The staged representation is concerned with selecting multiple process areas to improve within a maturity level; whether individual processes are performed or incomplete is not the primary focus. Therefore, the name “Initial” is given to the staged representation starting point.


To support those who use the staged representation, all CMMI models reflect maturity levels in their design and content. A maturity level consists of related specific and generic practices for a predefined set of process areas that improve the organization’s overall performance.

The maturity level of an organization provides a way to characterize its performance. Experience has shown that organizations do their best when they focus their process improvement efforts on a manageable number of process areas at a time and that those areas require increasing sophistication as the organization improves.

A maturity level is a defined evolutionary plateau for organizational process improvement. Each maturity level matures an important subset of the organization’s processes, preparing it to move to the next maturity level. The maturity levels are measured by the achievement of the specific and generic goals associated with each predefined set of process areas.

The five maturity levels, each a layer in the foundation for ongoing process improvement, are designated by the numbers 1 through 5:

  1. Initial
  2. Managed
  3. Defined
  4. Quantitatively Managed
  5. Optimizing

Remember that maturity levels 2 and 3 use the same terms as capability levels 2 and 3. This consistency of terminology was intentional because the concepts of maturity levels and capability levels are complementary. Maturity levels are used to characterize organizational improvement relative to a set of process areas, and capability levels characterize organizational improvement relative to an individual process area.


Maturity Level 1 Initial
At maturity level 1, processes are usually ad hoc and chaotic.
Maturity Level 2 Managed (CMMI-ACQ)
At maturity level 2, projects establish the foundation for an organization to become an effective acquirer of needed cap…
Maturity Level 3 Defined (CMMI-ACQ)
At maturity level 3, acquirers use defined processes for managing projects and suppliers.
Maturity Level 4 Quantitatively Managed (CMMI-ACQ)
At maturity level 4, acquirers establish quantitative objectives for quality and process performance and use them as cri…
Maturity Level 5 Optimizing (CMMI-ACQ)
At maturity level 5, an organization continually improves its processes based on a quantitative understanding of its bus…