashion-driven diffusion
(Fichman 2004). Although there are some technical elements in the CMM specifications, CMM is
an IT management technique that is by its very nature an administrative – and not purely technical
– innovation. Moreover, without much rigorous empirical evidence to prove that CMM is effective
and provides cost savings to businesses, there is an ambiguity of effects. Fashionable innovations
are usually those that are falsely encouraging one-size-fits-all, and easy to cut-and-paste (Miller
and Hartwick 2002). In Bach’s (1999) words, “[CMM] gives hope, and an illusion of control, to
management. Faced with the depressing reality that software development success is contingent
upon so many subtle and dynamic factors and judgments, the CMM provides a step by step plan
to do something unsubtle and create something solid” (p. 6). It should be noted that the fashiondriven diffusion per se does not necessarily portray CMM as a worthless innovation. The
perspective “does not imply that a fashion either is or is not dysfunctional” (Abrahamson and
Fairchild 1999). On the contrary, it may illustrate SEI's effective involvement in the creation and
dissemination of a new fashionable IT innovation.
The fashion perspective seems to be a particularly relevant and interesting perspective
for explaining CMM diffusion. We, therefore, analyze this perspective in more detail by looking
into the two distinctive aspects of fashion perspective, i.e. the impact of management discourse
on the diffusion process, and the signaling role of fashions.
The impact of discourse: The dominant paradigm in DOI focuses on the characteristics of the
innovation itself or the innovating organizations (Fichman 2000; 2004). Other scholars who have
studied the life cycles of new innovations have mainly focused on interorganizational
relationships and networks (e.g., Tolbert and Zucker 1983). However, Strang and Meyer (1993)
criticized this literature for overlooking the impact of discourse on the diffusion process. They
argue that discourse affects diffusion through “theorization”: "both the development and
specification of abstract categories, as well as the formulation of patterned relationships [among
these categories] such as chains of cause and effect" (p. 104).
Management fashion theory seeks to explain how rhetorics and discourses (written or oral)
about management beliefs originate, disseminate, and eventually persuade managers to adopt
administrative techniques. Abrahamson (1991) postulated that a positive feedback loop exists
between the amount of the positive discourse about an innovation and its diffusion. On one side,
the adoption of an innovation alerts knowledge entrepreneurs and fashion setters to a market for
discourse promoting this innovation and prompt them to produce more of such discourse. On the
other side of the loop, the amount and contents of the discourse prompt more managers to adopt
this innovation. The same feedback loop can take place with regards to discontinued use or
rejection of innovations and the debunking rhetorics around it. Just as an example, publication of
a skeptical article titled “Software Quality: Bursting the CMM Hype” (Koch 2004) in a highly-visible
outlet like the CIO Magazine could have an adverse impact on IS executives’ attitude toward
adoption or continued use of CMM. Likewise, discontinued use would result in further negative
press for CMM, which in turn could intensify the downward cycle of CMM adoption.
Interestingly, data hints to the presence of a relationship between CMM discourse and its
actual adoption by organizations. Figure 5 charts the adjusted3 annual counts of articles indexed
by ABI/Inform that discuss the capability maturity model. The number of CMM appraisals reported
to SEI is shown in Figure 6. As seen in the figures, both of the graphs follow a very similar bell
shape, peaking in 2003. Deriving a rigorous conclusion would require further investigation of the
data, e.g. a content analysis of the discourse for discriminating between articles with positive and
negative tones, and is out of the scope of this paper. However, by taking into account the
“prominence of success story” in business discourse (Strang and Macy 2001), the close
resemblance of the two graphs can be interpreted as a preliminary supporting evidence. The rise
of popularity of other alternative IT management techniques such as agile development (whose
famous “manifesto” was established in 2001) could be a complementary explanation for the
decline in the number of appraisals since 2003. As explained in the discussion section, this could
represent replacement of the existing IT fashion with the next one4.
Following Abrahamson and Fairchild (1999) and Wang (2009), we multiplied the number of CMM articles in Year
X by the ratio between the total number of articles indexed in 1986 and the total number of articles indexed in Year
We are thankful to the anonymous reviewer for highlighting this point.
Figure 5. Popularity of CMM Discourse in ABI/Inform Collection
Figure 6. Number of CMM Appraisals Reported to SEI by Year
(Source: SEI (2006))
In other disciplines, a number of studies have examined the presence and attributes of
the above cyclical relationship from an empirical perspective. Abrahamson and Fairchild (1999)
showed that in the early stages of quality circle fashion, the discourse made up of positive
arguments about the technique coevolved with the actual adoption of the innovation. Also,
empirical studies confirmed the existence of a positive association between the level of discourse
and the adoption of certain workplace safety initiatives (Spell and Blum 2005). Building on the
above theoretical argument and studies from organization theory research, we put forward the
following proposition:
Fashion Discourse Proposition: The more the positive discourse about CMM, the
greater the firm’s propensity to obtain CMM certification.
The signaling role of adopting a fashion: Abrahamson (1996) extended the sociopsychological theories of aesthetic fashion demand (Simmel 1957) to the domain of
management fashion, positing that adopting a fashion can respond to managers’ desire for
status differentiation. Just as an aesthetic fashion serves to discriminate between high- and lowstatus individuals, a management fashion can distinguish a high-reputation, more efficient, or
wealthier organization from others. In other words, adopting a fashionable innovation might do
little to boost the performance of the organization, but it will fulfill the function of “signaling” the
higher status of the organization (Abrahamson and Fombrun 1994).
Extant literature (McAdam and Fulton 2002; Westphal et al. 1997) provides evidence that
vendors do in fact see quality management methods more or less as a “marketing tool”. This
seems to be particularly true for CMM levels 4 and 5; attaining these levels requires rather
considerable resource allocations despite the fact that line staff believe that it “adds a lot of cost
but not much value” (Adler 2005). There are several CMM acquisition announcements in which
adopting company executives highlight their desire to send a message to their existing or potential
“The certification offers confidence to our prime contracting partners and
government customers that we are continuing to meet, and many times
exceed, the requirements of our contractual obligations” (executive VP of an
adopting company quoted in Defense Daily – Dec 23, 2005)
Dawson et al.’s (2010) interviews with consultants confirm that “IS consulting firms often
advertise their CMMI (capability maturity model integration) maturity level as a signal of their ability
to deliver high-quality work”. Likewise, having the certification allows companies to charge a
premium in comparison to other competitors. As mentioned by the CEO of a CMM Level 5
“After accreditation, […] rate shot up to $20 an hour [increased from $14]. In
wooing new clients, CMM is the first thing we mention and the last thing we
mention.” (Zamiska 2005)
Signaling theory (Spence 1973) suggests that when parties in an exchange experience
conditions of information asymmetry (i.e. when information about an exchange is distributed
unequally), they provide signals that help reduce such asymmetry (Rindova et al. 2006).
The idea that CMM certification can serve as a mean to reduce information asymmetry, is
based on the premise that it can be considered as a signal for the outstanding quality of the
software vendor. In other words, we expect that first, a significant correlation exists between
acquiring a CMM certification and the vendor’s actual quality of software development process
and second, the barriers (i.e. cost) for acquiring such certification is significantly higher for a
vendor with low-quality software development process. Levina and Ross’s (2003) case study
documents that it was a firm’s “long history of methodology development” which led them to adopt
higher levels of CMM efficiently (they were able to adopt CMM and move from level 1 to 3 in less
than a year, while at the time, such move took 45 months on average). In management literature,
similar evidence has been found regarding the adoption of ISO 9000 (Anderson et al. 1999) and
ISO 14001 environmental standards (King et al. 2005), by firms with higher competency.
The above premise can be seen as a point of differentiation between management fashion
theory and neo-institutional theory. Neo-institutional theory, in its strong form, asserts that firms
adopting formal structures are often merely looking for “symbolic” legitimacy and seek to preserve
their current practices by buffering/decoupling their technical core from such constraining
bureaucracy (Meyer and Rowan 1977, Westphal et al. 1997), i.e., they continue to perform the
same technical activities inside the organization but create a layer to hide this from external
contacts (Oliver 1991). However, based on the signaling role of the fashion, we assume that there
is a degree of coupling between the actual practice of software development and the development
process prescribed by CMM. This is consistent with the extant literature, which states that when
an actual inspection by an external agency exists at the operational level, “complete decoupling”
is not possible (Scott 2005). In the case of CMM, these inspections are CMM appraisals
performed by third-party intermediaries. Hence, in such situations, firms’ strategic response
cannot simply be to “avoid” the institutional pressure through buffering, but they have to show at
least some level of “acquiescence” in their actual operations (Oliver 1991). Since CMM aims at
having a more efficient development process, the signaling argument, depicted above, leads us
to the following proposition which essentially states that firms with more efficient processes will
find it easier to acquire CMM certification:
Fashion Signaling Proposition a: The more efficient the software vendor’s
development process, the greater its propensity to obtain CMM certification.
In addition to the above general proposition, we further investigate the signaling role of
CMM by looking into the characteristics of vendor-client relationships. The literature on
certification states that a firm seeks to obtain a certificate when it senses that its customers lack
sufficient information (Gopal and Gao 2009; King et al. 2005). A factor that can lead to a lack of
sufficient information is distance. We examine this factor in the following sub-section.
Geographical distance and offshoring - Geographical distance can be used as a proxy
for information asymmetry among firms. Several studies have shown the adverse effect of
physical distance on the transfer of credible information among exchange partners (King et al.
2005). Greater distances between partners may be associated with higher information transfer
costs. Based on media richness theory (Daft et al. 1987), we would expect that a client’s visits to
the vendor’s facilities and face-to-face meetings with the managers and developers can convey
rich information about the capabilities of the vendor and guide the contracting decision. The client
can also expect frequent meetings with the vendor’s team as an effective means for controlling
project progress. Rich communication can, therefore, reduce both the ex-ante information and
negotiation costs as well as the ex-post running costs (Williamson 1991). We, hence, expect
geographical distance to increase information asymmetry by increasing the cost of rich
information exchange between parties.
The conceptualization of distance is not necessarily confined to geographical distance –
social, cultural, and institutional distance can also hinder effective information transfer (King et al.
2005). Shared national culture and belief system is proved to facilitate the processing of
information transferred (Hofstede 1980), which in turn leads to less information asymmetry among
parties from the same nation/culture, ceteris paribus.
Hence, we can expect that the information asymmetry that comes along with geographical
distance and locating in different countries (i.e., offshoring arrangements), increases the value of
CMM certification for the exchange parties. This is reflected in the industry discourse explaining
the outsourcing process; Zamiska (2005) quotes a Western manager stating: “No one in his group
has ever traveled to India to meet the software developers working on the project, and […] no one
needs to, because the quality of [the vendor’s] work has been certified.” Likewise, several articles
in our set reported that companies relied heavily on CMM for whittling down the lists of offshore
service providers (Gregory et al. 2013; Koch 2004; Rai et al. 2009; Tanriverdi et al. 2011) –
despite the fact that CMM impact on mitigating the challenges of offshore software development
remained largely ambiguous (Ramasubbu et al. 2008). Data shows that in recent years, the
highest percentage of reported CMM appraisals have been from outside the USA. In 2005, 80 out
of the world’s 117 CMM level 5 holders resided in India (Ramasubbu et al. 2008). Likewise,
according to SEI (2015), the numbers of CMMI certification appraisals are higher in China than in
the USA (respectively, 4256 and 2566 appraisals between 2008 and 2015).Thus, based on the
above discussion on information asymmetry, we propose the following:
Fashion Signaling Proposition b: The larger the geographical distance between the
firm and its potential clients, and the more its dependency on offshoring contracts, the
greater its propensity to obtain CMM certification.
Limitations of the fashion perspective
The above discussion portrays fashion theory as a promising perspective for explaining
CMM diffusion. Nevertheless, it has its own limitations in explaining every aspect of the
phenomenon. Following the fashion can initially uphold the “prestige” of the adopters, however
as explained by Strang and Soule (1998), after a while, “lower ranking community members aspire
to be like prestigious others, [and] find it useful to resemble powerful leaders” (p. 275). According
to Abrahamson and Fombrun’s (1994) “trickle-down fashion process,” the signaling role of a
fashion will last until the fashion becomes widely adopted by both low-status and high-status
organizations. After this point, following the fashion does not convey much unique information
about the status of organizations. With regard to CMM, this condition may have already been met:
IS executives have been quoted as saying that CMM “was once a differentiator, but now it is a
condition of getting into the game” (Koch 2004). Moreover, as we will see in the next section,
although the fashion perspective considers fashion-setter communities, journal publications, and
mass media as the main factors of influence, there is evidence that in making an innovation
adoption decision, managers assign more weight to the information received from
interorganizational/interpersonal networks. These two limitations of the fashion perspective
suggest that the following alternative, the fad perspective, must also be taken into account.
The Fad Perspective
Both fashion and fad perspectives consider imitation as the main underlying driver of
diffusion of innovations. But while fashion relies on the influences of outside entities, the fad
perspective assumes that firms’ decisions are affected by other organizations within their field,
i.e., all the organizations that are connected to a focal firm through network ties or have structurally
equivalent network positions (Burt 1976). Departing from the fashion perspective and focusing on
norms “within” the field seems to have support in the existing empirical findings from previous
studies. Granovetter (1973) has asserted that public sources of data, e.g., advertisements, are
not typically taken seriously and “people rarely act on mass-media information unless it is also
transmitted through personal ties” (p. 1374). Brancheau and Wetherbe’s (1990) found that mass
media channels are rarely effective for persuading a potential user to adopt. Likewise, McDonald
and Westphal (2003) showed that executives assign greater weight to information and advice
received from personal sources (informal conversations with colleagues, suppliers or clients) than
from impersonal sources (such as white papers and executive journals, which are the main
conduits of diffusion according to the fashion perspective). Based on the above discussion, the
fad perspective predicts that:
Fad Perspective Proposition: The higher the number of organizations in the
software vendor’s organizational field that have adopted CMM, the greater its propensity
to obtain CMM certification.
Limitations of the fad perspective
There are some inherent limitations associated with the fad perspective. Firstly, this
perspective is not applicable in explaining the very early phases of diffusion where the IT
management innovation cannot be considered as a popular phenomenon that automatically
diffuses because of its earlier success records or “taken-for-granted”ness. Secondly, and related
to the previous point, this perspective might overlook the actual efficiency-improving merits of IT
management innovations. One can pose the dilemma that if an innovation is a gimmick, why a
large number of early adopters (adequate to initiate a herd-like dynamic) decide to use it in the
first place. Finally, it has been argued that some diffusion perspectives suffer from an “underrationalized” view of managers (Strang and Macy 2001). In other words, they portray managers
as individuals who pay too much attention to what others do, while not caring enough about the
consequences of their own decisions and actions. However, this picture might not be valid,
especially in business settings where performance –and not popularity– is the central concern of
managers (Strang et al. 2014). Because of these limitations, the fad perspective can be taken into
account only along with the other previously mentioned perspectives. In the next section, we
propose an integrative model to consolidate these different perspectives.
Complementarity of Perspectives
The extant models of DOI mainly distinguish two different phases as the diffusion process
unfolds. In the early stages, managers take a rational perspective and make their adoption
decision by considering calculative efficiency-based factors. However, as time passes, imitation
and symbolic aspects will eventually replace the rational and technical rationales of adoption. In
their diffusion models, Rogers (1983) and Bass (1969; Mahajan, Muller, and Bass 1995) discuss
“S-curves” that differentiate between early adopters (innovators) and late adopters (imitators).
The institutional theory posits that unlike early adopters who follow their local rationality, late
adopters of an organizational innovation will only symbolically conform to it while they preserve
their technical core through buffering (Tolbert and Zucker 1983; Westphal et al. 1997).
While this study embraces the above-mentioned two-stage DOI process (Figure 7), we
extend that dichotomous model by incorporating all the four different perspectives and applying
them to the case of diffusion of CMM certification. Scholars have criticized the two-stage model
for not clearly explaining what happens between the two phases (Wang 2007), e.g., what causes
an inefficient innovation or one with suboptimal efficiency to reach a “critical mass” (after which
the diffusion process would be driven mainly by imitation forces).
Figure 7. Two-stage Diffusion Process and the Gap in Theoretical Explanation
Departing from the dominant perspective in DOI literature and incorporating alternative
perspectives helps in presenting a better explanation of the diffusion process, including the middle
stages. While any of the four theoretical perspectives (forced selection, efficient choice, fashion,
and fad) introduced in this paper add to our knowledge about the diffusion of CMM, there are
certain limitations to the explanatory power of each perspective, as summarized in Table 5. The
first perspective, forced selection, states that CMM is adopted when powerful clients coerce their
contractors into adopting it. This is supported by the history of CMM being enforced by the US
Department of Defense. However, forced selection perspective falls short in explaining the
widespread adoption of CMM by organizations other than military/government agencies or their
contractors. This shortcoming is addressed by the second perspective, efficient choice, which
posits that CMM is adopted by vendors with severe performance gaps in their software
development processes. However, efficient choice perspective cannot be used to explain either
CMM’s further diffusion despite the ambiguity of the performance outcomes, or the higher CMM
adoption rates within certain geographical regions/countries such as India and China as
compared to North America. The third perspective, fashion, can help in explaining the mentioned
limitations of the efficient choice perspective. According to fashion perspective, CMM is adopted
if fashion setters promote it through positive discourse and if it can send a signal to clients about
the vendor’s higher status. But, this perspective itself fails to explain further diffusion despite the
fact that adopting CMM has become a taken-for-granted norm and no longer sends a signal to
clients. It also downplays the overwhelming evidence from previous studies stating that
interpersonal/interorganizational ties as opposed to public sources such as journals and mass
media. These observations are taken into account by the fourth perspective, fad, which postulates
that CMM is adopted by an organization if its suppliers, partners, or competitors adopt it. The
theoretical limitations of this perspective are explaining adoption decision by early adopters, and
underestimating managers’ rational focus on performance (instead of popularity). Interestingly,
these two limitations can be addressed by taking into account either perspective one (forced
selection) or two (efficient choice). Hence, our analysis illustrates how these four perspectives
together complete the cycle of explaining an IT management technique diffusion trajectory
Table 5. Summary of CMM diffusion explanation accounts and their limitations
CMM is adopted when
powerful clients coerce
their contractors into
adopting it.
- Widespread adoption of CMM by
organizations other than
military/government agencies or their
CMM is adopted by
vendors with severe
performance gaps in
their software
development processes.
- Further diffusion despite the ambiguity
of the performance outcomes and the
mixed results found when examining
previous adopters
- Higher adoption rates within certain
geographical regions/countries such as
India as compared to North America
CMM is adopted if
fashion setters promote
it through positive
discourse and if it can
send a signal to clients
about the vendor’s
higher status.
- Further diffusion despite the fact that
adopting CMM has become a taken-forgranted norm and no longer sends a
signal to clients
- Overwhelming evidence from the
previous studies that executives make the
adoption decision based on information
received through
interpersonal/interorganizational ties as
opposed to public sources such as
journals and mass media
CMM is adopted if the
vendor’s partners or
competitors have
already adopted it.
- Adoption decision by early adopters
- Managers rational focus on
performance, and not popularity
Failure to Explain
Efficient choice
or Efficientchoice
As explained above, while each perspective is helpful in explaining the diffusion
phenomenon, for each perspective, there are certain circumstances in which the empirical
evidence contradicts the perspective's explanations. In a study of IS implementation, Lapointe
and Rivard (2007) suggested that the use of alternate models may provide a better understanding
of seemingly paradoxical outcomes, i.e., alternate models compensate for a given model’s
prediction failures and overcome its limits. We adopt a similar approach and propose that in each
stage of CMM diffusion one particular perspective, i.e., a salient perspective, provides the best
explanation. The narrative structure of this paper reflects this assertion. For each perspective, we
first presented its implications and propositions, followed by its limitations, which are accordingly
addressed and resolved by the next perspective (see Table 5). Depending on the particular stage
of an IT innovation diffusion life cycle, one of these perspectives (i.e., a salient perspective) can
provide a better explanation of the diffusion process. For example, as discussed earlier, efficientchoice perspective can better explain the adoption of CMM by US commercial firms that
experienced difficulties with their software projects in the early years of CMM diffusion. While
fashion perspective can better explain the later adoption by offshoring firms (particularly Indian
and Chinese firms) who wanted to use CMM for showcasing their already efficient development
General Proposition: Diffusion of Capability Maturity Model (CMM) can be better
explained by adopting a multi-perspective view, which acknowledges each perspective
(forced selection, efficient choice, fashion, and fad), and their limitations.
This research provides contributions to the IS field by considering several theoretical
perspectives and applying them to explaining the diffusion of a single IT management innovation.
In this sense, it represents a response to Poole and Van de Ven’s (1989) call for using paradoxes
in management research and Robey and Boudreau’s (1999) suggestion for employing the logic
of opposition in IS research. The approach also addresses recurring calls to consider alternative
perspectives and depart from the dominant paradigm in DOI research, which may have reached
a point of diminishing returns in terms of its capacity to continue generating interesting and
innovative insights (Fichman 2004).
The propositions of this manuscript were mainly inspired by the theoretical perspectives
and the paradoxes that could be observed in the lifecycle of CMM as an administrative IT
innovation. We used our literature view as a secondary mechanism to firstly, gain a more
comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon under study, and secondly, to assess if, and
how often, different perspectives have been employed in IS research on CMM. The results
revealed that the studies have predominantly employed an efficient-choice perspective, and to a
lesser extent, they have taken fashion perspective into account – hinting at the possibility of future
research using alternative perspectives introduced in this paper. Conducting an exhaustive
systematic review of the CMM literature was outside the scope of this theory-driven manuscript.
We acknowledge this limitation and invite future research to build on our traditional literary review
(Boell and Cecez-kecmanovic 2015), and apply systematic literature review methodology to the
large body of CMM and Software Process Improvement (SPI) research. Another limitation of this
study is not “testing” the propositions. We used existing theory and stories from the academic and
practitioners’ literature to develop propositions based on abductive reasoning (Mantere and
Ketokivi 2013). Future research can use empirical data, simulation, or deductive meta-analysis to
test the propositions developed in this paper.
In our review of published CMM studies, we found very few articles with an explicit
theoretical focus, or with clear theory development agenda. Paradoxes can be employed as
powerful tools for theorizing in management research (Poole and Van de Ven 1989; Smith and
Lewis 2011). From a basic economic-rationalist perspective, diffusion of an “inefficient” IT
innovation (or, non-diffusion of an efficient one) does seem unlikely and paradoxical. In this
manuscript, we incorporated several different theoretical perspectives and analyzed this
seemingly paradoxical phenomenon. In particular, we sought to theorize about the diffusion of
CMM as a representative of a class of IT management techniques that are aimed at improving
software and IS development processes. On the one hand, judging from the large body of criticism
by both academics and practitioners (see Adler 2005; Bach 1999; Cusumano 2004), CMM might
be seen as a rather inefficient innovation or one with suboptimal efficiency at best. Yet, on the
other hand, CMM’s widespread adoption by organizations across the globe portrays it as a
successful and supposedly efficient administrative innovation – according to the SEI (2006; 2016),
61 countires reported CMM appraisals in 2006, the number is 98 countries in 2015 for CMMI. We
introduced to this problem a diverse set of theoretical perspectives that have not been extensively
employed in DOI and particularly in IS research. Our study showed how a multi-perspective
approach can be helpful in making sense of a supposedly paradoxical IS phenomenon.
