What matters more to your project organization: maturity or value? Previously the obvious answer to this question was maturity. There are a number of project, program and PMO maturity models that stem from the work done on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) by Carnegie-Mellon University in 1988. After all, why would you not want your business to demonstrate maturity? Surely maturity automatically equals value?
Today, I don’t think the position is that clear.
The Maturity Focus
Maturity models have a scale against which the business can assess itself. Many use a 1-5 ranking scale that starts off with low maturity and ends with a very mature, optimal business operating at level 5.
For example, the lowest level of maturity when it comes to risk management might be that you recognize risk and know that it needs to be managed. Further up would come repeatable, standardized, embedded risk management processes. At the top would be rigorous risk management approaches such as using earned value management inputs and modelling techniques, plus a corporate-wide strategic approach to consolidated risk management at portfolio level with perhaps a risk management community of practice thrown in for good measure.
Typically, the lower levels of maturity are about making sure you are working in an effective way, and the higher levels equate to efficiency and economies of scale – in other words, making sure you are working in the smartest way.
Maturity models are a very good way to assess a company’s approach to dealing with individual elements and also how the react with each other. You can, for example, be extremely good at managing project issues, but unless the issue management process fits seamlessly into communication, stakeholder management and change processes (and anywhere else it touches) then you won’t be able to move that far up the maturity levels.
However, you can still have mature and robust processes and fail on the elements of the project experience that generate warm feelings in your stakeholders and result in them feeling as if they have got very little value from the project.
The Value Focus
So, does any of that maturity stuff matter? If you can consistently deliver value to your customers without consistent project management processes, should you care at all about maturity?
Take, for example, a small graphic design business. They don’t have standard processes but they do a number of projects for repeat clients. Their clients are consistently impressed and recommend their friends. If you asked to see their standards manual, the company couldn’t provide it but they do know how to do a good job and generate value in terms of cash for the company and customer satisfaction for their clients. That’s OK, isn’t it?
Of course it is. Arguably, though, standard processes save time and would give you more hours in the day to do graphic design and take on new clients. However, no one is forcing you down the route of maturity if that doesn’t seem appropriate for your business.
Even large international firms can deliver successfully by focusing on value. Whether maturity is of concern or not, they will probably have realized that standardization, enterprise management software and templates are ways to turn around projects more quickly. Tools like earned value management (EVM) are used in the business without a second thought, and may be used independently by a number of departments.
These businesses may never have stopped to assess themselves on a maturity scale – they simply focus on delivery a quality end result that translates to value for the customer and have gained ‘maturity’ by default.
Where Should You Be?
As you can see, you can be mature without knowing it and deliver value without maturity. Only you can decide whether maturity and achieving numbers on a scale is your goal or whether you take a view that value is the measure you want to be assessed by. Your management team may have a different idea so the first stage is to talk together about your current business position and whether you consider yourself an organization focused on maturity or value, or both.
There is some truth in the fact that maturity leads to value and vice versa. We’ve discussed the point that this isn’t always the case – mature processes don’t automatically equal successful projects and value-added services for the customer. A value focus won’t give you a de facto place high up the maturity scale. But it is good to keep in mind that the two are intrinsically linked.
A mature organization has robust processes, enterprise-wide systems and a professional approach to development and project management. It’s pretty hard to have this type of environment and not be capable of delivering value to your customers. Maturity typically produces good project results so if delivering value is important to you, then looking at how to move up the maturity scale in conjunction with an exercise to ensure you are delivering value could well be the right way to go.
A balance of focus on both maturity and value is probably going to be right for most businesses and will give you the breadth of professional practice on which to build a great delivery team.