The PMO Maturity

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Focus on Value, not Maturity

Previously, we discussed the importance of project management maturity for NGOs. However, if your NGO has a project management office (PMO) in place, it is relevant that the maturity of the PMO is assessed also (yes, they are different things!).

Before we start, I must make a confession: I personally dislike the term “maturity” for three reasons. First, just like with experience, one can be mature while doing the wrong activities well. That is, the ones that don’t add value. Second, traditional maturity models speak of the greatness of achieving the pinnacle of level 5 but, for some organizations, achieving level 4 may be enough for it to live happily ever after. Finally, maturity models assume a standard set of functions and activities one is expected to do or achieve based on industry best practices, however – let me tell you a little secret – project management is contextual! What fits for one may be different from what fits for others, and there should be no embarrassment about it.

In the world of PMOs, where one size doesn’t fit all and where each PMO is a unique species, this is even more true. Bearing this is mind, I prefer to use the term “value roadmap,” and putting the emphasis on value rather than maturity and on the journey, rather than the destination. Just like happiness, they say!

In fact, some organizations become so obsessed with improving their maturity that they tend to forget why they are doing it. Make no mistake: maturity improvement is just the means, not the end goal. To discover your journey, you should start with “why.”


PMOs as Value Enablers

PMOs are integrators, they bridge interdepartmental silos, and bring the pieces together to support the portfolio of projects and programs the best they can. In summary, PMOs are enablers of value delivery in the organization.

This is done by performing a set of key functions and building dynamic capabilities in the organization that facilitate the successful delivery of strategic initiatives. That is, capabilities held by the PMO which, when properly performed and embedded in the organization, enable value to be achieved:

  1. Project Management Capability: how able is the PMO to establish, tailor, and embed project management processes in the organization?
  2. Program Management Capability: how able is the PMO to establish, tailor, and embed program management processes in the organization?
  3. Portfolio Management Capability: how able is the PMO to establish, tailor, and embed portfolio management processes in the organization?
  4. Change Management and Communication Capability: how able is the PMO to manage change resulting from projects and programs and well as to communicate that change?
  5. Benefits Realization Management Capability: how able is the PMO to ensure that projects and programs realize the benefits they were intended to deliver?
  6. Knowledge Management Capability: how able is the PMO to manage knowledge resulting from projects and programs and facilitate project learning amongst project teams?
  7. Resource Management Capability: how able is the PMO to manage resources and perform demand planning?
  8. Audit and Assurance Capability: how able is the PMO to provide independent audit and assurance services over projects and programs?
  9. Project and Program Recovery Capability: how able is the PMO to assist project and program managers in recovering their projects and programs?
  10. Training and Facilitation Capability: how able is the PMO to provide training and facilitation services to project teams?
  11. Reporting Capability: how able is the PMO to provide consolidated reporting to support informed decision-making?
  12. Organizational Governance: to what extent is the governance of projects and programs established in the organization and how is it facilitated by the PMO?
  13. Professionalism and Career Development: to what extent is project management established in the organization and how is the PMO promoting the profession and supporting career development?
  14. Tools and Technology: to what extent is the PMO making use of appropriate technology to support the management of projects and programs in the organization?
  15. PMO Management: to what extent is the structure, competencies, and direction of the PMO enabling the delivery of value?

While some of these enablers are not applicable to all PMO types (e.g. a project-specific support office is likely not to be involved in training and facilitation), they are certainly familiar to PMO practitioners and can be grouped into what I refer to as the “PMO golden triangle,” formed of people, processes, and tools:

Figure 1 - The PMO Value Framework


However, the balance of these three indispensable ingredients doesn’t happen in isolation. Just as great projects are the result of great project management and leadership, valuable PMOs are highly influenced by how the PMO is being managed, where they fit in the organizational structure, and how they are supporting portfolio, program, and project governance.


A PMO Value Roadmap (or Maturity Model)

Individual PMOs each have a unique path, making the case of why PMOs need their own maturity model. In fact, while P3M3® (from Axelos®) and OPM3® (from PMI®) are well-known organizational project management maturity models, there are not many options available when it comes to PMO maturity models, lending most PMOs to assess their value through a model that is, simply put, not fit for its purpose.

Yes, PMOs are enablers of project delivery, but the relationship between PMO performance and project performance is not linear or easily identifiable. How can a PMO demonstrate its value when it is not the one delivering projects, but is indirectly contributing to the project’s success?

PMOs play a pivotal role in supporting the delivery of strategic change and, as important, in establishing a culture of project management in organizations. However, their value is often only recognized in relation to direct outcomes. As such, key activities performed by PMOs that unleash value to the business often go unnoticed (at least until the PMO stops doing them, which is reflected in poor project performance or people on portfolio boards start complaining about not knowing what’s happening!). How well senior management is informed, to what extent is the PMO developing the skills of its project managers via training, or how well are projects supported that go into exception are critical questions that the PMO should aim to answer, but that one can rarely find in project management maturity models.

Project management maturity is undoubtedly linked to PMO maturity, but they are very different concepts. We need to look at the world of PMOs with new lens and that’s why I’m proposing a PMO-specific framework for assessing and developing their value: a PMO Value Roadmap (or Maturity Model!).

The PMO Value Roadmap uses the traditional 5-levels scale, where 1 represents an initial, ad hoc status, and 5, the maximum, a level of optimization and continuous improvement:

Figure 2 - PMO Value Roadmap Levels


The assessment of value is done by answering a set of questions relating to each value enabler, which allows a score to be achieved and used as a baseline.

Figure 3 - PMO Value Enablers


Nevertheless, don’t rely too much to the final score - the beauty of the assessment lies in the opportunity of reflection it provides, and, as important as the assessment findings, are the recommendations and action plan that should come from the assessment.

As the saying goes, “if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there,” so find where you are, determine the road you want to take and, most important, have fun along your journey!

Posted by Marisa Silva on: November 17, 2016 03:39 PM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Thanks Marisa. Good article.

Dear Marisa,

Well thought through. And fully agree that P3M3 and OPM3 does not gauge the maturity of the PMO.

Interesting. Thanks.

This article helps me alot. Thank you for sharing.
Is there any simplified questionnaire for assessing value enablers in PMO?

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"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties."

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