It should be noted that in explaining the CMM diffusion (or other similar administrative IT
innovations), we showed that none of the mentioned four alternative perspectives could be
completely ruled out. It would be naïve to consider an administrative IT innovation as a “panacea”,
whose remarkable benefits drive its diffusion as the efficient-choice perspective proposes.
Similarly, it is unlikely that a successful IT management technique is just a “placebo” that has no
technical benefits and is being adopted just because of forced-selection, fads or fashions. This
paper acknowledges that each of the four perspectives misses out on certain elements of CMM
diffusion (e.g., fashion perspective overlooks the “improvement” outcomes of CMM and only
focuses on ceremonial “certification”)5. Thus, we propose that taking all of these diverse
perspectives into account and comparing their predictive power can give researchers a more
thorough and holistic picture of the diffusion of IT management techniques. As shown in this
paper, one approach can be breaking down the diffusion trajectory of IT innovations into different
time periods (or stages of diffusion) and explaining the diffusion in each period with a salient
theoretical perspective. This approach can also help in improving the low explanatory power of
the traditional efficient-choice diffusion of innovation models in IS (meta-analyses of this type of
research show R-squares constantly less than 40% (Lyytinen and Damsgaard 2001)).
This paper can also have implications for practitioners. The IT landscape is characterized
by IT buzzwords, hypes, and rapid succession of new techniques. One of the challenging tasks
of managers is to make sense of new IT innovations and adopt the ones that will not be transient
fads. Managers can use the four perspectives discussed here as a toolkit for such sensemaking
and analysis of new administrative IT innovations. Table 2 can be used as a template to analyze
IT innovations from different perspectives. Managers can ask questions about different elements
in this template, e.g., regarding the sources of influence (whether there are powerful organizations
coercing the adoption from a forced-selection perspective, or whether there are prestigious
institutions promoting and supporting the innovation from a fashion perspective), or the expected
performance type (whether there is evidence of substantive performance gains, and in addition
to that whether there are any symbolic performance gains such as a status signal from adopting
this innovation). If analyzing an administrative IT innovation from different perspectives (and not
focusing merely on hype and enthusiastic business discourse) point to a potential success, then
managers can make more informed decisions about its adoption. In the case of CMM, assuming
We are thankful to the anonymous reviewer for highlighting this point.
that it is now primarily an innovation applied in providing a feeling of control in offshore
development6, software vendors in developing countries should constantly assess the signaling
value of CMM. Based on the fashion perspective, if the business discourse becomes too critical
of CMM or if several similar organizations in the same geographical region have adopted CMM,
these organizations should actively look for adopting alternative mechanisms that can serve as a
new quality signal to their potential foreign clients. For example, Langer et al. (2014) showed that
project managers’ “practical intelligence” can be used, in addition to a CMM Level 5 rating, to
attract new and continued client engagements.
Likewise, regarding the supply side of IT innovations, our review of Software Engineering
Institute’s successful approaches in establishing CMM and promoting its adoption can inform and
inspire IS scholars and practitioners who wish to play a more active role in developing new
administrative IT innovations, as suggested by Baskerville and Myers (2009). One practical
implication of this study is that the creators and sponsors of a new IT innovation should not merely
focus on a single framing and rationale for adoption. Our analysis in this essay revealed that over
the years, organizations at different times and in different parts of the world have adopted CMM
based on very different rationales of efficiency, coercion, fad, or fashion. Creators and promoters
of new IT management techniques should take all of these perspectives into account and try to
embed mechanisms that correspond to these different rationales.
We are thankful to the anonymous reviewer for raising this point.
Abrahamson, E. (1991) “Managerial fads and fashions: The diffusion and rejection of innovations,”
Academy of Management Review (16) 3, pp. 586-612.
Abrahamson, E. (1996) “Management fashion,” Academy of Management Review (21) 1, pp. 254286.
Abrahamson, E. and C. J. Fombrun (1994) “Macrocultures: Determinants and consequences,”
Academy of Management Review (19) 4, pp. 728-755.
Abrahamson, E. and G. Fairchild (1999) “Management fashion Lifecycles, triggers, and collective
learning processes,” Administrative Science Quarterly (44) 4, pp. 708-740.
Abrahamson, E. and L. Rosenkopf (1993) “Institutional and competitive bandwagons: using
mathematical modeling as a tool to explore innovation diffusion,” Academy of
Management Review (18) 3, pp. 487-517.
Adler, P. S. (2005) “The evolving object of software development,” Organization; The
Interdisciplinary Journal of Organizations and Society (12) 3, pp. 401.
Akhlaghpour, S. and L. Lapointe (2012) “Towards a Typological Theory of Organizational IT
Innovation Adoption,” Proceedings of JAIS Theory Development Workshop. Sprouts:
Working Papers on Information Systems (12) 9. http://aisel.aisnet.org/sprouts_all/496
Anderson, S. W., J. D. Daly, and M. F. Johnson (1999) "Why firms seek ISO 9000 certification:
regulatory compliance or competitive advantage?," Production and Operations
Management (8) 1, pp. 28-43.
Angst, C. M., R. Agarwal, V. Sambamurthy, and K. Kelley (2010) "Social contagion and
information technology diffusion: the adoption of electronic medical records in US
hospitals," Management Science (56) 8, pp. 1219-1241.
Astley, W. G., & Van de Ven, A. H. (1983). Central perspectives and debates in organization
theory. Administrative Science Quarterly (28) 2, pp. 245-273.
Ayres, B. J. (2003) "Institutional influences and control of software development projects: an
examination of air force software project teams," Florida State University. Electronic
Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 9.
Boell, S. K., & Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. (2015) “On being ‘systematic’in literature reviews in
IS,” Journal of Information Technology 30(2), pp. 161-173.
Bapna, R., Gupta, A., Ray, G., & Singh, S. (2016) “Research Note—IT Outsourcing and the
Impact of Advisors on Clients and Vendors,” Information Systems Research (27) 3, pp.
Baskerville, R., B. Ramesh, L. Levine, J. Pries-Heje et al. (2003) "Is internet-speed software
development different?," IEEE Software (20) 6, pp. 70-77.
Baskerville, R. and J. Pries-Heje (1999) "Knowledge capability and maturity in software
management," The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems (30) 2, pp. 26-43.
Baskerville, R. and M. D. Myers (2009) "Fashion Waves in Information Systems Research and
Practice," MIS Quarterly (33) 4, pp. 647-662.
Bass, F. M. (1969) "New Product Growth for Model Consumer Durables," Management Science
Series a-Theory (15) 5, pp. 215-227.
Bollinger, T. B. and C. McGowan (1991) “A Critical Look at Software Capability Evaluations,” IEEE
Software (8) 4, pp. 25-41.
Brancheau, J. C. and J. C. Wetherbe (1990) “The adoption of spreadsheet software: testing
innovation diffusion theory in the context of end-user computing,” Information Systems
Research (1) 2, pp. 115-143.
Burt, R. S. (1976) "Positions in networks," Social Forces (55) 1, pp. 93-122.
Cecez-Kecmanovic, D., Kautz, K., & Abrahall, R. (2014). Reframing Success and Failure of
Information Systems: A Performative Perspective. MIS Quarterly, 38 (2), 561-588.
Cockburn, A. (1999) “Characterizing people as non-linear, first-order components in software
development,” In International Conference on Software Engineering 2000.
Cooper, R. and R. W. Zmud (1990) “Information Technology Implementation Research: A
Technology Diffusion Approach,” Management Science (36) 2, pp. 123-139.
Cusumano, M. A. (2004) The business of software: what every manager, programmer, and
entrepreneur must know to thrive and survive in good times and bad. New York: Free
Cyert, R. M. and J. G. March (1992) A behavioral theory of the firm. Englewood Cliffs, N.J:
Daft, R. L., R. H. Lengel, and L. K. Trevino (1987) “Message equivocality, media selection, and
manager performance: Implications for information systems,” MIS Quarterly (11) 3, pp.
Dawson, G. S., Watson, R. T., & Boudreau, M. C. (2010) “Information asymmetry in information
systems consulting: toward a theory of relationship constraints,” Journal of Management
Information Systems (27) 3, pp. 143-178.
Deephouse, D. L., & Carter, S. M. (2005). An examination of differences between organizational
legitimacy and organizational reputation. Journal of Management Studies (42) 2, 329-360.
Dennis, A. R. and M. J. Garfield (2003) “The adoption and use of GSS in project teams: Toward
more participative processes and outcomes,” MIS Quarterly (27) 2, pp. 289-323.
DiMaggio, P. J. and W. W. Powell (1983) “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and
Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” American Sociological Review (48) 2, pp.
Fichman, R. G. (2000) “The Diffusion and Assimilation of Information Technology Innovations,” in
R. W. Zmud (ed.) Framing the Domains of IT Management Research. Cincinnati, OH:
Pinnaflex Educational Resources.
Fichman, R. G. (2004) "Going Beyond the Dominant Paradigm for Information Technology
Innovation Research: Emerging Concepts and Methods," Journal of the Association for
Information Systems (5) 8, pp. 314-355.
Fichman, R. G. and C. F. Kemerer (1993) “Adoption of Software Engineering Process
Innovations: The Case of Object-Orientation,” Sloan Management Review (34) 2, pp. 722.
Filbeck, G., M. Swinarski, and X. Zhao (2013) "Shareholder reaction to firm investments in the
capability maturity model: an event study," European Journal of Information Systems (22)
2, pp. 170-190.
Flyvbjerg, B., and Budzier, A. (2011) “Why your IT project may be riskier than you think,” Harvard
Business Review, 89(9), 601-603.
Fowler, M. (2005) "The New Methodology," http://martinfowler.com/articlesnewMethodology.html
(October 1, 2016).
Galin, D. and M. Avrahami (2006) "Are CMM program investments beneficial? Analyzing past
studies," IEEE Software (23) 6, pp. 81.
Gao, G., A. Gopal, and R. Agarwal (2010) "Contingent effects of quality signaling: Evidence from
the Indian offshore IT services industry," Management Science (56) 6, pp. 1012-1029.
Gartner Group (2016) " Gartner Says Worldwide IT Spending is Forecast to Grow 0.6 Percent in
2016," http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3186517 (Feb 20, 2016).
Gopal, A., & Gao, G. (2009) “Certification in the Indian offshore IT services
industry,” Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, (11) 3, pp. 471-492.
GRafP (2006) "Case Study of CMMI implementation at Bank of Montreal (BMO) Financial Group,"
http://www.grafp.com/Pdf/BMO_case-study_2006.pdf (March 1, 2012).
Granovetter, M. S. (1973) “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology (78) 6, pp.
Gregor, S. (2006) “The nature of theory in information systems” MIS quarterly (30) 3, 611-642.
Gregory, R. W., Beck, R., & Keil, M. (2013) “Control Balancing in Information Systems
Development Offshoring Projects,” MIS Quarterly, 37(4), pp. 1211-1232.
Greve, H. R. (1995) "Jumping ship: The diffusion of strategy abandonment," Administrative
Science Quarterly (40) 3, pp. 444-473.
Hansen, B., J. Rose, and G. Tjørnehøj (2004) "Prescription, description, reflection: the shape of
the software process improvement field," International Journal of Information Management
(24) 6, pp. 457-472.
Harter, D. E., M. S. Krishnan, and S. A. Slaughter (2000) "Effects of process maturity on quality,
cycle time, and effort in software product development," Management Science (46) 4, pp.
Heugens, P. P., & Lander, M. W. (2009). Structure! Agency! (and other quarrels): A meta-analysis
of institutional theories of organization. Academy of Management Journal, 52 (1), 61-85.
Hofstede, G. (1980) Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values.
Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Iacovou, C. L., I. Benbasat, and A. S. Dexter (1995) “Electronic Data Interchange and Small
Organizations: Adoption and Impact of Technology,” MIS Quarterly (19) 4, pp. 465-485.
Jeyaraj, A., J. W. Rottman, and M. C. Lacity (2006) "A review of the predictors, linkages, and
biases in IT innovation adoption research," Journal of Information Technology (21) 1, pp.
Jones, C. (2002) "Defense software development in evolution," Crosstalk-The Journal of Defense
Software Engineering.
Jørgensen, M., & Moløkken-Østvold, K. (2006) “How large are software cost overruns? A review
of the 1994 CHAOS report,” Information and Software Technology (48) 4, pp. 297-301.
Keil, M. (1995) “Escalation of commitment in information systems development: A comparison of
three theories,” Academy of Management Proceedings 1995, No. 1, pp. 348-352.
King, A. A., M. J. Lenox, and A. Terlaak (2005) "The strategic use of decentralized institutions:
Exploring certification with the ISO 14001 management standard," Academy of
Management Journal (48) 6, pp. 1091-1106.
Kirkley, J. L. (1992) "EDI in action," Business Week, pp. 85-92.
Koch (2004) "Software Quality: Bursting the CMM Hype," http://www.cio.com/article/print/32138
(March 1, 2012).
Langer, N., Slaughter, S. A., & Mukhopadhyay, T. (2014) “Project managers' practical intelligence
and project performance in software offshore outsourcing: A field study,” Information
Systems Research 25(2), pp. 364-384.
Lapointe, L. and S. Rivard (2007) "A triple take on information system implementation,"
Organization Science (18) 1, pp. 89-107.
Levina, N. and J. W. Ross (2003) “From the vendor's perspective: exploring the value proposition
in information technology outsourcing,” MIS Quarterly (27) 3, pp. 331-364.
Lewis, M. W. (2000) "Exploring paradox: Toward a more comprehensive guide," Academy of
Management Review (25) 4, pp. 760-776.
Lyytinen, K. and J. Damsgaard (2001) “What's Wrong with the Diffusion of Innovation Theory:
The Case of a Complex and Networked Technology,” in M. A. Ardis and B. L. Marcolin
(eds.) Diffusing Software Product and Process Innovations. pp. 1-20. Boston: Kluwer
Academic Press.
Mahajan, V., E. Muller, and F. M. Bass (1995) "Diffusion of New Products - Empirical
Generalizations and Managerial Uses," Marketing Science (14) 3, pp. G79-G88.
Mantere, S., and M. Ketokivi (2013). Reasoning in organization science. Academy of
Management Review, 38(1), pp. 70-89.
Markus, M. L. (1983) “Power, politics, and MIS implementation,” Communications of the ACM,
(26) 6, pp. 430-444.
McAdam, R. and F. Fulton (2002) "The impact of the ISO 9000: 2000 quality standards in small
software firms," Managing Service Quality (12) 5, pp. 336-345.
McDonald, M. L. and J. D. Westphal (2003) "Getting by with the advice of their friends: CEOs'
advice networks and firms' strategic responses to poor performance," Administrative
Science Quarterly (48) 1, pp. 1-32.
Melville, N., Kraemer, K., & Gurbaxani, V. (2004) “Review: Information technology and
organizational performance: An integrative model of IT business value,” MIS
Quarterly (28) 2, pp. 283-322.
Meyer, J. W. and B. Rowan (1977) “Institutionalised organisations: formal structure as myth and
ceremony,” The American Journal of Sociology (83) 2, pp. 340-363.
Miller, D. and J. Hartwick (2002) "Spotting management fads," Harvard Business Review (80) 10,
pp. 26-27.
Moore, G. C. and I. Benbasat (1991) “Development of an Instrument to Measure the Perception
of Adopting an Information Technology Innovation,” Information Systems Research (2) 3,
pp. 192-222.
Mustonen-Ollila, E. and K. Lyytinen (2003) "Why organizations adopt information system process
innovations: a longitudinal study using Diffusion of Innovation theory," Information
Systems Journal (13) 3, pp. 275-297.
Nickerson, R. S. (1998) "Confirmation bias: a ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises," Review
of General Psychology (2) 2, pp. 175.
Oliver, C. (1991) “Strategic responses to institutional processes,” Academy of Management
Review (16) 1, pp. 145-179.
Paulk, M. C. (1993) “Capability Maturity Model, Version 1.1,” IEEE Software (10) 4, pp. 18-27.
Plouffe, C., J. Hulland, and M. Vandenbosch (2001) “Research Report: Richness Versus
Parsimony in Modeling Technology Adoption Decisions--Understanding Merchant
Adoption of a Smart Card-Based Payment System,” Information Systems Research (12)
2, pp. 208-222.
Ply, J. K., J. E. Moore, C. K. Williams, and J. B. Thatcher (2012) "Is employee attitudes and
perceptions at varying levels of software process maturity," MIS Quarterly (36) 2, pp. 601624.
Poole, M. S. and A. H. Vandeven (1989) "Using Paradox to Build Management and Organization
Theories," Academy of Management Review (14) 4, pp. 562-578.
Port, O. (1999) "Will Bugs Eat Up the US Lead in Software?," Business Week, Dec. 1999
Rai, A., Maruping, L. M., & Venkatesh, V. (2009) “Offshore information systems project success:
the role of social embeddedness and cultural characteristics,” MIS Quarterly (33) 3, pp.
Ramasubbu, N., S. Mithas, M. S. Krishnan, and C. F. Kemerer (2008) "Work dispersion, processbased learning, and offshore software development performance," MIS Quarterly (32) 2,
pp. 437-458.
Reich, B. H., A. Gemino, and C. Sauer. (2007) “Myths about information technology project
performance,” Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 2007 conference
proceedings, p. 28.
Riemenschneider, C. K., B. C. Hardgrave, and F. D. Davis (2002) "Explaining software developer
acceptance of methodologies: A comparison of five theoretical models," IEEE
Transactions on Software Engineering (28) 12, pp. 1135-1145.
Rindova, V. P., T. G. Pollock, and M. L. A. Hayward (2006) "Celebrity firms: The social
construction of market popularity," Academy of Management Review (31) 1, pp. 50-71.
Robey, D. and M. Boudreau (1999) “Accounting for the contradictory organizational
consequences of information technology: Theoretical directions and methodological
implications,” Information Systems Research (10) 2, pp. 167-185.
Rogers, E. M. (1983) Diffusion of innovations, 3rd edition. New York: Free Press.
Saunders, C. and I. Benbasat (2007) "A Camel Going Through the Eye of a Needle," MIS
Quarterly (31) 3, pp. iv-xviii.
Scott, W. R. (2005) "Institutional theory: Contributing to a theoretical research program," in Ken
G. Smith and Michael A. Hitt (eds.) Great minds in management: The process of theory
development, pp. 460-484. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
SEI (2006) "Software Engineering Institute’s Process Maturity Profile of the Software Community,
2005 End-Year Update," http://www.sei.cmu.edu (September 1, 2012).
SEI (2009) "Performance Results of CMMI," http://www.sei.cmu.edu/cmmi/research/results/ .
SEI (2012) "CMMI for SCAMPI Class A Appraisal Results 2011 End-Year Update,"
SEI (2016) "CMMI Maturity Profile Report," http://partners.cmmiinstitute.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/09/Maturity-Profile-Ending-Jun-30-2016.pdf.
Simmel, G. (1957) "Fashion," American Journal of Sociology (62) 6, pp. 541-558.
Slaughter, S. A., L. Levine, B. Ramesh, J. Pries-Heje et al. (2006) "Aligning software processes
with strategy," MIS Quarterly (30) 4, pp. 891-918.
Smith, W. K. and M. W. Lewis (2011) "Toward a theory of paradox: A dynamic equilibrium model
of organizing," Academy of Management Review (36) 2, pp. 381-403.
Spell, C. S. and T. C. Blum (2005) "Adoption of workplace substance abuse prevention programs:
Strategic choice and institutional perspectives," Academy of Management Journal (48) 6,
pp. 1125-1142.
Spence, M. (1973) “Job Market Signaling,” in Quarterly Journal of Economics (87) 3, pp. 355-374.
Standish-Group (2011) "CHAOS Manifesto," http://blog.standishgroup.com/cm2011 (October 1,
Strang, D. and J. W. Meyer (1993) "Institutional Conditions for Diffusion," Theory and Society (22)
4, pp. 487-511.
Strang, D. and M. W. Macy (2001) “In Search of Excellence: Fads, Success Stories, and Adaptive
Emulation,” American Journal of Sociology (107) 1, pp. 147-182.
Strang, D. and S. A. Soule (1998) "Diffusion in organizations and social movements: From hybrid
corn to poison pills," Annual Review of Sociology (24) 1, pp. 265-290.
Strang, D., David, R., Akhlaghpour, S. (2014) “Coevolution in Management Fashion: An AgentBased Model of Consultant-Driven Innovation,” American Journal of Sociology (AJS),
(120) 1, pp. 226-264.
Subramanian, G. H., J. J. Jiang, and G. Klein (2007) "Software quality and IS project performance
improvements from software development process maturity and IS implementation
strategies," Journal of Systems and Software (80) 4, pp. 616-627.
Tolbert, P. and L. G. Zucker (1983) “Institutional Sources of Change in the Formal Structures of
Organizations: The Diffusion of Civil Service Reform,” Administrative Science Quarterly
(28) 1, pp. 22-39.
Trienekens, J. J., R. J. Kusters, M. J. van Genuchten, and H. Aerts (2007) "Targets, drivers and
metrics in software process improvement: Results of a survey in a multinational
organization," Software Quality Journal (15) 2, pp. 135-153.
Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, F. D. (2003) “User acceptance of information
technology: Toward a unified view,” MIS Quarterly (27) 3, pp. 425-478.
Wang, P. (2007) "Launching professional services automation: Institutional entrepreneurship for
information technology innovations," Information and Organization (17) 2, pp. 59.
Wang, P. (2009) "Popular concepts beyond organizations: Exploring new dimensions of
information technology innovations,” Journal of the Association for Information Systems
(10) 1, pp. 1-30.
Wang, P. (2010) “Chasing the hottest IT: effects of information technology fashion on
organizations,” MIS Quarterly (34) 1, pp. 63-85.
Wang, X., K. Conboy, and M. Pikkarainen (2012) "Assimilation of agile practices in use,"
Information Systems Journal (22) 6, pp. 435-455.
Webster, J. and R. T. Watson (2002) “Analyzing the past to prepare for the future: Writing a
literature review,” MIS Quarterly (26) 2, pp. 13-23.
Weitzel, T., Beimborn, D., & König, W. (2006) “A unified economic model of standard diffusion:
the impact of standardization cost, network effects, and network topology,” MIS Quarterly
(30) Special Issue on Standard Making, 489-514.
Westphal, J. D., R. Gulati, and S. M. Shortell (1997) "Customization or conformity? An institutional
and network perspective on the content and consequences of TQM adoption,"
Administrative Science Quarterly (42) 2, pp. 366-394.
Williamson, O. E. (1991) "Comparative economic organization: The analysis of discrete structural
alternatives," Administrative Science Quarterly (36) 2, pp. 269-296.
Yourdon, E. (2004) Death march. Prentice Hall Professional.
Zamiska, N. (2005) "Quality lures software outsourcing," The Wall Street Journal (May 5, 2005).
Zbaracki, M. J. (1998) "The rhetoric and reality of total quality management," Administrative
Science Quarterly (43) 3, pp. 602-636.
Zucker, L. G. (1987) “Institutional theories of organization,” Review of Sociology (13) 1, pp. 443464.
Zucker, L. G. (1988) “Where Do Institutional Patterns Come From? Organizations as Actor in
Social Systems,” in L. G. Zucker (ed.), Institutional Patterns and Organizations: 23-52.
Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.
A list and a brief summary of CMM-related articles reviewed for this study (1995-2016).
