P3M3 – Maturity models

I promised to provide an update on my P3M3 journey which I started a few months ago.

To refresh P3M3 (also known as Project, Programme and Portfolio Management Maturity Model) is a popular management maturity framework that assesses how organisations deliver projects, programmes and portfolios. It uses a maturity model to determine the sophistication of an organisation.

What is a maturity model and how has it evolved?

The term “maturity” relates to the degree of formality and optimisation of processes. It is usually derived in five categories from ad-hoc practices (1), to formally defined steps, to managed result metrics, to active optimisation of the processes (5).

Maturity models (also known as capability maturity model) were first discussed in the 1980s. At the time the US Department of Defence ran a study on failed projects and discovered that quality of products produced was based on the quality of processes used. Therefore, the quality of a process is a much better indicator of success than the quality of the project’s product.

Carnegie Melon University in Pennsylvania, USA developed the concept of 5 maturity levels which has been widely accepted within the English-speaking world.

Why use a maturity model?

Using a maturity model is a comparison against a standard. Organisations can find out how good they compare to others, although this can be difficult across different industries. It helps to decide which capabilities are needed in order to meet business needs and to plan for continual progression. Most organisations would aim to have a growth or maturity burst over a few months and then to do nothing for two years or so. Typically they would then revisit and plan their next maturity burst. This is found to be more efficient then wanting it all at one.

In a nutshell a maturity model tells us what to do in order to in order to move forward and to not go backwards.

Maturity model levels

The P3M3 maturity model is based on five levels:

Level 1 – aware

At this level projects are often run chaotic, heroic and ad hoc. However, for an organisation to acknowledge this is the first step to becoming aware. Most likely projects are scoped ambiguously,  are often delayed or out of budget. Processes are made up as required. For a Project Manager it would be very difficult to manage projects in such an organisation and would require an heroic effort to be successful.

Level 2 – repeatable

At this level processes are written down and used repeatedly. There is a better understanding how long a project is going to take and the associated cost. There will be still variances but most likely they are balancing out across the financial year.

Level 3 – defined

At this level processes are defined and confirmed as a standard business process. This is were most organisation should be aiming for and it is also the sweet spot where most organisation will find the right balance.

Level 4 – managed

At this level quantified process management and measurements takes place. For example there would be common approach across the organization to categorize risks. The end result is reliable management information. Organisations at this level are  looking to fix today’s problems and are using management information to drive informed process improvement changes.

Level 5 – optimised

At this level processes are improved and deliberately optimised on a pro-active basis. Organisations at this level are pre-empting future problems and supply solutions as a mitigation.

What is the value of increasing maturity

A recent PWC study found that project management maturity levels are on the rise. Gone are the days of wild west cowboys running the show. Further it found that benefits like less re-work, reduced duplication, improved employee morale, schedule and budget predictability can be realised with improving project, programme or portfolio maturity.

Are you involved in projects at your organisation? What do you think is your organisation’s maturity?

If you are interested in finding out more about the maturity of your organisation, there is a free self-assessment available (registration required). It will provide an an idea of the current maturity level and help identify focus areas for a full assessment.

P3M3 model - Photo credit to Pcubed
P3M3 model – Photo credit to Pcubed




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