If we are talking about PMO maturity, I must start by making a confession: I personally dislike the term “maturity”.

This is mainly for three reasons:

  1. Just like experience, you can be very mature in doing things very well, that doesn’t add much value to the business.
  2. For some organisations, a level 4 instead of 5 may be accepted as sufficient and they can live happily ever after with what they get at that level.
  3. Maturity models assume a standard set of functions and activities you are expected to do or achieve, based on industry best practices but – let me tell you a little secret – project management is contextual!

In the world of PMOs, where one size doesn’t fit all and where each PMO is a unique species, this is even more true.

Keeping this in mind, I prefer to use the term “value roadmap”, putting the emphasis on value rather than maturity and on the journey rather than the destination. Just like happiness, they say!

In fact, some organisations become so obsessed with improving their maturity that they tend to forget the drive behind it.

Make no mistake: maturity improvement is just the means, not the end goal.

PMOs have a path of their own

While the Axelos P3M3 Assessment and OPM3® (from PMI) are well-known organisational project management maturity models, there are not many options available when it comes to PMO maturity models. Leaving most PMOs to assess their value through a model that is simply put, not fit for purpose.

Yes, PMOs are enablers of project delivery, but the relationship between PMO performance and project performance is not linear or easy to identify.

How can a PMO demonstrate their value when they are not the ones delivering projects but are instead just indirectly contributing to the project’s success?

PMOs play a pivotal role in supporting the delivery of strategic change and are important in establishing a culture of project management within organisations, but their value is often only recognised in relation to direct outcomes.

As such, key activities performed by PMOs which actually unleash value to the business, often go unnoticed (at least until the PMO stop doing them and all of the sudden this is reflected in poor project performance or portfolio boards start complaining about not knowing what’s happening!).

How well-informed is senior management, to what extent is the PMO developing the skills of their Project Managers via training, or how well-supported are projects that go into exception are critical questions that the PMO should aim to answer but that you rarely can find in project management maturity models?

In order to provide clarity over these areas where the PMO is operating, and to accommodate the fact that all PMOs are different and have a path of their own we need to stop measuring the maturity of our PMOs by the maturity of organisational project management.

One is undoubtedly linked to the other, but they are very different concepts.

We need to look at the world of PMOs with fresh eyes and that’s exactly what we are proposing at Wellingtone, with our unique PMO Value Roadmap.

A PMO Value Roadmap (or Maturity Model)

PMOs are integrators, they bridge inter-departmental silos and bring the pieces together to support the portfolio of projects and programmes the best they can.

This is done by balancing three essential variables that work as enablers of successful delivery: people, processes, and tools (in case you are wondering, I think the three of them are equally important and should not be thought of separately).

A triangle of PMO processes.

The PMO golden triangle (well, blue, but you get the picture) of people-processes-tools doesn’t happen in the vacuum and project delivery is highly dependent on the person leading the project. The PMO value is highly influenced by how it is being managed.

Questions around the clarity of the remit and objectives of the PMO within the organisation, the availability and commitment of the PMO Sponsor to guide the direction of the PMO for the future, or the use of KPIs for the measurements of the PMO’s own performance, can say a lot about where your PMO is in its journey.

Finally, all these elements are integrated within the concept of P3M Governance as represented in the framework pictured above, that is how is the PMO supports the governance of projects, programmes, and portfolios in the organisation.

This includes how well-defined and supported are the governance routes and mechanisms for the approval of projects and programmes stage gates and escalation of exceptions or how clearly defined are the roles and responsibilities of the governance bodies and their interaction with the PMO.

We then propose the decomposition of the framework into 15 “value enablers”. This is the capabilities held by the PMO which, when properly done and embedded in the organisation, enable value to be achieved:

PMO Maturity Model

The maturity model uses the traditional 5-levels scale, where:

PMO Maturity Model - 5 Scales

The maturity level for each capability is calculated via a set of questionnaires and independent assessment. By doing it this way, allows triangulation of results, and the establishment of a baseline against the PMO that can measure progress.

However, as the saying goes, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” so as important as the assessment findings are the recommendations and action plan that should come from the assessment.

Find where you are, determine the road you want to take and, most importantly, have fun along your journey!

Wellingtone is an Axelos Consulting Partner and can deliver a P3M3 assessment to meet the needs of your organisation.