What Everyone Ought to Know About Project Management Process Maturity

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Project Management Process Maturity

In this article Martin Webster explains why an understanding of project management process maturity can help organisations deliver successful business change.

Since this guide covers a lot of ground and is a long read you may want to check out the table of contents below for some quick jumping around. And, if you want to read more high quality articles please sign up for email updates and never miss another post.

Table of Contents

To stay competitive businesses must be increasingly able to change. What’s more, the forward progress of any organisations is dependent on the effective management of projects.

Project Management Process Maturity

Many businesses set up a strategic change programme to govern, coordinate and control the process of achieving its ambitions for improvement and transforming the quality of the products and services it provides to customers.

Usually, businesses establish project management processes for managing the project life cycle. These include the development of a business case, project planning, the management of risk, tracking benefits and so on.

Yet, it is my experience that the consistent implementation of effective programme and project management practice across all change projects is not widespread in many organisations. This leads to a number of difficulties when managing projects.

For example:

  • inconsistent approach to project management leading to confusion over what the project is expected to achieve,
  • key project roles are not sufficiently articulated resulting in a lack of direction or poor decision making, and
  • appropriate expertise is not employed in projects resulting in products being delivered that are not fit for purpose or incur added cost to correct or replace.

At this point, it’s worth noting that the reasons most often cited for the failure of business change are:

  • a lack of clear strategy, and
  • an ineffective means to manage the required changes.

In this article I aim to discuss the second reason for failure.

In so doing I advocate the use of a project management process framework to increase the likelihood of success.

The Project Management Process Framework

Implementing a project management process framework helps businesses to manage projects in a controlled and consistent way based on standard practices and procedures.

However, it is my belief that the introduction of new processes and procedures is insufficient without a culture of continual project management improvement.

So, the overarching goal and objective of a project process framework is to create a foundation upon which the business can build a structured approach to project delivery.

A project management process framework should address:

  • effective prioritisation of project activities,
  • standardisation of the approach to project initiation and project governance,
  • the adoption of common processes, standards and practice,
  • continual improvement, and
  • measuring and quantifying the benefits of project management activities.

Success or Failure?

Increasingly, organisations are faced with transformational change and projects have become the means of choice for implementing business change.

But, there is a common concern with projects because too many fail to deliver even though best practices seem to be used.

Project management best practice do not necessarily guarantee success nor does their absence guarantee failure.

The following factors determine if a project has delivered:

  1. delivery according to the planned schedule (time)
  2. Meeting of financial goals (cost)
  3. Completeness of planned deliverables (scope)

When comparing organisations’ project management practices with the standard practices used by industry and government agencies I found that the three most common reasons for project failure were often attributed to:

  1. Poor project planning – the absence of effective product-based planning
  2. A business case that fails to articulate the benefits – no reassessment that the project is on track to realise the stated benefits
  3. Insufficient clarity about the project management roles – gaps in responsibility and unclear project objectives

If this is true, why is project management said to be of value to the organisation while at the same time project management practices seem to be poorly applied?

I believe this has much to do with project management process maturity.

Businesses value project management at the operational and tactical level but do not consider project management a strategic asset.

Process Maturity

Recent research, including that undertaken by the Project Management Institute established a dependency between the organisation’s project management process maturity and benefit realisation.

Project management process maturity refers to the level of consistent application or the setting up of defined project management processes within an organisation. Hence, it is concerned with the benchmarking — or measurement — of project management processes and project performance.

For these reasons a project management process framework needs to be much more than a set of standardised processes.

Rather, it should present a structured project management environment with clear objectives for continual improvement and measures for determining the value of project management to the organisation.

Diagram showing 5 levels of process maturity: Initial, Repeatable, Defined, Managed, and Optimised.

Project Management Process Maturity

The levels of a simple process capability maturity model for project management are:

# Level Description
1. Initial Ad-hoc project management processes
2. Repeatable Basic processes used for larger projects
3. Defined Standard processes for all projects
4. Managed Mandatory processes fully integrated into the business
5. Optimised Continual improvement

The aim of a project management process framework is to lead to a higher level of project management process maturity, which will result in improved project performance and increase the likelihood of success.

Implementing a Project Management Process Framework

When implementing project management process improvement the following components should be used together:

  • a simple project management process capability maturity model,
  • a benchmarking exercise to establish current performance and facilitate the measurement and quantifying of project management benefits, and
  • a staged process framework required for the consistent planning and execution of projects

There are many capability maturity models for project management available. Some free-to-use and others licensed. Project management process maturity models are derived from a capability maturity model originally developed by Carnegie Mellon University for assessing an organisation’s ability to deliver contracted software projects.

Many models are onerous and involve significant investment to implement.

This is unnecessary.

Payback can be achieved quickly if a simple maturity model is adopted. My recommendation is to use the Schiltz model: A Practical Method for Assessing the Financial Benefit of Project Management.

I suggest this because it is freely available, is relatively easy to apply and support, and maps well to current project management best practice approaches including the PRINCE2 methodology.

What’s more, by using the questionnaire provided, it is possible to determine the current level of project management process maturity quickly.

While this cannot tell the organisations how to improve it does show the problem areas. Those key processes that project success is dependent upon.

With this knowledge, the organisation can target specific areas for performance improvement and introduce a project management process framework with the backing of top management.

Expected Benefits

Use the Schiltz project management process maturity model to offer arguments for investment in better project management practices. Although a model cannot tell the organisation what it should do to improve, it does give valuable information about the extent of the problem.

It also establishes the magnitude of the financial impact of weak project management processes. Information decision-makers will want to scrutinise and ultimately base their decisions on.

In gaining commitment it is possible to implement a process framework that addresses those areas ripe for improvement, which will ultimately lead to a higher level of project management maturity within the business.

Creative Commons image courtesy Andreas Cappell.

Last updated 19 May, 2014 Share the knowledge …