The abbreviation used for the top IS journals: MIS Quarterly (MISQ), European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS), Information
Systems Journal (ISJ), Information Systems Research (ISR), Journal of Information Technology (JIT), Journal of Management
Information Systems (JMIS), and Journal of the Association for Information Systems (JAIS)
Empirical (Interviews)
Multiple (contingency theory, institutional theory; cultural‐historical activity
This study of the CMM’s impact on the object of
software development yields a complex image. The
technical dimensions of the object were transformed
so as to reduce task uncertainty and to facilitate the
mastery of complexity and interdependence. The
symbolic dimensions of the object acquired greater
importance owing to the pressure to achieve formal
certification, and this both hindered and helped efforts
to improve on the technical dimensions. The social‐
structural dimensions of the object continued to
express the fundamental contradictions of commodity
production, and the CMM served to deepen rather
than resolve those contradictions.
CMM ‐> emergent changes in technical, symbolic, and social‐structural
By applying 3 theories
(contingency theory, neo‐
institutional theory, and
cultural‐historical activity
theory) the paper explores
how the CMM affects the
object of software
developers’ work and
thereby affects organization
Excerpt quoted from the articles
Multifaceted (acknowledges elements from each perspective)
Relevance to CMM
The evolving
object of software
Empirical Context
Fours cases in a large
US‐based professional
service information
technology firms
The dissertation uses three
case studies of US Air Force
software project teams to
assess the impact of
institutional forces on the
use of control mechanisms.
The formal control
mechanism assessed in this
study is CMM. The case data
provides relevant
background information on
development and adoption
of CMM in US Air Force.
The findings provide support for an important
relationship between institutional profiles and the
adoption of formal control mechanisms by software
project teams. First, different institutional profiles will
support different types of adoption of formal control
mechanisms. Second, when the enacted profile of a
software project team is consistent with a dominant
institutional profile, the use of formal control
mechanisms will be faithful to this profile. Third, when
the enacted profile is conflicted, the use of formal
control mechanisms will be mixed with both
ceremonial and faithful appropriations. Fourth, the
higher the tenure of the software project team, the
more likely the enacted profile will be consistent with
the older institutional context. Finally, the level of
congruence of software project managers with a
particular institutional profile will be positively related
to the adoption of formal control mechanisms
consistent with that profile.
Multifaceted (studies regulative, normative, cognitive
Different institutional profile ‐> Different types of CMM
Empirical (Case study)
Institutional Theory
software project teams
within the United States
Air Force
The article (which is widely
cited in academic and
practitioners discourse) is
skeptical of CMM’s
efficiency and suggests
several “problems with
‐ [CMM] gives hope, and an illusion of control, to
management. Faced with the depressing reality that
software development success is contingent upon so
many subtle and dynamic factors and judgments, the
CMM provides a step by step plan to do something
unsubtle and create something solid
‐ If an organization s it for its own sake, rather than
simply as a requirement mandated by a particular
government contract, it may very well lead to the
collapse of that company's competitive potential.
Multiple (Fashion, Forced‐
CMM ‐> Loss of software
development productivity
The maturity of the business
processes is one of the
three components for
measuring strategic
alignment. This item is
inspired by earlier maturity
models such as CMM.
The idea of strategic alignment being sustained over
time was first explored when the Capability Maturity
Model was extended into IS research to develop the
“Strategic Alignment Maturity Model”(SAMM)
Maturity is a
measure of Strategic
Dynamic Capabilities
the dynamic
American Programmer
Baker et al.
The Immaturity of
influences and
control of
projects: An
examination of Air
Force software
project teams
CMM is mentioned as an
incomplete criterion for
Many client firms focus on the technical capabilities of
a potential vendor and may even utilize the capability
maturity model (CMM) as a key criterion for selecting
CMM is not sufficient for vendor
selection, degree to which
organizational values
are shared across the client and
vendor affects strategic IS
Empirical (survey)
Information Processing Theory
Field survey data
collected from 141 IS
managers in client firms,
responsible for IS
CMM is used for developing
the construct of “process
maturity” in the model.
Process maturity is used as
a control variable. Empirical
data shows a positive
impacts of process maturity
on product quality,
development cost, design
cycle time, and
We defined the process maturity construct based on
the capability maturity model—integrated product
development (IPD) framework. Process maturity is
measured as a function of four items: integration
and concurrency of planning and design, quantitative
targets for project management, standardized
integration practices, and standard practices for work
Process maturity ‐> Product
development cost
Empirical (survey)
media richness theory
Collaboration in 71 firms
although higher CMM rating
was associated with higher
vendor revenue, it
nonetheless had a negative
impact on outsourcing
contract outcome (it was
associated with contract
cancellation or
The analysis suggests that CMM ratings are positively
associated with vendor revenue. This is consistent
with prior research that CMM ratings reduce
information asymmetry about the maturity of
vendors’ software development methodology and
thus are positively related with vendor revenue.
However, CMM rating has a negative impact on
contract outcome. Though prior research suggests
that CMM ratings are associated with lower error
rates, CMM ratings are also associated with longer
development time and effort (Harter et al. 2000). It is
plausible that a longer development time and effort
may lead to contract cancellation or renegotiation.
Nevertheless, this finding warrants further
CMM ‐> vendor revenue (+), outsourcing
contract outcome (‐)
Empiritcal (archival)
Information Asymmetry
Research Note—IT
Outsourcing and
the Impact of
Advisors on Clients
and Vendors
Bapna et al.
Understanding the
Impact of
Software on
Product Design
and Development
Banker et al
Mechanisms and
the Moderating
Role of
Characteristics in
Balaji and Brown
753 large IT outsourcing
Context (size): CMM (NOT)‐>
Project Success
Empirical (case study)
Knowledge management (as
‐ Current software development methods and
software process improvement approaches (ISO 9000,
Capability Maturity Models, SPICE, and BOOTSTRAP,
for example) are typically effective in large‐scale,
long‐term development efforts with stable and
disciplined processes. In contrast, Internet‐speed
software development involves rapid requirement
changes and unpredictable product complexity. Such
environments require software development
approaches that balance flexibility and disciplined
NOT Rational‐choice (focus on NOT Rational‐choice (focus on
Context (time): CMM (NOT)‐>
Project Success
Empirical (Mixed method –
Theory Development
Internet software
development at 10
companies + open‐
forum search
techniques (creative
abrasion) in a
Asserts that CMM has not
applied to virtual
Although much research and current business lore
focuses on process improvement [19,20], we have
found no work besides Engelbart's [25] that studies
systematic, continuous meta improvement. The
closest concepts are total quality management [35]
and the SEI Software Capability Maturity Model [40].
The former lacks the emphasis of a continuous(and
recursive) meta‐improvement of an organization's
improvement processes, whereas the latter is focused
on traditional organizations, and thus far has not been
applied to virtual communities of the kind CKESS
CMM not relevant to virtual
a vision and an
architecture for a
community knowledge
evolution system
CMM as an ingredient of
the “Professional Context”
in the shared meaning
context of virtual teams ‐ a
conglomeration of pieces
‐ In 2002, they launched a capability maturity model
based software process improvement (SPI) program.
The initial mandate of the project was the
development of common software processes. The
two teams we studied were involved with different
initiatives related to the SPI program.
‐ People from the same professional
background have an occupational vocabulary for
interaction [(SPI)].
CMM (constitutes
Professional Context) ‐>
Shared meaning
Empirical (Case study)
Theory Dev.
The authors build on the
claim that CMM is not
appropriate for time‐
sensitive internet‐speed
projects. They propose eight
practices characterizing the
Internet‐speed software
development process.
Virtual team
building shared
meaning, resolving
breakdowns and
‐ In a manner similar to total quality management
(TQM), software process improvement schemes like
SPICE and the CMM brings the benefits of precision
engineering into project management.
‐ [I]nnovation management and existing CMM KPAs
may be suitable for different organization settings.
The existing CMM structure may be most appropriate
for large, stable enterprises, while knowledge
capability management may be more appropriate for
unstable or small organizations.
Bjørn and Ngwenyama
Toward Virtual
The authors critically review
the applicability of CMM to
different organizational
context, especially to
unstable and small
organizations. They develop
a set of key process areas
for a supplement to the
CMM in SMEs.
Bieber et al
IEEE Software
Is internet‐speed software
d l
Baskerville et al.
Capability and
Maturity in
The DATA BASE for Advances
i I f
i S
Baskerville and Pries‐Heje
virtual teams
a small Danish company,
Proventum. Proventum
designs, develops, and
operates Internet Web
sites to support the
electronic commerce
initiatives of their client
CMM (NOT)‐> Software
CMM not reflected in
process innovation
Empirical (survey)
technology ecology
CMM ‐> development productivity,
product quality
Conceptual (simulation)
Model Building
Software Development
‐ In the title, I refer to people as “components”. That
is how people are treated in the process /
methodology design literature. The mistake in this
approach is that “people” are highly variable and non‐
linear, with unique success and failure modes. Those
factors are first‐order, not negligible factors. Failure of
process and methodology designers to account for
them contributes to the sorts of unplanned project
trajectories we so often see.
‐ [N]one of the engineers who had been instructed in
PSP techniques was using them on the job
‐ “PSP is extremely rigorous, and if no one is asking for
my data, it’s easier to do it the old way.”
NOT Rational‐choice
CMM NOT‐> productivity
Empirical (case studies)
Software Development
A Fault Threshold
Policy to Manage
CMM is mentioned as one
of the two “prominent
approaches to improving
software development
productivity”. CMM’s
emphasis on proper process
to facilitate team
coordination is highlighted.
people as non‐
linear, first‐order
components in
Two prominent approaches to improving software
development productivity are the Software Capability
Maturity Model (CMM) from the CMU Software
Engineering Institute (Paulk et al. 1993), and
Recommended Approach to Software Development
from the NASA Software Engineering Laboratory
‐ The CMM is a process‐centric effort created out of
the realization that, unless the underlying software
process is properly managed, any attempt to improve
development productivity and product quality will be
CMM is briefly mentioned
as a process innovation.
121 software firms that
adopted internet
Int. Conf. on Software Engineering
Main (concerns a
Our study differs from earlier innovation research of
software organizations that have focused primarily on
singular process innovations like CASE tools
(Orlikowski, 1991), programming paradigms (Fichman
& Kemerer, 1997; Ihlsoon & Young‐Gul, 2001) or
process improvements [Capability Maturity Model
(CMM)] (Yoo et al., 2006) but neglected their
technological antecedents and interactions with other
computing as a
innovation: the
role of strong
order effects
Chiang and Mookerjee
IEEE Software
Carlo et al.
‐ The current [CMM] grading system is so seriously
and fundamentally flawed that it should be
abandoned rather than modified.
‐ It appears unlikely that such [CMM] ratings have any
meaningful correlation to the actual abilities of
organizations to produce high‐quality software on
time and within budget.
A Critical Look at
Bollinger and McGowan
One of the earliest articles
criticizing the Software
Engineering Institute’s
software capability
evaluation (SCE) method.
The 5‐level SCE (developed
in 1987) informed the
development of CMM in
1991 by SEI.
The article emphasizes the
importance of including
human factors in
methodology design.
It cites a CMM 5
organization that is trained
in PSP (Personal Software
Process), but almost nobody
was using it, their reason
was “PSP is extremely
rigorous, and if no one is
asking for my data, it’s
easier to do it the old way.”
CMM is mentioned as an
innovation with signaling
and screening value.
Signaling and screening are approaches to the
problem of information asymmetry [1].In signaling,
the party with the information advantage, often in
hopes of inducing a higher price, conveys meaningful
information about itself to the other party [36]. For
example, IS consulting firms often advertise their
CMMI (capability maturity model integration)
maturity level as a signal of their ability to deliver
high‐quality work. By signaling, the consulting firm
aims to induce clients to pay a higher price for
services based on the expectation that CMMI
maturity level has a relationship with project success.
