Evolving the Maturity Level of Your Project Management Office

This step is often overlooked due to the pressures of addressing immediate issues and pain points which results in a baseline that is not established to measure improvements at regular intervals. This article, the third of a six-part series, discusses tips and techniques for setting up effective, iterative benchmarking and project rollout.

Benchmarking Your Maturity

A project management office (PMO) consists of project and portfolio management (PPM) processes undertaken in the delivery of projects, programs and portfolios, and support processes carried out by individual management offices. For example, the process definitions and framework, along with PMO support, enable:

  • Project managers to deliver projects within scope, time and budget.
  • Program managers to manage groups of projects and services, provide an optimal mix in the use of resources, and achieve economy of scale.
  • Portfolio managers to align portfolios of projects and services with business goals and also, manage the organization’s exposure to risk.

    When measuring and improving the PMO, both the PPM delivery and individual office support processes and environment must be addressed. Benchmarking brings additional value towards implementing and internally advocating for improved project, program and portfolio delivery. A good way to frame the idea of improving delivery is to think of it in terms of “maturity”.

    An industry standard PPM/PMO framework, as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI), has three levels of work—project, program and portfolio. These are broken down into 12 process groups, such as project initiation and project planning. The process groups consist of 92 processes, which relate to the management of nine knowledge areas, including scope, cost, time and resources. Individual project, program and portfolio management processes and groups of processes can be measured in terms of maturity.

    The levels of maturity range from “active” through “business-driven” and generally fall into these groups:

  • Level 0: Chaotic – No evidence of documented processes or best practices.
  • Level 1: Active – Documented processes carried out, but not formalized (ad hoc, with unpredictable results, and dependent on heroics).
  • Level 2: Efficient – Consistent discipline started (repeatable processes supported by materials and templates, but only in use in “pockets”).
  • Level 3: Responsive – Ubiquitous and measured (processes are applied consistently in the majority of situations and managed proactively).
  • Level 4: Business-Driven – Provides data and information to drive business decisions (used as the standard throughout the organization, provides metrics for continuous improvement).

    Many companies today are at Level 2, where some processes are formalized but their use is being rolled out only across pockets within the organization. However, it is typical for organizations involved in the delivery of business-critical or safety systems to be striving to reach Level 4 on the maturity scale. This type of organization can be found in the defense or aircraft manufacturing industry, for example, where safety is critical.

    Organizations at Levels 3 and 4 typically have defined processes, supporting standards, templates and software for the majority of the project, program and portfolio management processes. This environment would include both PPM processes carried out by the project managers, program managers and portfolio managers, as well as the processes carried out by their respective offices. The delivery and support processes at this level are used by the majority of staff, and non-use is on an approved exception basis.

    At Level 4, data obtained as a by-product of staff carrying out the processes are used as input into business-driven decision-making, such as determining which projects and services the organization should undertake in the future.

    The implementation of PPM software, is a key component in any organization’s effort to improve their maturity level and ability to automatically collect data from their processes. By automating key processes, this software provides the necessary data for continuous improvement.