We all believe we are doing the best possible job we can – and if you don’t, you are probably in the wrong job. But how do you really know how well you are performing? A maturity model can help.

The OGC, the same stable that publishes the PRINCE2 guidance, has launched another standard called Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices, or P3O. This guidance has a 5 level maturity model contained within it (Appendix E for any of you that are interested). Today I’m going to try to explain the five levels of maturity, because the book leaves this out.

Level 1: Not very good

An organization that operates at Level 1 is not very mature in its project, programme or portfolio management approaches. A company here would typically have some project management practices in use but only in bits of the company. Not all project stakeholders have an appreciation of what projects are and what benefits project management can offer, but some projects will have a defined scope and objectives.

I’m making these Level titles up, by the way. The book only calls them Level 1 to 5 and doesn’t use descriptive titles to clarify.

Level 2: A bit better

In a company with Level 2 maturity, project management is more widely accepted. There are still pockets of the business where projects are not managed, but there will also be functional experts, for example in the IT department, which might have hired a few project managers with specifically that job title and with the remit of delivering key projects. There’s likely to be some kind of initiative to establish better project management practices across the business. There might even be document templates!

Level 3: Average

At this level we start to see a better grip on project management practices across the company. Projects are managed in a consistent way so there is a standard process in place. Methods have been chosen and are in use. There’s a clear project lifecycle which is followed. This will include work during project initiation, but also a focus on control during the lifecycle in the form of reviews, reporting and checks. The project managers will also be aware of their role in the successful handover of projects into the live environment and this handover work will be planned.

Projects are managed in a consistent way so there is a standard process in place.

Level 4: Good

If you aren’t here already in your company, this is where you should be aiming. Making the jump from Level 3 to Level 4 means that there is a strong and effective project selection process. This means that projects are aligned to organizational strategy. The company has to have business plans, of course, for you to align the projects with them, so overall corporate maturity has to progress at the same rate. There is probably a link between the project management processes (through the project management department team leader, PMO or a similar function) and the business planning or strategy team.

At this level there is also a focus on benefits and measures, so there is likely to be some efforts in place to build performance measures and then track against them.

Level 5: Well done, you!

Project data is used to monitor progress.

There is lots of control at this level. Project data is used to monitor progress and effectiveness of in-flight projects but it is also fed into the business planning team and the PMO function or equivalent. This enables the whole business to benefit from the project experiences. The project controls can then be tweaked to improve the processes continually – there are constant small revisions.

Project managers operate with enough latitude to choose the level of control relevant to the size and complexity of their projects. There might be a complexity ranking process in place to provide guidance about what level of control is appropriate.

At this level, the organization fully embraces the benefits of a project management approach and really understands what they are letting themselves in for. Stakeholders are engaged and supportive of projects, but project managers still have to work hard!