Capability Maturity

State of the Practice

Capability Maturity Frameworks are concepts with roots from the software development industry and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) is widely used for various applications in the Information Technology world.

Capability Maturity brings together an approach to review common barriers to adoption and success of Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO). The frameworks allow for a rigorous common understanding and improvement of institutional issues that an agency faces on a continual and consistent basis.

By understanding and using a capability maturity framework, agencies can:

  • Develop consensus around needed agency improvements
  • Identify their immediate priorities for improvements
  • Identify concrete actions to continuously improve capabilities to plan, design, implement TSMO

Consistent with the AASHTO Guidance, capability for agencies are described in the same six dimensions.

  1. Business processes including formal scoping, planning, programming and budgeting
  2. Systems and technology including use of systems engineering, systems architecture standards, interoperability, and standardization
  3. Performance measurement including measures definition, data acquisition, and data utilization
  4. Culture including technical understanding, leadership, outreach, and program legal authority
  5. Organization and workforce including programmatic status, organizational structure, staff development, and recruitment and retention
  6. Collaboration including relationships with public safety agencies, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and the private sector

For each of the dimensions, the same four levels of capability are used in the framework as well:

  • Level 1 – Activities and relationships largely ad hoc, informal and champion-driven, substantially outside the mainstream of other DOT activities
  • Level 2 – Basic strategy applications understood; key processes support requirements identified and key technology and core capacities under development, but limited internal accountability and uneven alignment with external partners
  • Level 3 – Standardized strategy applications implemented in priority contexts and managed for performance; technical and business processes developed, documented, and integrated into DOT; partnerships aligned
  • Level 4 – Full, sustainable core DOT program priority, established on the basis of continuous improvement with top level management status and formal partnerships

By following a structured process, agencies can self-identify their current and desired levels of capability for each dimension.

Improving institutional capability and business process is necessary to improve implementation of TSMO strategies. The Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2) recognized this need and created the institutional architectures for TSMO as part of the L06 project. Building on SHRP2 results, American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has continued development of this concept and a capability maturity concept was published as part of the TSMO guidance. SHRP2 Implementation activities have successfully used the overall framework to work with State DOTs to develop action plans to improve their TSMO capabilities.

To continue the emphasis on capability maturities and to provide program level guidance, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed additional TSM&O improvement actions-focused capability maturity frameworks including for Traffic Signal Management. More details can be found on the FHWA Operations web site: