Project Management Maturity Model: Definition & Levels

Instructor: Bob Bruner

Bob is a software professional with 24 years in the industry. He has a bachelor's degree in Geology, and also has extensive experience in the Oil and Gas industry.

The Project Management Maturity Model provides a mechanism to assess the capabilities of an organization by measuring the maturity of project management processes. In this lesson, we'll explore some history behind the model and discuss how it can be used as an action plan for improvement.

The Project Management Maturity Model

If you began working on a project with a new company, it probably wouldn't take you long to notice areas of project management where things were done very well and other areas where you saw room for improvement. You might even find something you had assumed would be going on all the time that was just being ignored. Your observations could be said to form a simple model of the maturity of that company's processes. Let's examine how this type of analysis has been formalized as part of the Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM).

History of the PMMM

In the mid-1980's, the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University published a framework intended to help the government assess which software contractors would be best capable of delivering complex software projects. This Capability Maturity Model was based on an assessment of the standard practices a company maintained while working on software projects. The model has since been adapted to fit a broad range of industries and functions, and there are a number of maturity models that have been developed over the years. One of these, the Project Management Maturity Model, closely aligns with the original model, but focuses specifically on the assessment of project management capabilities.

The Five PMMM Levels

There are five levels in the PMMM that reflect increasingly sophisticated organizational behaviors. In order to determine the level a company operates under, it's evaluated across a number of key areas of project management practice. The PMMM can be viewed as a continuum of behaviors rather than as a rigid scale, as most companies will typically find areas in which they do well and others where there's room for improvement.

Typical areas of assessment will be the management of risk, scope, schedule, resource, quality, and overall project integration. The full list of key assessment areas will depend on who's doing the actual assessment. In some cases, the type of industry the company being evaluated is involved with will determine what additional factors are measured.

The five levels used in the PMMM as proposed by the Project Management Institute are labeled Initial Process, Structured Process and Standards, Organizational Standards and Institutional Process, Managed Process, and Optimizing Process. Let's explore what these signify.

Level 1 - Initial Process

The Initial level reflects a company that operates in a relatively random manner. Since there's very little control, it's hard to predict how the organization will react, particularly when faced with a crisis situation. While success on projects is possible, a company stuck in the Initial level is unlikely to be able to reproduce success on a consistent basis.

Level 2 - Structured Process and Standards

Companies operating in the Structured level will adhere to some basic project management practices, but often only at an individual project level. Overall project success is likely to depend on key individuals or specific management support rather than on adoption of broad standards throughout the organization. While better than a random or ad-hoc situation, organizations operating at Level 2 are still often viewed as being reactive in nature.

Level 3 - Organizational Standards

As it's name suggests, the Organizational level indicates that well-defined project management procedures are documented and used as a standard of operations. Because these procedures are defined at an organizational level, they're more likely to be well understood and backed by management. The organization is generally seen to act proactively, not reactively.

Level 4 - Managed

The Managed level reflects an organization that measures project performance using well-defined metrics. Standards are agreed to across the organization, and common metrics are used to manage business decisions and processes.

Level 5 - Optimizing

A company that focuses on deliberate and continual process improvement can be said to be operating in the Optimizing level. Companies at this level will seek to continuously improve their project management performance, often using innovative techniques not seen at other organizations.

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