Multiple (Fashion, Fad)
CMM ‐> Signaling Value (for
CMM ‐> Screening Value (for
Theory development (extension to
agency theory and The principal–
L )
Empirical (Qualitative ‐ Interviews)
IS implementation and
strategy projects
Software process
characteristics are derived
from CMM. There are mixed
results with regards to
impact on project
‐ Software process assessments using the CMM have
been conducted at over 260 sites. Of these sites. 75
percent were classified at the initial, or chaotic, level
‐ Processes were also chosen for which some
variation in responses could be anticipated. This last
criterion eliminated most process areas at the higher
maturity levels of the CMM, because these are
practiced in relatively few organizations.
CMM ‐> Software
Process ‐> Project
Empirical (Survey)
a survey of senior
practitioners at the
1993 Software
Engineering Process
Group National Meeting
The paper studies market
reaction to CMM
Stocks of firms successfully completing CMM
appraisals generally outperform the S&P 500 index
over longer‐holding periods, although they do not
outperform a matched sample. We find support that
firms from the information technology industry, firms
that are larger, firms of higher CMM maturity levels,
and firms completing multiple appraisals are more
likely to experience both short‐term and long‐term
benefits from their investing in the CMM.
Multiple (Fashion,
Empirical (event study)
Resource‐based view
The case study illustrates
that CMM can co‐exist with
sophisticated and successful
agile development. It should
be mentioned that the
organization had only “Level
2” CMM certification.
While the move to CMM certification was driven
more as a top‐down mandate within the organisation,
in marked contrast, Scrum and XP were introduced at
a grassroots engineering level as optional techniques.
As such, their adoption has grown organically over
CMM ‐> short‐term
CMM is compatible
benefits (signaling)
with agile methods
CMM ‐> long‐term benefits
Stock Market
Empirical (case
Theory building
Customising agile
methods to
software practices
at Intel Shannon
Fitzgerald et al.
reaction to firm
investments in the
capability maturity
model: an event
Filbeck et al.
Processes and
Deephouse et al
Asymmetry in
Dawson et al
Software development
The paper finds that “all”
the academic manuscripts
and white papers reported
solely CMM success stories.
Through a meta‐analysis of
19 papers (400 projects), It
finds positive impact of
CMM on 7 metrics.
‐ […] some readers might claim that researchers
prefer to publish success stories and avoid failure
stories. They might also claim that the fact that all the
published results are positive and that none mention
failure might serve as proof of the bias in the available
‐ We believe that the actual bias is small, doesn’t
really affect our analysis, and doesn’t change our
main conclusion: that investment
in CMM programs leads to improved software
development and maintenance.
CMM ‐> Performance
improvement (Error Density,
Productivity, Rework, Cycle Time,
Schedule Fidelity, Error
Detection Effectiveness, ROI)
The study further examines
signaling value of CMM
adoption. It uses panel data
from Indian software
companies to investigate
the moderating factors in
the relationship between
CMM adoption and their
‐ a software service provider gains more from
certification in terms of its software exports when its
service offerings are diversified, when it chooses to
locate away from a cluster of other software service
firms, and when the extent of CMM penetration in
the competition is low.
Empirical (panel data)
Signaling theory
The case study shows the
positive impacts of CMM on
learnability, which leads to
knowledge creation and
deployment at the
individual level.
Infosys' CMM Level 5 induced organizational routines
are analogous to learnability, which drives knowledge
creation and deployment at the individual level.
Over time, Infosys has adopted the CMM framework
not just for software development, but also for all
other organizational initiatives. Infosys'
implementation of CMM illustrates how organizations
might leverage routines as sources of both continuity
and change (Feldman and Pentland 2003) to develop
dynamic capabilities over time.
CMM ‐> Firm Export
CMM ‐> Dynamic Capability
(Mediating variables: CMM
penetration, Service
diversification, Firm
Indian software firms
Empirical (case study)
Theory Building (Grounded
longitudinal study at
Infosys Technologies
The study uses empirical
data to test three
competing theories
(signaling, efficiency gains,
and institutional theory) for
explaining CMM acquisition,
and also for predicting its
impact on firms’ exports
and cost structure. Signaling
proves to be the most
promising explanation of
CMM acquisition (with
mixed support for the other
two theories).
“[Results show] certification may be more influential
as a signal of vendor quality and, therefore, as a
differentiator in risky markets than as a sign of
legitimacy. In addition, our analysis shows that the
impact on exports is the strongest in the year after
certification but does not appear to be significant in
later years”
Multiple (rational‐choice, fashion, fad)
Operation Cost, Export ‐> CMM ‐>
Operation Cost, Export
Empirical (archival data)
Signaling theory, Institutional theory
Certification in the
Indian Offshore IT
Services Industry
Manufacturing & Service Operations
Gopal and Gao
Vicious and
Virtuous Circles in
the Management
of Knowledge: The
Case of Infosys
Management Science
Garud and Kumaraswamy
Contingent Effects
of Quality
Signaling: Evidence
from the Indian
Offshore IT
Services Industry
IEEE Software
Gao et al.
Are CMM program
Analyzing past
Galin and Avrahami
Indian software firms
The bank outsourced approximately 60 percent of the
project work to a CMMI‐5 (Capability Maturity Model
Integration) certified offshore service provider from
India that was contracted on a fixed‐price basis.
The paper provides a review
of the Software Process
Improvement (SPI) field. It is
shown that the field is
rather dominated by CMM,
and that it is a rather
prescriptive (to tell SPI
professionals what to do)
and non‐reflective field
"Whilst acknowledging the very many successes and
innovations of the SEI with CMM, it has never been
clear that it is widely appropriate or successful
outside its natural habitat (though it is very widely
Fashion (debunking)
Discourse <‐> CMM
The paper investigates the
impact of higher CMM
levels (only levels 1 to 3 are
studied) on three measures
of software quality, cycle
time, and effort in software
product development. It
finds positive overall
outcomes from CMM across
all the measures, i.e., the
reductions in
cycle time and effort due to
improved quality outweigh
the increases from
achieving higher
levels of CMM.
‐ Conventional beliefs hold that processes to improve
software quality can be implemented only at the
expense of longer cycle times and greater
development effort. However, an alternate view is
that quality improvement, faster cycle time, and
effort reduction can be simultaneously attained by
reducing defects and rework.”
‐ It should be noted that the relationships between
process maturity, quality, cycle time, and
development effort are valid only in the ranges
observed in this application domain (custom software
development of an algorithmically intense system in a
COBOL, mainframe development environment).
CMM‐>software quality, cycle time, effort
Empirical (archival data)
Software Process Improvement (as a theory)
IS development (MRP
Mentions that IS
methodologies play a role in
the move toward a more
disciplined development
It is generally believed that higher quality is achieved
through a more disciplined development process,
leading to considerable research and industry interest
in software process maturity and improvement.
CMM‐>software quality
Model development
Literature Review
(Qualitative ‐ Case
Mentions that the
offshoring IT vendor has
CMMI‐5 accreditation.
A Dynamic
Framework for
and Approaches
Management Science
Iivari et al.
Effects of process
maturity on
quality, cycle time,
and effort in
software product
Harter et al.
reflection: the
shape of the
software process
improvement field
International Journal of
I f
i M
Hansen et al.
Control Balancing
in Information
Gregory et al.
IS development
ISD offshoring
SPI‐related publications
(with an admitted
Scandinavian bias)
CMM based assessment of
Software Process Maturity
was part of a Collaborative
Practice Research (CPR)
project. It led to the main
study which is on
understanding and
managing risks in SPI teams
and in IS development.
The IT department’s software process maturity was
assessed initially by the SEPG through a systematic
data collection and analysis approach(Iversen et al.
1998). The assessment report pointed to seven
improvement areas. SPI teams subsequently
addressed several of these areas. The request for
appropriate risk management support emerged in
autumn 1997 as part of these efforts and resulted in
this study.
CMM implementation
Empirical (action research)
Software Process
Improvement (as a theory)
CMM is mentioned as an
example of software
frameworks and
Many best‐practice frameworks and methodologies
such as Application Services Library (ASL), Capability
Maturity Model (CMM), IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL),
and Microsoft Operations Framework, have been
proposed to guide IT operations and services.
Cites: CMM‐>IT
service quality
Climate theory
The paper compares
software development in
the defense sector and a
number of other domains.
Most of the defense
software project
organizations do have CMM
certification. Their products
show higher quality, but
they rank low in terms of
software project
‐ Organizations at or above CMM Level 3 are more
likely to be successful on large systems [larger than
10,000 function points or 1,000,000 source code
statements] than those at Levels 1 or 2.
‐ For small applications below 1,000 function points or
100,000 source code statements, the level achieved
on the CMM by the development team does not lead
to major differences in successes or failure rates.
CMM‐>Quality(+), Productivity(‐)
Empirical (archival data)
Software Process Improvement (as
a theory)
The paper introduces a
multi‐perspective (the
individualist, the
structuralist, and the
interactive process
perspective) approach to SPI
implementation, and
through two cases
illustrates how these
perspectives supplement
each other.
While the first [individualist] focuses on leadership,
champions and change agents, the second
[structuralist] focuses on organization size,
departmental and task differentiation and complexity,
and the third [interactive] perspective views the
contents of the innovation, the social context and
process of the implementation as related in an
interactive process.
CMM implementation
Action research
Multiple process perspectives
(individualist, structuralist,
Understanding the
implementation of
software process
innovations in
Defense software
development in
Kautz and Nielsen
IT service climate:
An extension to IT
service quality
Crosstalk‐The Journal of Defense
S f
E i
Managing Risk in
Software Process
Improvement: An
Action Research
Jia et al
Iversenet al.
Danish software
organizations (Danske
Bank as the main site)
the IT function
Military and civilian
software organizations
CMM implementation in
two software
‐ Acknowledges presence of
fads and fashion in ISD, but
rejects a revolutionary
change in this domain
‐ CMM as a proxy for
Structure in IS development
‐ Information systems development is a rapidly
changing area prone to fads, fashion and frequent
claims about the revolutionizing nature of the latest
developments in IT, business opportunities and
development methods.
‐ Structure is perceived and established differently at
different contextual levels. At the business
environment level, there is increased demand for
more formalization, methodical discipline and
software process improvement according to software
capability maturity models, quality standards, etc.
(Fitzgerald et al., 2002) But there is also a growing
opposition that proposes competing theoretical ideas
and conceptualizations about amethodical
development (Truex et al., 2000), agility (Cockburn,
2002; Highsmith, 2002), complex adaptive systems
development (Highsmith, 2000), etc.
‐ The perceived need for formalization and
methodical structure varies greatly. Web
development is, for example, seen by some as an
innovative, noncritical application area performed by
smaller organizations and teams and therefore with
less need for structure (Baskerville & Pries‐Heje,
2004), while other ‘software markets’ for defense and
medical systems are perceived as high‐risk
applications domains with much formalization
Multiple (Rational‐choice, Fashion)
CMM (structure) ‐> development success
Literature Review
Suggests research on
applying CMM based
models to software reuse
‐ To date, there has been little experience of CMM in
the reuse area. However, if such models can be
validated, practitioners and researchers will have a
valuable tool to determine the overall state of reuse
in individual organizations and in the software
industry as a whole.
The article questions the
usability of CMM, especially
for offshoring projects and
suggest that CIOs should not
trust and rely on CMM
certification for selecting
their partners and
‐ CMM is a "snapshot in time," says the SEI, and it
encompasses only the projects that were assessed.
Furthermore, if the snapshot was taken more than
two years ago, most experts say, it will have yellowed
so badly that the company is probably no longer at
the same maturity level.
‐ Problems like those [stories mentioned in the article]
can damage CIOs’ credibility inside IT and with the
business especially if they used a CMM level to
defend a decision to move development offshore or
use a particular outfit.
Fashion (debunking)
CMM applications CMM applications
IS development
Anecdotes from case studies
Software Quality:
Bursting the CMM
Software Reuse:
Survey and
Kim and Stohr
problems and
practices in
Kautz et al.
