search menu icon-carat-right cmu-wordmark

Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute’s Watts Humphrey Awarded Prestigious National Medal of Technology

Press Release

Founder of SEI Software Process Program honored for contributions to software engineering community

Pittsburgh, PA, Feb. 15, 2005 – Watts S. Humphrey, a fellow of the Carnegie Mellon® Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has been awarded  the 2003 National Medal of Technology, the highest honor awarded by the President of the United States to America’s leading innovators. A formal ceremony will take place March 14, 2005 at the White House.

“We have found by applying to software the principles that made the industrial revolution possible, software engineering teams can achieve improvements in quality, predictability, and productivity that exceed our wildest dreams,” Humphrey said. “We call this intellectualization; and if industrialization was the great achievement of the 20th century, intellectualization is the great challenge of the 21st century.

The medal is given to individuals, teams, and/or companies for  their outstanding contributions to the nation’s economic, environmental,  and social well-being through the development and commercialization of technology  products, processes, and concepts; technological innovation; and development  of the nation’s technological expertise.

Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon lauded Humphrey's contributions  to the software engineering field. “Watts' leadership to the important discipline of software engineering has made a significant impact on the U.S. government, industry, and academia,” Cohon said. “We are proud of Watts and his accomplishments.”

Paul D. Nielsen, SEI director, attributes much of the SEI’s success and its international reputation to Humphrey. “Watts has provided  leadership, inspiration, and dedication to software engineers and software development organizations worldwide,” Nielsen said. “He has been the visionary for the quality software movement and for improving the processes used to develop software. The National Medal of Technology recognizes the broad impact Watts  has had on the software industry. We applaud Watts on his award.”

Humphrey came to the SEI in 1987 after 27 years with IBM Corporation (see bio). Since joining the SEI, Humphrey developed  the basis for the Capability Maturity Model for Software (SW-CMM), which became  the generally accepted standard for assessing and improving software processes worldwide. Thousands of organizations throughout the world have used the SW-CMM, and it has been adapted for use in fields other than software engineering, with more than 120 different models in existence. The SW-CMM led to the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Product Suite, which was released in 2002.  

In 1995, Humphrey expanded his original vision of software engineering discipline to include methods that improve the work-life of individual software engineers and their teams. He initiated and led the development and introduction of two new methods, the Personal Software Process (PSP) and Team Software Process (TSP), which have produced impressive results in the quest toward defect-free  software.

Humphrey's strategic and transformational view of technology is summarized in his book, Winning with Software (Addison-Wesley, 2002). In this book and his writings, Humphrey asserts that the software industry has  not learned the fundamental quality lesson already learned by other industries. “It takes longer and costs more money to produce poor quality products  and try to fix them, than it does to do quality work in the first place. The SEI strategy is to show organizations how to economically produce and deliver much higher quality software. We must continue to show software developers how to produce high-quality, secure software.”

About the National Medal of Technology  Established in 1980 by an Act of Congress, the National Medal of Technology  (NMT) is the nation’s highest honor awarded by the President for technological  innovation. The awards process generally takes over a year, beginning with the  Call for Nominations and a submission deadline several months away. The NMT  Evaluation Committee of distinguished, independent experts evaluates the merits  of all candidates nominated through an open, competitive solicitation process.  Committee recommendations are submitted to the Secretary of Commerce, who makes  recommendations to the President for final selection. The National Medal of  Technology laureates are announced by the White House and the Department of  Commerce once the medalists are notified. The Technology Administration administers the National Medal of Technology program.

About the SEI The Software Engineering Institute is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and operated by Carnegie Mellon University. The SEI helps organizations make measured improvements in their software engineering capabilities by providing technical leadership  to advance the practice of software engineering. More information about the SEI can be found at

About Carnegie Mellon Carnegie Mellon is an internationally recognized institution with a distinctive mix of world-class educational and research programs in computer science, robotics, engineering, the sciences, business, public policy, fine arts, and humanities. Carnegie Mellon leverages its strengths to benefit society in the areas of biotechnology, information and computer security technology, environmental science and practices, the fine arts, and humanities. The university has one of the most technologically sophisticated campuses in the world. For more information, visit Carnegie Mellon  at