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Low Maturity and the PMO


We kicked off a series of sessions which allow us to explore some of the most challenging areas for PMOs today. Earlier in 2022, we asked PMO practitioners, what is the most challenging area for you today.
Four themes emerged – they were benefits management, resource management, low maturity and hybrid delivery.
We decided to feature all four of these at the PMO Conference in 2022 – using boards at the conference to try and get deeper into each one of them.
This is the template we used [you can download a PDF version here]

The Summer Series is designed to be interactive, to gather people’s insights and to help us build up the board.
The ultimate objective is to gain some actionable insights – things that the House of PMO can further work on – whether that be further sessions or something more tangible like a White Paper for example.
You can listen to the session here and also see where we are with the board.

The Session



The Board

As you can see, we still have some to complete, read on and you’ll be able to see more details (you can also click on the image below to zoom in)


Before we got started with the session we  wanted to make sure that we understood what ‘low maturity’ meant – and what we were referring to. There were four areas which were all valid:

  • P3M Maturity – referring to the organisation’s maturity levels when it came to delivering projects, programmes and portfolios
  • PM Maturity (Competence) – referring to the individual competency levels of those delivering projects, programmes and portfolios
  • PMO Maturity – referring to the maturity levels of the PMO and its ability to provide support to the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios
  • PMOers Maturity (Competence) – referring to the individual competency levels of those working in a PMO.

You can see that part of the discussion at [7:20] in the recorded session.

Focusing on P3M Maturity specifically, many PMO practitioners will have heard of maturity assessments such as P3M3. Maturity assessments like this one are based on five different levels of maturity and in the discussion in the session it was noted that the formation of a PMO in an organisation tends to happen when that organisation reaches a level 2.
If you’re interested in these kinds of assessments, you can take a look at the session on DIY Maturity Assessments here.
You can see that part of the discussion at [10:20] in the recorded session.

What’s the Real Challenge?

The topic of ‘low maturity’ covers many different aspects of project, programme and portfolio management – alongside that of the organisation’s capabilities in ‘changing the business’. There were lots of different inputs into what the real challenges were, here we distil it into the main three:
The first:
Improving the way an organisation delivers change – through projects, programmes and portfolio – ultimately needs to be owned by someone in the organisation, a sponsor.
The second:
To become more mature in the way projects, programmes and portfolios are run, it requires experienced, knowledgeable and skilled people all working towards the same clear objective.
The third:
There has to be a clear definition of what a project, programme and portfolio is and what approach the organisation wants to take – taking into account their culture, the amount and complexity of change required.
You can see from the completed board below – there are clear people related challenges also ones relating to good practice, procedures and processes.

With the PMO not generally coming into existence until an organisation has already started down the path of running projects (level 0 and 1) and the PMOs remit is to assist and support the organisation to a level 2 (repeatable) – it is fair to assume that the PMO’s challenges around low maturity will come from instigating change. That goes some way to explaining why it can be difficult to change people’s hearts and minds when it comes to putting in place new processes and procedures – all designed to make things repeatable.

Resistance to following processes, too used to doing things the way they’ve done things for years

The remit for a PMO often comes from senior managers who recognise that in order for the business to manage more successful change – more projects, more programmes, increasingly difficult change – frameworks, methods, procedures, control etc are all needed. The PMO has to think about its balance of relationships between executives and project teams

Being perceived being “on the other side” of the team, kind of taking the side of the Steering Committee and not being really part of the “working team”


What Didn’t Work – Blockers

When thinking about the capability levels of people working in projects – a sheep dip approach to training has clearly not worked for many organisations. We hear over and over that putting Project Managers through PRINCE2 training and expecting a big positive upswing in project success levels has only led to disappointment.
The capability question – the required skill levels, competence, knowledge and experience – needs deeper analysis. And this is for everyone working on projects regardless of role or level of seniority. Many PMOs do have the remit to help support the rollout of skills matrices; skills assessments; gap analysis – and often work closely with the Human Resources department to do so.
Another aspect that the PMO can definitely work to improve on is the delivery method and the associated processes, procedures, tools, templates and documentation that are needed in order to ensure repeatability. What doesn’t work is being inflexible and rigid – or introducing elements which are too complicated or overly bureaucratic.
The PMO has to be able to read the environment, to introduce process at the right level and at the right time. It needs to ensure that there is help, coaching, training to ensure people are ready to change on board.
Which leads to some of the blockers which includes the people angle – people not willing or able to accept that there is a need to change how things get done to increase those maturity levels to repeatable, defined, managed and optimised. There is definitely a requirement on the PMO to look deeper into change management good practice and utilise different techniques when helping people to accept that things are changing – and changing for the better.


What Would the PMO Like to See?

Perhaps the biggest dream here for many PMOs is to be seen like any other business department such as finance, HR, IT and so on. If an organisation was to except that change is now constant, and that projects are seen as the best way to change aspects of the business for the better, perhaps they would see that having a fixed department which supports change activities might be a good way to get better at delivering projects. Having some stability (many PMOs are often under threat of closure) will assist the road to maturity, just a thought!

What Has Worked?

Having a clear definition of what the PMO is – and what it is there to do is an obvious place to start when it comes to building relationships and trust with the rest of the delivery organisation. We’re here to help make projects, programmes and portfolios be successful – and that means helping to increase the maturity levels. The PMO has to be able to demonstrate what it does, show outcomes and outputs, provide metrics and insights that let people know that when we introduce a new process or ask for a timesheet to be completed there’s a reason.
Some PMOs have gone down the road of a delivery organisation maturity assessment – and its a useful exercise to do – and one that the PMO might want to try internally first. To date, there isn’t a formally recognised one for PMOs to assess their own maturity against.

A word of caution on assessing your own maturity – we tend to score ourselves more favourably than others might. If you can’t get someone external, can you get someone from another department to help you instead?

Over the last decade or so – there has been a shift in PMO thinking which has led to a more service-based approach to PMO (offering different services based on what people want) which has enabled PMOs to move away from an admin-only function. If your PMO is not switched on to the service approach, take a look here.
Finally, in relation to taking a service-based approach, the PMO has had another look at how service-based organisations work. This includes thinking about our ‘customers’; thinking about service levels; how customers get value from a service or ensuring that the outcomes meet expectations and so on.

Why not leave a few comments of your own – what is your current challenge in relation to low maturity?

Further Reading and Watching

Want to read and listen to more? Check out these sessions:


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