IS development
IS development (multi‐
The paper extends CMM
model by proposing a new
frequency scale that
accounts for prior
limitations of CMM
adoption measurement. The
empirical analysis shows a
positive impact of
“consistent” CMM adoption
(measured with the new
model) on reducing product
In a practical setting, due to various reasons such as
schedule pressure and human error, the practices
defined in the CMM may not always be followed in a
project even if the intention was to follow them
carefully. Serious consequences, in terms of project
and product characteristics, may result from such
inconsistent implementation of good practices.
CMM‐> Quality, Productivity
Empirical (survey)
IS development projects
CMM is mentioned as a
maturity model applicable
to assessing organizations
From a practice perspective, there are several
maturity models that have been proposed to help
organizations measure maturity, such as the capability
maturity model (CMM).
Organization under study is
CMM Level 5 certified.
‐ The vendor […] has been assessed at capability
maturity model (CMM) level 5; as a CMM level 5
organization, the company collects numerous
measures of projects, project personnel, and
Rational‐choice and
CMM + project managers’
“practical intelligence” ‐>
project performance
Empirical (survey) Empirical (archival)
Health‐care security
Information Processing
longitudinal data
collected in an in‐depth
field study of a leading
software vendor
organization in India.
Data include project and
personnel level archival
data on 530 projects
completed by 209 PMs.
CMM is mentioned as an
example of software quality
ISO 9000 standards and the capability maturity model
are examples of an overarching approach to increased
software quality.
Methodology Development
and Dissemination is listed
as one of the three core
competencies of an
outsourcing vendor. This led
to firm’s adoption of CMM.
‐ [The IT vendor] invested heavily in proving its
reputation for quality, for example, by investing in
CMM compliance certification on many of its
Empirical (qualitative Empirical
(Qualitative – Case
– case study)
Theory Development Theory development
From the Vendor's
Exploring the
Value Proposition
in Information
Levina and Ross
The role of
modeling in
systems success:
UML to the
Larsen et al
Project Managers'
Intelligence and
Performance in
Software Offshore
Outsourcing: A
Field Study
Langer et al.
Security Strategies
for Data
Protection and
Management Science
Kwon and
An empirical
analysis of
productivity and
quality in software
Krishnan and Kriebel
IS development
IS Outsourcing
CMM is criticized for its
focus on internal aspects of
software production, such
as cost, budget, and quality,
thereby favoring the
identification of symptoms
rather than causes.
‐ Many currently popular approaches to process
improvement in ISD provide formats for gathering
process data and performing such assessments (e.g.
Paulk, Curtis & Chrissis, 1995). Unfortunately, most of
these focus on internal aspects of software
production, such as cost, budget and quality, thereby
favoring the identification of symptoms rather than
CMM applications
Model development
IS development
Applies CMM to the
‐ The aim of the paper, by way of this discussion, is to
introduction of CASE tools in explicate the strengths and limits of software process
maturity as a framework for CASE introduction, and to
identify the most important supplementary issues.
CMM applications
Model development
IS development
‐ CMM is mentioned as an
example of standardizability
‐ Standardizability facilitate
service disaggregation
For example, the capability maturity model (formerly
CMM, now CMMI), developed by the Software
Engineering Institute at Carnegie Melon University, is
a process management standard to achieve greater
consistency in software development (Paulk 1995). A
vendor’s CMMI certification provides assurance about
its capability to work effectively in a spatially
dispersed manner and has greatly facilitated the
growth of outsourcing for software development
(Davenport 2005).
Empirical (primary and
archival data)
Theory development
Uses Roger’s DOI model to
study 200 adoptions of
information system process
innovations. Limited
support is found but a large
of IS process innovation
adoptions followed no
discernible pattern
‐ the DOI model should be extended to incorporate
resource restrictions and time as important factors.
‐ external adoption mechanisms, which are not
accounted for by the DOI theory
Implicit: CMM
DOI factors‐>CMM adoption
300 U.S. service
Empirical (multiple case
Diffusion of Innovation Theory
Why organizations
adopt information
system process
innovations: a
longitudinal study
using Diffusion of
Innovation theory.
Mustonen‐Ollila and Lyytinen
Is the world flat or
spiky? Information
intensity, skills,
and global service
Mithas and Whitaker
The capability
maturity model
and CASE
Mathiassen and Sørensen
Learning failure in
Lyytinen and Robey
IS process innovations
SW‐CMM implementation is Rational persuasion was used to convince the product
the context of the study
managers of the merits of the CMM‐based project
management practices to the overall management of
ITC’s software product line, as well as the importance
of ensuring that project managers develop the
relevant competence via the education initiative
Influence Process
An IS implementation
Team implementing
Supports SEI’s assertion that
developing a customizable
software development
process is an important
objective of software
process maturity which
leads to high‐performing
Empirical (Survey)
Software Process Improvement (as
a theory)
The Effects of
and Reusability on
Perceived Process
and Competitive
Performance of
Software Firms
Nidumolu and Knotts
processes to
overcome IS
barriers: lessons
from a longitudinal
case study of SPI
Ngwenyama and Nielsen
100 software firms
The CMM additionally describes several
characteristics that establish the level of software
process maturity (Paulk et al. 1993). It is difficult in
practice to explicitly consider a long list of process‐
oriented characteristics to clearly describe the extent
to which a software development approach is
process‐oriented. In order to study the performance
impacts of process oriented approaches, this study
therefore focuses instead on some important
objectives of process orientation that link the
characteristics with perceived process and
competitive performance.
Performance is enhanced by
establishing uniform
performance criteria across
projects (standardization of
performance criteria) while
giving each project team the
authority to make decisions
with respect to methods
{decentralization of
‐ IS research also suggests that software development
teams are more effective if team members have
greater control over how they undertake their work,
especially if their task requires high levels of technical
expertise[27, 62]. Anecdotal evidence suggests that
one reason for Microsoft's effectiveness in developing
software is the significant discretion that functional
experts such as program managers, developers, and
testers have over development methods in projects
‐ The work of Orlikowski148] is an exception that
takes a critical view of the deployment of universal
standards. She quotes a manager in a software
development firm that had instituted a very
standardized development approach as joking that
"they send you halfway around the world and
because of the common way of doing things and the
common training and knowledge, your only
requirement is to be shown the coffee machine and
the toilet, and you're productive" Clearly, this
approach overlooks the presence of contextual
differences and affects outcomes by assuming a one
size fits all approach.
‐ Software development process performance is
positively related to competitive performance
CMM (predictable, flexible processes)‐>competitive performance
Empirical (survey)
Control literature
56 software firms
CMM is mentioned as an
example of engineering
principles applied to system
systems development have been dominated by the
view that the application of engineering principles will
lead to a more manageable, predictable, and
disciplined systems development process with
consistent performance outcomes.
Empirical (survey)
Model development
60 software
CMM is mentioned as an
example of software
development methods
Today we find refined methods with different
strengths (for example, the process‐centered Unified
Software Process, Jacobson et al. 1999, and the more
comprehensive and more formal Capability‐Maturity‐
Model, CMMI, Paulk et al. 1995 and Ahern et al.2001,
which covers virtually all organizational aspects of IT
CMM applications
(as incremental and
Toward an
perspective on the
design and use of
Pipek and Wulf
Managing the
of Knowledge
Integration and
Formalization for
Patnayakuni et al.
The Matrix of
Combining Process
and Structure
Approaches to
Nidumolu and Subramani
Implementation of
infrastructure in a
German state
Mixed results in terms of
employees’ attitudes and
perceptions. Examples of
counter‐intuitive results
were lower professional
efficacy and lower job
satisfaction in organizations
at CMM Level
3, in comparison with
organizations at CMM Level
‐ Although anecdotal reports and the scant empirical
studies to date suggest job attitudes and perceptions
are more positive for employees in organizations at
higher levels of software process maturity, we found
evidence of a more complex picture.
‐ Our findings challenge prevalent beliefs and
therefore position the IS community for needed
research regarding realities of software process
innovation for the IS professional.
CMM‐>IS employees’
professional efficacy, job
satisfaction, role ambiguity
Empirical (survey)
Control Theory
736 IS
professionals in 10
organizations at varying
levels of the CMM
The article makes an
analogy between United
State’s loss of market share
in hardware manufacturing,
and a possible similar
scenario in software
development. ‐ Promotes
adoption of CMM within the
In 1987, he unveiled a system for assessing and
improving software quality. Called the capability
maturity model (CMM), it has proved its value time
and again. For example, in 1990 the cost of quality at
Raytheon Electronics Systems was almost 60% of total
software‐production costs. It fell to 15% in 1996,
thanks to CMM, and has since dipped below 10%.
CMM‐>Software Quality
US software firms
CMM is mentioned in the
literature review as an
enabler of offshoring. It is
also used in describing
sample characteristics.
‐ These offshoring decisions have been triggered not
only by lower labor costs but also by Six Sigma quality
control systems and process capabilities, such as
Level‐5 Capability Maturity Model (CMM)
certifications, of leading offshore vendors (Kaiser and
Hawk 2004).
‐ We empirically test our hypotheses using a sample
of 155 strategic IS projects that were offshore by U.S.
firms to a major Indian vendor with Level‐5 CMMi
CMM ‐> Offshoring decisions
Cites extant literature
agency theory
a longitudinal field study
155 offshore IS projects
managed by 22 project
Sample Characteristic
given that all the projects
Included in our sample come from a single vendor
that remained certified as capability maturity model
(CMM) level 5 […] it is reasonable to assume that the
level of risk management is controlled for in our
decision theory
judgments of
performance in IT
and Gopal
systems project
success: the role
of social
and cultural
Business Week
Rai al.
Will Bugs Eat Up
the US Lead in
IS Employee
Attitudes and
Perceptions at
Varying Levels of
Software Process
Ply et al.
outsourced software
development projects
The paper proposes a
learning mediated the effect
of the CMM processes on
offshore software
development productivity
and quality.
The authors describe how
the key process areas of
CMM could be potentially
utilized as a platform to
launch beneficial learning
routines in an offshore
software development
‐ Although software process improvement initiatives
based on normative process maturity models, such as
the CMM, have been widely deployed by offshore
software firms, the efficacy of such initiatives to
counter the challenges of work dispersion in offshore
software development remains an open empirical
‐ Results indicate that investments in structured
processes mitigate the negative effects of work
dispersion in offshore software development. We also
find that the effect of software process improvement
initiatives is mediated through investments in
process‐based learning activities.
CMM Investment‐>Learning Investment‐
>Offshore Software Project Performance
Empirical (archival data)
Organizational Learning
42 offshore software
projects of
a large firm that
operates at the CMM
level‐5 process maturity.
A quality‐oriented
organizational system for
software development is
developed. The proposed
system addresses some of
the shortcomings of CMM,
identified in the paper.
‐ Anecdotal evidence suggests that organizations
implementing CMM‐based software process
improvement have realized gains in development
cycle time and programmer productivity. Reports also
suggest that organizations face difficulties in adhering
to the sequence, as recommended by CMM, in which
changes to the development process needs to be
implemented (Card 1991: Pfleeger 1996;Saiedian and
Kuzara 1995)
‐ The lack of theory informing the conceptualization of
the CMM stages raises questions about the rationale
for the suggested sequencing to develop process
capabilities. Limited attention has been devoted to
define process management, identify and define its
constitutive dimensions, and develop reliable and
valid measurement instruments for each of these
‐ IS developers could perceive process based
approaches as deskilling their job and
increasing managerial control over systems
development tasks.
Rational‐choice (debunking)
Alternative to CMM
Empirical (survey)
TQM as a theory
105 federal and state
government agencies
Key constructs and a
measurement model are
developed for quality
management in IS
development. Similar to
Ravichandranand Rai
(2000), a critical assessment
of CMM is performed.
‐ we believe that the difficulties encountered by
organizations in implementing CMM‐based process
improvements can be partly attributed to the limited
attention paid in the CMM model to the
organizational drivers of quality including the
management infrastructure of IS units and IS
management leadership.
