How Mexico is Doing It



Watts S. Humphrey

This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Process Improvement

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: August 1, 2008

Editor’s Note: Since June 1998, Watts Humphrey has taken readers of news@sei and its predecessor SEI Interactive on a process-improvement journey, step by step, in his column Watts New. The column has explored the problem of setting impossible dates for project completion (“Your Date or Mine?”), planning as a team using TSP (“Making Team Plans”), the importance of removing software defects (“Bugs or Defects?”), applying discipline to software development (“Doing Disciplined Work”), approaching managers about a process improvement effort (“Getting Management Support for Process Improvement”), and making a persuasive case for implementing it (“Making the Strategic Case for Process Improvement”). And now, after nearly 11 years, Watts is taking a well deserved retirement from writing the quarterly column. But you can still enjoy vintage Watts New columns. 

—Richard Lynch


Watts New [2008 | 8]

How Mexico is Doing It

Watts S. Humphrey & Anita Carleton


In five years, Ivette Garcia, the director of Mexico’s digital economy hopes Watts Humphrey will be asked, “How did Mexico do it?”  In her keynote address at the Third Annual Team Software Process (TSP) Symposium held in Phoenix, Arizona, Garcia announced that she hoped the Mexican software industry would soon compete for a larger share of the U.S. software outsourcing market. How would Mexico accomplish this?  “You need to differentiate yourself to compete. Mexico plans to differentiate itself through its largest competitive advantage—the TSP,” says Garcia [Garcia 08].


Although the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the IT services outsourcing global market reached $310 billion last year, only about 8% of that is done from offshore destinations, with India being the undisputed leader. McKinsey estimates that by 2010, the global IT outsourcing market will reach $1.1 trillion. The increase in the share of this market served from offshore destinations could reach 15%. That means that the offshore outsourcing market could reach $165 billion in the next four years.

Although Mexico is the United States’ second largest trade partner, the Mexican software industry does not yet compete effectively for a share of the U.S. software outsourcing market. For example, in 2007 India sold $3 billion of software services to the United States compared to $900 million for Mexico. However, as the market continues to grow, no single nation will be able to satisfy the market need. This provides an opportunity to increase Mexico’s participation in this growing market. The Mexican strategy to accomplish this is for Mexican organizations to improve quality, productivity, and delivery schedules.

Mexican Government Launches National Initiative

The Mexican government, through an initiative called PROSOFT, has launched an aggressive program to build its national reputation. This initiative integrates government, industry, and academia to develop competitive human capital, strengthen local industry, enhance process capabilities, improve quality assurance, and promote strategic alliances with foreign companies. A key to this program is the introduction of TSP. TSP provides teams and their management with precise operational guidance on how to implement CMMI high-maturity practices. The Personal Software Process (PSP) provides the development team members with the skills and practices needed to be productive and effective TSP team members [Humphrey 02, Humphrey 05].

Due to the global competition in information technology, Mexico has to differentiate its supply, offering quality in the development of IT products and services in less time and with higher added value. “We know that in order to develop consistent quality software, we need to have high maturity processes. The most popular process maturity model internationally is CMMI. But this model is complex to implement—especially in small enterprises,” says Garcia.

 The strategy to increase the software industry’s maturity in Mexico has to consider not only the enterprises’ processes, but also the improvement of the basic element that supports the industry: the people. Building high performance knowledge workers is the focus of PSP and building high-performance working teams is the focus of TSP.

As a whole, the software industry needs to improve cost and schedule management, cycle-time, and product quality. Improving performance in these areas and developing the workforce capability are important PROSOFT goals. Previous reports [Davis 03] document the success of TSP in producing high quality products on time and within budget. TSP operationally implements high performing development processes. These processes are managed by trained individuals and teams.

PROSOFT has been able to make a number of significant advancements. Mexico now has 120 software development centers with certifications in several quality process models (e.g., CMM, CMMI, ISO, MoPoSoft). In 2002, only four centers had certification. Additionally, there are now 23 academic clusters and 17 industry integrators in the IT sector and 121 universities focusing on improving professional IT education.

