Evolving the Maturity Level of Your Project Management Office

For example, in a Level 3 organization, the project manager would carry out a process to “monitor progress through completion of milestones”. Using software for this monitoring enables measurements that can be used for comparative analysis, such as percentage of milestones achieved on time versus those that slipped. This information, if consistent across all projects, suggests that there may be an issue with project planning and could be used to identify improvements to the “create project plans” and “estimate the effort” processes.

In a Level 4 organization, a project manager produces a cost/benefit case to obtain a decision about whether or not to proceed. As a by-product of carrying out that process using PPM software, data is provided to executive management for a “What if?” analysis and for decision-making about future projects and services. The provision of data from the processes is more effective and efficient where PPM software is deployed to automate the process.

Approaches to Maturity Improvements

By examining the four levels of maturity, you can determine where your project, program and portfolio delivery and support processes are now, and identify gaps between where you are and where you want to be with your organization’s most critical processes.

For example, you may want to examine the project management process of “creating a project charter.” Perhaps you have a template for creating the program charter, but it is used infrequently, which causes inconsistency resulting in higher costs and therefore suggests Level 1 maturity. By automating the creation and tracking of the template, consistency can be enforced to reduce costs suggesting a maturity of about Level 3. We have now identified a gap between where we are now, and where we want to go. Next, we need to develop a recommendation on how to get there.

Where to Begin

Organizations may vary in their approaches to making PPM and PMO maturity improvements. Some may adopt a bottom-up approach, taking on the project management processes first. Others may take a top-down approach, starting with “What if?” scenarios of portfolio management using basic project and resource information at a high level rather than detailed project plans. They then expand into detailed project planning in the next release.

Still, others may want to improve the level of maturity of some of the processes at all three levels—project, portfolio and program management—in the first release and then, add more process improvements at all levels in subsequent releases.

Whatever approach is used, for each process or group of processes, the organization must analyze the current state, agree on the target state, identify the gap, and then create recommendations for improvement. These recommendations will include requirements for improvement in processes, staffing and technology.

The implementation of technology will involve the configuration and deployment of a PPM system. This system will support all the PPM and PMO processes, but the emphasis will be on processes and functions to be deployed first. How those functions will be configured will depend on the approach the company adopts: bottom-up versus top-down.

When measuring and improving the PMO, both the PPM delivery and individual office support processes and environment must be addressed. In the next article, I’ll continue this discussion on evolving your level of maturity and provide recommendations on ensuring the success of the process improvement project.

Chris Craig-Jones is Global Solution Manager for CA Clarity PPM. He has more than 30 years of experience in IT and management.