Alternative to CMM
Empirical (survey)
TQM as a theory
Total Quality
Management in
Development: Key
Constructs and
Ravichandranand Rai
Management in
Development: An
Ravichandranand Rai
Work Dispersion,
Learning, and
Offshore Software
Ramasubbu et al.
105 federal and state
government agencies
CMM is mentioned as a
Academic evidence on commonly used reputation
mechanism for rating
metrics to rate vendors such as capability maturity
vendor (with mixed findings) models and ISO certification is also mixed (Banerjee
and Duflo 2000, Gopal and Gao 2009). Evaluating
trading partners through a network perspective may
provide an alternate metric for vendor evaluation.
CMM is not
sufficient for vendor
Empirical (archival)
CMM is mentioned as a
symbol of quality
Four years prior to the start of our fieldwork, Indshore
was certified to be at level five of the Capability
Maturity Model (CMM) for software development, an
achievement carrying much weight within the global
IT offshoring environment and commonly interpreted
as a ‘top‐quality’ benchmark for vendor organizations.
‐ “I find it irritating that they don’t even seem to
recognize us as a legitimate entity. We are CMM
Level‐5 for god’s sake.”
CMM + other symbols
(knowledge management
project system) ‐> quality
Social Capital Theory postcolonial theory
22,039 outsourcing
contracts implemented
between 1989 and 2008
The paper uses five
theoretical models ‐
Technology Acceptance
Model (TAM), TAM2,
Perceived Characteristics of
Innovating (PCI), Theory of
Planned Behavior (TPB), and
the Model of Personal
Computer Utilization
(MPCU)‐ to explain
individual‐level adoption
and acceptance of software
methodologies. CMM is
mentioned as an under‐
utilized framework in
software engineering.
‐ Because the CMM assessment process is generally
voluntary and the participants are self‐selected, it is
projected that the true industry percentage of Level‐1
organizations is closer to 75 percent.
‐ More than 75 percent of organizations assessed at
Level‐1 never return to have a reassessment,
suggesting the initial attempt to adopt/develop a
methodology may have been abandoned.
Empirical (survey)
Several IT adoption theories
CMM is characterized as a
SW‐CMM model they studied defines only a generic
method that needs tailoring set of practices that reflect “best” organizational
practices of organizations that develop large software
systems for government agencies. Yet, in order to
appropriate these practices, organizations must
significantly tailor them prior to their application
(Ginsberg and Quinn, 1995).
Implicit: Method adoption‐>CMM (higher maturity) N/A
128 developers from a
Fortune 100 company
Conceptual (with
Model development
Engineering by
Method Rationale
IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Rossi et al.
acceptance of
methodologies: A
comparison of five
theoretical models
Riemenschneider et al.
offshoring in India:
a postcolonial
Ravishankar et al.
Social Capital and
Contract Duration
in Buyer‐Supplier
Networks for
Ravindran et al.
IS development
Indian vendor
CMM concepts inspired
refining the research model
CMM inspirations
Empirical (multiple case studies)
Product–Process Matrix
Internet application
development in nine
varied firms including
both start‐ups and
“brick and mortar”
CMM is only mentioned as a Sample: All the chosen
contextual factor in
vendors had capability maturity model (CMM) level 5
selecting the sample.
Control Theory
The paper challenges linear
representation of time in
process models like CMM
‐ Intrinsic to ‘line’ [in the straight‐line perspective of
time] is sequence and linearity; notions evident in
threshold process models such as the Capability
Maturity Model and stage‐wise structured
development methodologies
‐ If all development activities are predefined, as
advocated in various process models, this may leave
little room for opportunity and the creative fruits that
flow from opportunity, such as enhanced features,
aesthetics and learning.
Alternative to CMM
Empirical (survey) Empirical (case study)
160 offshore ISD
projects executed by
Indian vendors
Structuration Theory
A computer games
studio in Singapore
CMM was seen as important Beta’s business model was based on rigorous
for winning client trust and software development processes. To achieve
securing orders
technical excellence, it invested a great deal of
resources and manpower in Capability Maturity
Model Integrated certification, which was seen as
important for winning client trust and securing orders.
CMM ‐> client trust,
securing orders
Empirical (multiple case
Resource Dependence
How do IT
vendors respond
to shocks in client
demand? A
Su et al
A temporal
perspective of the
computer game
Stacey and Nandhakumar
Performance in
Offshore Systems
Development: Role
of Control
Srivastava and
Aligning Software
Processes with
Slaughter et al
‐ Software development can test and
challenge the general theories derived from the
experience of making physical products. Indeed, there
is a long tradition of
considering software development from the
perspective of
manufacturing (e.g., TQM and CMM, software
component‐based development) […] from
to examine and understand software development
‐ We further refined the development process
category using software development reference
models, such as the CMM™ to help identify people‐
related, practices‐related, and architecture‐related
five pairs of
relationships between
Chinese vendors and
their Japanese clients
CMM (different levels)‐>IS
implementation strategy, IS project
outcomes (software quality, project
Empirical (case study)
Software Process Improvement (as a
‐ In prior IT outsourcing arrangements, methodologies
such as structured requirement definition and
frameworks such as the capability maturity model
(CMM) were used to describe complex processes and
articulate business requirements, thus achieving a
demarcation of task and knowledge boundaries. That
is, the client has the knowledge about the
organization while the provider understands the
technological aspects of the system, and each knows
where expertise resides in the other organization.
CMM‐> demarcation of task
and knowledge boundaries
Empirical (survey)
154 respondents from 23
software providers
SaaS providers
‐ Process maturity is one of
the central constructs.
‐ Propositions predict
enhancing process maturity
leads to higher outsourcing
Higher process maturity is positively associated with
an organization’s outsourcing flexibility in terms of
robustness, with an organization’s outsourcing
flexibility in terms of modifiability, and an
organization’s outsourcing flexibility in terms of ease
of exit.
CMM ‐>
Flexibility (in
terms of
df bl
CMM related measures are Maturity ensures that the process is documented,
used as a proxy for business managed, measured, controlled, and continually
process modularity
improved (CMMI 2002).
‐ Many of the offshore service providers in India are
now at Level 4 or 5 in the Capability Maturity Model
(CMM), which reflects processes optimized for cost
and quality (Prahalad and Krishnan 2004).
‐ Process modularity (MOD). The measures of this
construct are grounded in the modular systems
theory (Baldwin and Clark 1997, Malhotra et al. 2005,
Sanchez and Mahoney 1996, Schilling 2000, Simon
1962) and the literatures on product/process life cycle
and maturity (Anderson and Zeithaml 1984, Benner
2002, CMMI 2002, Harter et al. 2000).
CMM (modularity) ‐> choice of sourcing
Empirical (survey)
Modular Systems Theory, Transaction
‐ Mentioned as relevant
factor in literature review
and qualitative items
‐ Investment in process
standardization such as the
CMM, ISO is among the
contract choices in the
provision of SaaS
The choice of
mechanisms for
business processes
212 IEEE Computer
Society members with
an expressed interest in
software engineering
Our research study findings are that CMM levels do
have different impacts on IS implementation
strategies, software quality, and software project
performance. Higher CMM levels are associated with
differing IS implementation strategies and improved
software quality and project performance. We also
conclude that certain IS implementation strategies
have a significant impact on software quality and
project performance.
Flexibility in
The paper empirically
examines the impact of
organization’s CMM level on
the selection of certain IS
implementation strategies
and how CMM and the IS
implementation strategies
impact software quality and
project performance.
Overall, the results illustrate
positive impacts of CMM on
(subjective measures of) IS
project performance.
Tanriverdi et al.
Journal of Systems and Software
Multitask agency,
architecture, and
disaggregation in
Tan and Sia
Subramanian et al
Software quality
and IS project
from software
process maturity
and IS
Susarla et al.
medium and large U.S.
CMM is used as a control
We controlled for vendor capability maturity level
(CMM level), which is a proxy for vendor project
management capability
management capability
Empirical (survey and
archival data)
Control theory
120 outsourced systems
development projects
CMM mentioned as a
method used by
US firms instead of engaging
in sophisticated
decomposition of projects
to be outsourced
[US Firms] write more comprehensive formal
contracts for outsourced projects, and enforce
sophisticated process controls and formal capability
maturity model (CMM) process guidelines in
outsourced development work. Therefore,
requirements specificability might not influence their
outsourcing decisions as it did for Japanese firms.
US firms enforce CMM
Empirical (conjoint analysis)
agency theory,
knowledge‐based theory,
transaction cost economics
1,008 project‐level
decisions collected from
Japanese and 55 U.S.
The paper reports on the
perceived performance
outcomes of CMM adoption
among software groups in a
multinational organization.
Perceived positive
outcomes in CMM level 3
groups include increase
predictability, reduce
defects, increase
productivity, and reduce
lead time.
[S]tatistical analysis shows that moving across the
CMM‐levels is, seen from the point of view of
improvement drivers, not a continuous process.
Somehow CMM‐level three seems to be different and
seems to require more attention. This might be
explained by the complexity inherent to the higher
CMM‐levels, as opposed to e.g. the more basic
project management skills required to obtain level
CMM‐> Predictability(+), defects(‐),
productivity(+), lead time(‐),
cooperation(+), staff motivation(‐),
Empirical (survey)
Software Process Improvement (as
a theory)
The consulting company
involved used CMM
The ICT was implemented by a CMM (Capability
Maturity Model) level‐5 certified information
technology (IT) consulting firm in India. The consulting
firm followed a standard formal implementation
strategy and methodology following the guidelines of
CMM level‐5.
Empirical (case study)
Theory development
Implementation of
an Information
Technology in a
Country: A
Longitudinal Study
in a Bank in India
Software Quality Journal
Venkatesh et al.
Targets, drivers
and metrics in
software process
Results of a survey
in a multinational
Trienekens et al.
A Comparison of
Transaction Cost,
and Knowledge‐
Based Predictors
of IT
Decisions: A U.S.–
Field Study
Tiwana and Bush
Explaining the
and substitutive
roles of formal and
informal controls
49 software group
managers of a
organization (Philips)
In‐depth interviews of
approximately 40
members of top
management, 160 line
employees, and 200
CMM mentioned as an
example of process goals
‐ UTILCO embarked on a process improvement
with the objective of improving its processes on the
Software Engineering Institute’s
Capability Maturity Model for Software (SW‐CMM)
‐ The two organizations studied were also concerned
about process goals due to their interest in
maintaining and improving process maturity.
CMM implementation
Empirical (two case studies)
Theory development
(Grounded theory)
The paper develops a
unified model of ISO
9001:2000 and CMMI,
which can be used to help
ISO‐certified organizations
implement CMMI.
‐ If an ISO‐certified organization wishes to improve its
processes continuously, implementing CMMI would
be a good choice, as it provides more detailed
practices for process improvement than the ISO
CMM ‐> Process
Software Process
Improvement (as a
The article provides an
overview of widespread
adoption of CMM not only
among Indian firms but also
in other countries such as
China, Chile, Egypt, and
‐ "If you don't have [the quality certification], you're
not even considered," says Dion Wiggins, a Hong
Kong‐based analyst at the Stamford, Conn.,
consultancy Gartner Inc. "It's a must‐have."
‐ Now the company is profitable and looking to
expand. When Bamboo began, it found it could bill its
customers at only $14 an hour. After accreditation, its
rate shot up to $20 an hour. In wooing new clients,
Mr. Kim says, CMM is "the first thing we mention and
the last thing we mention."
‐ Critics of CMM complain that companies boast of
being CMM‐rated when perhaps only one or two
divisions have earned the distinction.
Multiple (Fashion, Fad)
Quality lures
A unified model
for the
implementation of
both ISO
9001:2000 and
Software Process
Tailoring: An
The Journal of Systems
dS f
Yoo et al.
Xu and Ramesh
The Wall Street Journal
an e‐business systems
development division in
a public organization
and a large IS
organization in a utility
Review of existing
frameworks (ISO
and CMMI)
Anecdotes from
international software