Earlier this year I wrote about the P3O model’s 7 perspectives on maturity and the 5 levels of maturity.
This is all very good in theory, but what does it actually look like in practice? Let’s assume that you are aiming for Level 4 (Good). This is the level that most companies should be aiming for, if you aren’t there already. Level 4 maturity in a project environment means that there is a strong and effective project selection process, where projects are aligned to organizational strategy. There is 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. Project managers and the PMO also focus on benefits and measures, so it is likely that you’ll find performance measures and the desire to track against them.
OK, that’s the overview of what Level 4 means. Let’s take a look at how this actually translates to a real project.
Management control is the first maturity perspective. At Level 4 we find that project management is of strategic important to the organisation – at least, it is of enough importance to make sure that the projects align to the strategic objectives and business plans. There could be a link to an overall business planning or strategy team as well. There are strong, embedded project management processes with everyone knowing what processes to follow. There is also a focus on statistical, quantitative analysis of success and performance – proof that project management is delivering value to the organisation.
In an organisation with a good level of project management maturity, benefits management forms part of the overall project management approach. Again, projects align to strategic objectives, so it should be easy to see how each project contributes to the overall business goals. Projects have businesses cases that set out how they will achieve and deliver benefits. There is also a level of benefits oversight: no false claims that implementing this employee engagement survey project will improve staff morale by 35% and directly generate a decrease in the turnover rate of staff, thus saving thousands in recruitment fees. If you can’t tie the benefits clearly to a particular project, they won’t make it into the business case.
Business cases are also essential for managing project finances, and companies who compare projects against each other to best choose the investment opportunities have a good level of project management maturity. Project managers or their teams manage performance against cost so that the available resources can be prioritised.
Mature project management organisations have good risk management processes. All the appropriate business stakeholders are involved in the risk management process, and they all feel comfortable with the level of risk being taken, as well as the mitigation actions.
Project managers can show what actions they have taken to control risk where possible and how this inputs into their project planning. While P3O does not prescribe tools, systems like Seavus Project Viewer could be used to show how plans change as a result of risk mitigation activities.
In organisations operating at Level 4 maturity, stakeholder management is mainly about lessons learned and ensuring that these are captured and passed on to subsequent projects. The P3O guidance doesn’t offer any advice about best practices for stakeholder communications, managing teams or interfacing with other business areas. Instead, Level 4 maturity centers on continuous process improvement based on lessons learned. This is the area where I think the guidance is the weakest, and if you are aiming for a good level of project management maturity I think you could do better than this with a wider brief on what good looks like for stakeholders.
This is similar to management control. Essentially, it means that project managers and their teams, plus the P3O or PMO fall under the same controls as any other team in the organisation. So if your company has information governance guidelines, you abide by them, the same as anyone else. It’s about making sure that the project management function is not an island. This also applies to reporting lines, so project governance makes the same use of existing governance boards and committees as other teams and initiatives.
The final maturity perspective is resource management. As you would imagine, in organisations with a high level of project management maturity, resource management and allocation is not done in isolation. Instead, resourcing a project team is done at a strategic level, aligned to the overall capacity management processes. To utilize resources, employers can consider job practice tests. Resource utilization is measured, probably with timesheets, so that the available people can be put to the best use working on strategic initiatives. This data is also used to predict forward (in other words, to do resource forecasting) so that the organisation can adequately plan for its future needs as projects progress.