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What are the Three Sides of the PMO Maturity Triangle?

Back in March, after the Project Challenge show we had an evening we called the PMO Maturity Triangle.
The evening was all about maturity and why the triangle? It was about the three areas of maturity that affect you, that’s:

  • Organisational maturity – the organisation and it’s project management maturity.
  • PMO maturity – that’s the PMO’s own maturity in how it performs, what it offers etc.
  • Your maturity – that’s your own individual capability and how you perform your role.

It was a roundtable event with some presentation materials thrown in to generate the discussion around these three areas.
In terms of output – especially around the final one – your maturity – we’re in the process of setting up a working group to explore this further because we know just how many of you would like to see some kind of development in something like a competency framework for PMO people. We’ll let you know when we launch the first working group.
So in terms of the other two sides of the triangle, here’s an overview of what we looked into.

Organisational Maturity

It’s obvious that a PMOs maturity is linked to that of the organisation – so it made sense to talk about organisational maturity first.
There are quite a few different models or frameworks out there so on this evening we opted to concentrate on the one that many within the UK are aware of – P3M3:   So there were discussions around the benefits of maturity – for those that are working in organisations which have been assessed, variations around maturity level 2 seems to be the norm. And we took a closer look at P3M3 with its perspectives and threads.
A number of people attending were disappointed however that much of the P3M3 content which was previously available on-line – including the assessments – are now only available through Axelos’ Consulting Partners. I guess P3M3, like other PPM products have become more commercialised over time. You can have a look at the full overview about it here. But having a little drawl around the web there are quite a few older versions still available to have a look at, including a self-assessment one found here (PDF)  

PMO Maturity

A big topic for PMO at the moment – it seems to be linked to the other big topic area of the moment – value. Try talking to any PMO practitioner at the moment and it ain’t long before these two words pop into the conversation.
The interesting thing about the maturity conversation is that there isn’t actually a lot of unique thinking or even research into the area. The one that is the most referenced is the 2010 paper from Pinto, De Matheus Cota and Levin and then subsequent work on the same theme.
That paper is here – thanks to Henny Portman and his great website (check it out if you haven’t seen it already, some of the content is in English) So how does this particular approach to PMO maturity work?
The matrix above shows the three different “scopes” of the PMO – enterprise level, departmental and programme/project.

The scope of influence of a PMO comes from the idea of the extent to which their actions affect the organization. Basically, there are three mutually exclusive possibilities: the project-program PMO, which covers just one of the organization’s projects or programs; the departmental PMO, which covers an area, department, or business unit; and finally the enterprise PMO, which covers the entire organization.

Then there are the three different “approaches”

The approach of delivering is related to how the PMO provides services to its clients. This may be strategically, tactically, or operationally, or it may even operate with all three simultaneously… services to top management, by supporting portfolio management (strategic), providing a common methodology for the organization (tactical), and also managing some important projects (operational).

From research from Aubry and Hobbs* – there were 27 common services identified as being provided by a PMO. Each of these services could be mapped onto the matrix above, so for example one of the services – reporting programme/project information to senior management – would feature in all three “scopes” of PMO but it would be an operational approach.
This is where the paper from 2010 comes in – adding another dimension to the matrix, in effect making it a cube. The dimension is maturity.
* Hobbs, B., & Aubry, M. (2007). A multi-phase research program investigating project management offices (PMOs): The results of phase 1. Project Management Journal, 38(1), 74–86.   PMO Maturity The dimension for maturity is shown above for the service around developing a standard methodology.
So going further, and I’m glad Henny has done this already, the image below shows the PMO Maturity Cube (from the research paper) brought to life. You can see the Assessment Cycle written along the bottom – click to enlarge.
You can also read a paper from Americo Pinto on the PMI website that goes into some further detail about actually doing a PMO maturity assessment – using this model.   PMO Maturity Cube The interesting thing about this particular model is that its not really widely known – and it seems to have dropped off the radar in terms of ongoing research or indeed PMOs actually using it.
So what does this tell us about PMO maturity as a subject? Is it only now that we’re ready for the PMO maturity conversation and perhaps some practical ways to assess maturity in our PMOs – or is it a case of – we don’t really need this?
I’ve heard on the grapevine that there is current research ongoing at the moment into this area – perhaps we wait and see what the findings are there?
Like I said at the top of the article – there will be more coming your way about the individual side of the triangle – we’re looking to kick the working group off this summer.

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