Some Early Results

Based on some initial results from training and implementation data for projects and individuals that have adopted TSP in Phase I of the Mexican TSP initiative, the results show that TSP teams are delivering high quality (low defect) software on schedule, while improving productivity. These data can be used for benchmarking, lessons learned, and other guidance to those currently using the TSP or considering participation in the future [Deploying TSP 09].

Some early results from pilot projects show that the pilot TSP teams delivered their products on average on or within two weeks of the committed date. This compares favorably with industry data that show over half of all software projects were more than 100% late or were cancelled. Key to schedule success was overall high product quality—several TSP projects had no defects in system or acceptance test.

The TSP is implemented by a highly motivated development staff and management. Given the opportunity to speak for themselves, developers say they prefer the work environment of a TSP team. Management likes depth of the data and the reliability of status reports. Low worker attrition, a relative strength of Mexico, is not only maintained, but enhanced. One company survey of employees found the TSP pilot team to have the highest job satisfaction in the plant.

During the initial TSP roll out phases, a number of challenges surfaced:

  • the up-front cost in both time and money
  • management acceptance and support of self-directed teams
  • appropriate use of the detailed data

While these problems are not unique to Mexico, they do need to be addressed to roll out this program on an organizational and national scale. A particularly important issue for Mexico is the number of small and medium sized enterprises that cannot afford the initial training. In the outsourcing market, small short-term projects must be staffed and launched on short notice. New PSP training courses have been developed by the SEI to reduce the time and cost required to launch teams.

Next Steps

TSP is beginning to show some promising results and benefits for Mexican companies. Rolling out on a national level, however, is not only challenging, but unprecedented. In addition to the practical problems of the rollout, national success depends on visibility and recognition of the accomplishments. Next steps include:

  • training PSP developers in the universities
  • training Mexican university professors to deliver PSP and TSP classes
  • developing TSP as a cost effective way to implement CMMI
  • certifying and recognizing companies that effectively use TSP

“I want the world to recognize the benefits of working with Mexico. If you are going to work with someone, you need to trust them. That is why we need TSP/PSP. So people will have trust in the quality of our products and services,” stated Garcia. Mexico has launched an unprecedented and far reaching program to change an entire industry and has committed significant national, state, academic, and industrial resources to doing this on an aggressive schedule. If Mexico is successful, other countries are likely to follow its lead. We should all stay tuned to Mexico’s progress as it pursues this impressive and aggressive national strategy.


[Davis 03]
Davis, Noopur and Mullaney, Julia. “The Team Software Process (TSP) in Practice:  A Summary of Recent Results,” CMU/SEI-2003-TR-014.

[Garcia 08]
Garcia, Ivette. “Prosoft 2.0  A National Program to Develop The IT Industry.”  Keynote Address at the Third Annual Team Software Process (TSP) Symposium held in Phoenix, Arizona, September 2008.

[Humphrey 02]
Humphrey, Watts S. Winning with Software: An Executive Strategy, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 2002.

[Humphrey 05]
Humphrey, Watts S. PSP: A Self-Improvement Process for Software Engineers, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 2005.

[Deploying TSP 09]
Deploying TSP on a National Scale:  An Experience Report from Pilot Projects in Mexico


About the Authors

Watts S. Humphrey founded the Software Process Program at the SEI. He is a fellow of the institute and is a research scientist on its staff. From 1959 to 1986, he was associated with IBM Corporation, where he was director of programming quality and process. His publications include many technical papers and 11 books. His most recent books are Winning with Software:  An Executive Strategy (2002), PSP: A Self-Improvement Process for Software Engineers (2005), TSP, Leading a Development Team (2006), and TSP: Coaching Development Teams (2006). He holds five U.S. patents. He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a past member of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners. He holds a BS in physics from the University of Chicago, an MS in physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In a White House ceremony in 2005, President George W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Technology.

Anita Carleton has worked at the Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University for over 20 years on software process improvement, process measurement, and the Team Software Process. She is the author of Measuring the Software Process: Statistical Process Control for Software Process Improvement, published by Addison Wesley in June 1999. She has a degree in Applied Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of IEEE Computer Society and National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

The views expressed in this article are the author's only and do not represent directly or imply any official position or view of the Software Engineering Institute or Carnegie Mellon University. This article is intended to stimulate further discussion about this topic.

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