Project Management Maturity in Organizations

The project management maturity in an organization is an important guidepost for its project managers. In some organizations this process leads to bureaucratic procedures, endless documentation and paperwork. These waste a great deal of time and have no beneficial impact on their project success rates. In other organizations, the project management processes mature by becoming leaner and more efficient. They positively and substantially contribute to the project success rate. Careful executive management of four elements of an organization’s project management process is the key to taking the efficient path versus to the bureaucratic one. Let’s discuss each of these elements.

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Project Management Maturity: The Project Management Office (PMO)

The concept of a project management office is initially sold in the organization as a way to gather data and make it available for faster and easier decision-making. Another benefit may be consistency in the way the organization’s project managers manage. A third benefit can be allocating resources to projects based on the executives’ prioritization of projects. What that means is that the most important projects get first call on scarce resources and lower priority projects have to wait.  Project Management Office Main Page
At the start, the project office can have a positive influence on the organization’s project success rates. However, in most of the 300 organizations we have worked on their project management processes, the project management office’s value quickly declines. The people in the PMO want to tightly control the organization’s projects. They often insist on monitoring the work of the project managers by adding additional forms, procedures and meetings. But the PMO staff frequently fails in their most important function with is to build the organization’s project archives. These archives should contain the data, plans and lessons learned from completed projects. Although the process doesn’t sound too exciting, the resulting benefit definitely is. In as little as six months, the project archives can save project managers significant amounts of time, avoid mistakes and improve quality. The PMs can use and/or modify the project plans and data from similar projects rather than starting from scratch. On larger projects, they may also use the risk analysis and the stakeholder management analysis to save a great deal of time. Project Lessons Learned Main Page

Project Management Maturity: Estimating Database

The single biggest benefit of the project archives is in improving the accuracy of the cost and duration estimates. The archives contain data on how much work/cost the project tasks required.  Every professional firm and consulting organization maintains an archive of data on previous projects. They know they can’t make money if their estimates are inaccurate. That’s why they invest substantial sums in organizing the project archives. Organizations that are consistently successful with projects always have an archive of completed projects because it makes their project managers more efficient and saves them from making the same mistakes again.

As that data accumulates, it becomes easier for project managers with a new assignment to find similar projects or parts of previous projects that are similar to parts of the new one. This allows project managers to use analogous estimating techniques based on real historic data to create more reliable and accurate estimates. Analogous Estimating Video 
Unfortunately, the people who tend to drift into the project management office function find archiving of data boring, so they pay little attention to it. The archive has little value if no one spends a modest amount of time organizing and referencing the data from previous projects.

Project Management Maturity: Consistency Without Bureaucracy

It is astounding how quickly project management offices turn into generators of new forms and new procedures. They want to control the project and they need data to do it. But quite often that’s not forthcoming from the project managers. We often hear project managers ask their project sponsors, “Do you want me to do the project or finish all this damn paperwork?”
While the archived plans and estimating database are a tremendous help to project managers, a steady stream of new forms and procedures is not. PMOs tend to generate lots of new forms because that’s how they get the information they think they need. However, some fine tuning and automation of the weekly status report process can provide all the information the PMO and project managers need without additional paperwork.project management maturity

Project Management Maturity: Periodic Assessments

Organizations need to examine how their project management processes are maturing. They should do the following:

  • Ensure that the individual project managers’ skills and techniques are keeping pace with current practice
  • Ensure that project sponsors understand their role and how to direct the project managers who work for them
  • Assess the value of the company’s project archives and ensure they’re saving time and improving accuracy.

You can assess where your organization is positioned in this project management maturity process. Look at two metrics in addition to the aspects of the project processes listed above. First, look at the density of projects in the organization. How many people are working on multiple projects? That tells you about the level of contention for resources by on-going projects. The second metric is the project failure rate and the trends in that failure rate. Are they increasing or decreasing?

Project Management Maturity: Implementing a Project Management Process

As organizations strive to improve their project performance and become consistently successful, one of the least expensive steps that produces significant benefits is implementing a project management process. This requires the project sponsors and project managers to agree on the steps and templates to be used as well as the data elements to be archived.  The use of archived data and template have the largest impact and start paying benefits in a few months. Other elements can be added to the project management process to achieve consistency in status reporting, scheduling, variance reporting and change control.

You can learn more about using an effective project management process in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on