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An Insider's Perspective of PMI's Maturity Model Print

OPM3® is finally here, and it is the next big thing for achieving organizational strategies through projects. It is just as important as (yet more strategic than) the PMI's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, the world's de facto standard in project management.

This article answers key questions about what OPM3 is and how to perform an OPM3 assessment, and then provides a history of the development of this standard by hundreds of professionals in dozens of countries during the past five years.

Impact of OPM3

When thinking about how an OPM3 assessment may impact an organization, executives should think in terms of improving their organization's ability to deliver projects successfully, better, faster, and cheaper, or in terms of revealing and correcting issues associated with translating strategies into the work of an organization effectively, eliminating waste and rework.

Executives should think in terms of creating the possibility of developing more products, improving operational effectiveness, or serving customers better. This is the potential impact of OPM3. Ultimately the combination of choosing the right projects and delivering them successfully is the way to reach the goal of a superior long-term return on investment. OPM3 will not tell an executive what his or her strategies should be for his or her organization, but it can help one's firm to work in harmony to support the strategy and to create a whole which is greater than the sum of its projects.

Developed by hundreds of practitioners in industry and government during the past five years, the OPM3 is a standard that explains excellent business practices focused primarily on two things:

1) choosing the right projects to execute organizational strategies,


2) implementing the processes, structures, and behaviors necessary to deliver projects successfully, consistently, and predictably.

This discipline is called Organizational Project Management or OPM. The OPM3 standard describes excellence in these areas in terms of roadmaps from lesser to more advanced capabilities that can be assessed. Through an assessment using the standard, an organization's current profile or level of maturity is identified, as well as next steps for becoming more capable.

OPM3 addresses cost and schedule management on individual projects, but it does much more than this. Quite often the things that cause problems for an individual project, including cost and schedule management problems, are in fact other projects. In addition to helping organizations to develop the capabilities necessary to manage an individual project, OPM3 also helps one to develop the organizational ability to manage multiple projects together, which we call program management.

Organizations, which always face resource constraints, must create the organizational ability to formulate and manage multiple projects to adapt to the hallmarks of business today: rising complexity and the increasing pace of change. Moreover, we have learned that project failures often result from decisions made well before a project team executes its work; these stem from poor decisions regarding the origination, selection, and prioritization of projects, i.e. actions that are categorized within the discipline we call portfolio management. OPM3 will help the pervasive situation regarding cost and schedule overruns by enabling organizations to become more capable in project, program, and portfolio management processes, and by helping them to cultivate the environment in which such processes operate by transforming the cultures of organizations that use OPM3.

Specifically, an OPM3 assessment can help one to identify the low-hanging fruit for making marked improvements to the ways projects in an organization are selected and delivered, creating the possibility of better project investment decisions, increased productivity, and greater bottom line earnings.

OPM3 Assessments

The best way to introduce OPM3 into an organization is a workshop in which key stakeholders learn what OPM3 is, what it means to perform an assessment using OPM3 in practical terms, and what can and should be done with assessment results.

OPM Experts, LLC ( http://www.opmexperts.com/) hosts such workshops regularly for public enrollment, but the optimal way to introduce OPM3 to a specific organization is to do so as a private workshop comprised only of members of the company in question. It is essential to understand the strategic priorities of the organization and how this affects one's decision regarding the scope of the organization that should be assessed. It is also essential to understand that OPM3 is implemented in phases with decision-gates, using the project management technique of "rolling wave" planning in which plans become more detailed as new and better information is created. This affects how one makes the business case for OPM3.

Finally, it is vital to understand how to introduce OPM3 to executives, their strategic imperatives and the crises that are triggers for doing something, how project management addresses those triggers and the corporate strategy, citing concrete evidence in strategic terms.


Many organizations are asking whether or not self-assessment using the OPM3 is possible, given its sophisticated content. No two organizations are alike. For some, self-assessment is a viable option. Because whether to self-assess is always a question, one of the discussions that OPM Experts facilitates in its introductory workshop on OPM3 is the pro's and con's of using internal versus external assessors. Internal assessors may have the benefit of being able to discern quickly the veracity of assertions made by members of an organization regarding existing capabilities; however, internal assessors do not enjoy the power conferred on external experts, a distinct benefit of using outsiders.

