Skip to content

PMO’s are moving beyond the tactical execution of projects and more towards the performance of a wider range of activities that drive strategic value for their organisations. This means supporting more than just traditional project managers using traditional processes. As a result, the traditional approach to defining and measuring maturity is less appliable, and a new definition of maturity is needed. New ‘mature’ PMOs integrate innovative technology with a focus on individual and team capabilities, and culture and key measurement metrics to help develop all types of project managers into ambassadors for value creation.

Why is Project Management maturity important?

Project management maturity is a strong indicator of the value that the PMO is driving in an organisation. Understanding the maturity level enables the development of a roadmap to chart continuous improvement and highlight areas to focus on that will elevate the level of delivered value.

Yet, according to a recent maturity index based on a global survey by the Project Management Institute and professional services firm, PwC, the majority of PMOs are only midway through their maturity journey, still to reach a point where they are consistently delivering across the key dimensions of the maturity process below:

In fact, the index has proven that global PMO maturity sits at an average of only 61.4 out of a maximum score of 100.

At Sensei we consider why the journey to maturity never seems to end and why it is re-implemented over and over within organisations. We believe that the approach to maturity needs to change and an acceptance of multiple levels of maturity is needed.

Changing the traditional maturity model

When we think about project management maturity in its current state, it tends to be focused on the levels at which professional and citizen project managers sit and applying pressure to get those PMs to their next respective levels. We try to make everybody a professional project manager in the same timeframe with the same methodologies. But not everyone can progress at the same pace in the same style, and if we take a different view across the measurement of maturity, they won’t need to.

A successful PMO must change this thinking around maturity to acknowledge the diverse types of people managing projects and how to effectively ensure the PMO is receiving the information it needs while allowing people to work in the way that they want. It must listen to all PMs – both professional and citizen – and ask questions like, How do you work? What’s important to you? What’s the type of work you’re doing and What support do you need?

We’re all human, working in different ways that suit our individual comfort levels, and a modern PMO needs to embrace people before process, not process before people.

At the end of the day, PMO maturity can be viewed as the knowledge and support of a common data model, giving PMO leaders the information they need to make informed and reliable decisions that lead us back to achieving our strategic goals. If correct and timely information can be gathered, project managers can continue to work with the tools and methodologies that work best for them. So how do you define your organisation’s PMO maturity?

The Traditional Approach to Project Management Maturity

The traditional method used to assess project management maturity outlines levels from 1 to 5 (see diagram below) and assumes that all Project Managers (and projects) will move through these 5 levels to reach maturity. It also assumes that all projects will be managed by professional project managers using a single methodology.

An organisation is at stage 1 when processes are defined for individual tasks but may still lack complete uniformity. Only when processes are more structured and standardised because of that structure is stage 2 attained.

When organisational project consistency is achieved, so is stage 3. In stage 4, integration of the PMO is brought into corporate processes. When the PMO plays an embedded, optimised and critical function across all processes, and a method of continuous improvement is in place, the journey reaches stage 5. Within stage 5 maturity is maintained as the organisation is continuously improved.

The traditional model is not for everyone

In a recent poll Sensei conducted with Project Management professionals, 54% of respondents indicated their organisation’s projects were run by a combination of professional and citizen project managers while a further 41% said that everyone in their organisation managed projects. In addition, over 50% of these projects were being run with mixed project management methodologies. This gives us reason to pause and consider if the traditional project management maturity model can be applied the modern project management world.

“Despite all the best efforts we at Sensei consistently see organisations put a lot of effort into increasing maturity, and then still having their executives tell us that they can’t get the data they need to make decisions, the data is incomplete, and they can’t trust that data”

Despite all the best efforts, we at Sensei consistently see organisations put a lot of effort into increasing maturity and still having their executives tell us that they can’t get the data they need to make decisions; the data is incomplete, and they can’t trust that data.

We need to reconsider the approach to maturity. An alternative view is that project management maturity is really about getting the right information and data to the right people so that they can make reliable and timely decisions to support the achievement of the organisation’s strategic goals.

This allows project managers to work with the tools and methodologies best suited to them but still allows leaders to access the information they need. Continuous improvement is centred on helping all levels of project managers to successfully deliver outcomes and being able to measure those outcomes against the business value delivered.

There is no point in forcing everyone down the same path if they or their work is not suitable for that type of maturity,

“Being mature means having a process everyone uses and data you can and do report on, and make decisions with, even if that process is quite high level”

While the initial stages of maturity are the same and relate to establishing the core language and processes, we also need to establish the core foundational data model. Then we need to diverge. Instead of forcing everyone to use the same methods we need to allow for any methodology. But they all relate back to that underlying data model, which feeds reporting needed by the executives. This then gives us evidence-based decision making which is indicative of a more workable level of maturity that is actually noticed by the executives and can be used to determine if we are aligned to our strategy or not.

The most important thing to remember is to keep it simple and not overcomplicate it. Some of these areas can be tricky to identify, and certain projects absolutely require a kind of rigour and complexity only achievable by professional PMs. But when you have intuitive tools, you can let all project managers—professional and citizen— successfully achieve outcomes and give visibility of the work underway.

Ultimately, a PMO looking to accelerate its maturity journey must think beyond good governance and a standardised approach and consider how it invests its resources to gather the critical information required to measure and manage successful outcomes across all levels of project management maturity.

Interested to learn more? Watch our recent Ask an Expert webinar Supporting project management maturity levels.