Whether an organization uses internal or external assessors, those people should be formally trained in OPM3. To help an organization get to a decision about self-assessment versus an assessment facilitated by an external resource, a three-day workshop format is effective, explaining the OPM3 theory on day 1, covering the assessment process and assessment pitfalls and alternatives on day 2 with interactive exercises, and finishing day 3 with the business case for an assessment. In just a few days, users can learn everything they need to know in order to decide whether self-assessment or facilitated assessment is appropriate for their own organization.

How long does an assessment take?

How long an assessment takes depends largely on the organization being assessed. The duration can range from weeks to months depending on the scope of the organization being assessed, the strategy for assessing it in a way that will create quick wins and visible momentum, and factors like the number and location of sites and the availability of key personnel. To determine how long a self-assessment will take, you must understand exactly what OPM3 is and how to use parts of it or the whole thing, and you have to do some planning with your own organization in mind.

Should assessments be outsourced?

Because OPM3 is new, it makes most sense for the time being to out-source at least part of any OPM3 assessment to an expert who understands the model and has experience using it. Other reasons for out-sourcing will depend largely on the drivers for the assessment and the constraints imposed by the organization on the assessment. Typical constraints are that the assessment must not impact the current business or customers, and that the assessment must be completed within a given time with limited resource availability. A user's expectations for an assessment should be informed by the scope of the assessment, the results of the assessment, and the decisions of organization leaders regarding improvements. A reasonable expectation is that the process for scoping the assessment, performing it, and making informed decisions can be an effective and efficient process when using appropriate expertise.

Incentives for Implementing OPM3

Being able to choose the right projects to do in order to achieve your organization's strategic intent for 2004 and beyond is a strong incentive for implementing OPM3. The other side of the coin is being able to deliver those projects capably. If you are an executive, consider whether your organization can achieve its strategic objectives for this year. Being able to answer this question definitively is a strong incentive for doing an OPM3 assessment. OPM Experts has performed maturity assessments that have been the foundation for implementing and upgrading PMO's, standardizing project management across departments, redefining governance and decision-making, restructuring line organizations, and orchestrating organizational change. One of the firm's clients said recently that the maturity assessment (and the subsequent improvements) literally "transformed" the company.

Where did OPM3 come from?

In 1998 the OPM3 program was chartered by the Project Management Institute to develop an international standard for industry and government strictly through the grassroots efforts of unpaid volunteers.

Unlike other such efforts, this was a first for many reasons. The standard would help organizations to assess and improve their project management capabilities as well as the capabilities necessary to achieve organizational strategies through projects. The standard would be a project management maturity model, setting the standard for excellence in project, program, and portfolio management best practices, and explaining the capabilities necessary to achieve those best practices.

In time, the volunteer team developing the maturity model would seek and obtain widespread participation from more professionals across industries and geographies than any other initiative to develop a maturity model to date. While these characteristics made the project the first of its kind, another fact set the team apart: it operated almost entirely as a virtual team, and most members of the team never met each other face-to-face.

What led to the decision to charter OPM3?

The 1998 PMI Standards Committee discussed the interest that had been expressed by many PMI members in the possibility of a project management maturity model standard. The concept of "maturity" had been popularized through the very successful "Capability Maturity Model" for software that was developed by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie-Mellon University between 1986 and 1993. The PMI Standards Committee decided to charter a project to develop such a standard. While PMI's "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" or PMBOK® Guide was widely used at that time as the standard for managing single projects, no standards existed for improving project management in organizations.ii

One of the founders of PMI, Eric Jenett, was on the 1998 Standards Committee. He asserted that the committee must learn and describe why organizations would want such a maturity model standard. The committee decided the first task was to analyze existing maturity models. John Schlichter agreed to perform this analysis, and he immediately revisited Eric Jenett's's question regarding why organizations would want such a standard. He guided the team to choose to create a standard to help organizations develop the capabilities to execute strategies through projects. In this view, project management could be developed as a method that enables organizations to achieve their strategic intent. This purpose was distinct from the single-project focus of the PMBOK® Guide. The PMI maturity model would not be simply a PMBOK® Guide CMM.


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