How mature is your PMO? And does it matter?
We would say that it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you know where you are. And that’s where a PMO maturity model comes in.
What is a PMO Maturity Model?
A PMO maturity model is a way of assessing how good your PMO is at doing certain things.
At its most basic, a maturity model is a scoring system plus measurement categories. You score yourself against a number of different categories.
Maturity models help you track where you are and where you want to be. They help drive the conversation around how you want to develop your PMO functionalities and in what direction. They can also help you align your management team’s expectations of what they will get from the PMO with what you can actually deliver.
There are a number of different maturity models for PMOs, but broadly they are very similar. If you have a preference for a model that’s available commercially or through professional organizations, then you can use those, otherwise you can make your own.
PMO Maturity Levels
Generally, regardless of origin, PMO maturity models have 5 levels which form the scoring mechanism. They fall broadly along these lines:
- Ad-hoc: no particular processes or standardization
- Planned: there is some degree of planning for processes and activities
- Managed: work is actively managed
- Integrated: processes, deliverables and outputs are effectively integrated
- Sustained: a mature way of working is sustained over time and embedded into the way work is done across the business.
These levels might be described differently in the maturity model you choose to use, but you’ll find they mean very similar things. If you are building your own maturity model, you’ll want to define what the levels mean to you.
It’s human nature to want to be at the top level of maturity across all elements of the PMO assessment, but in reality that’s not necessary or appropriate! You might not need to be at the top maturity level for certain elements of what your PMO does.
The levels – an honest assessment – are there to help you see where you are performing currently and to give you clarity about what needs to be done to reach the next level of maturity, if, indeed, moving up a level is desirable for your organization at this time.
The PMO Maturity Assessment Questionnaire
In order to assess which maturity level you have reached, you need to be asking yourself some questions. These are the measurement categories, and they form the maturity assessment questionnaire.
You can either use questions from a standard model, or develop an assessment questionnaire yourself. Both approaches have advantages.
Using a standard PMO model such as frameworks from Gartner, guidance from PMI or providers offering PMO credentials, can save a lot of time. You simply take their questions and work through them. It’s quick to work out your maturity level and once you’ve got the questions, you can go through the assessment as many times as you like.
However, some of these models can feel unwieldy and rather long, depending on where you are in PMO journey. They might major on services that you don’t provide, or overlook areas where you are doing work crucial to the success of your business. Spending time developing a bespoke questionnaire can prove to be more relevant. It can give you a better understanding of your services and your gaps because you have to have clarity on what you do before you can craft questions around those services.
Again, once you have the questions, you can run through the assessment each year (or at a frequency that works for you) to assess your current maturity.
PMO Maturity Self-Assessment
PMO maturity is often considered as if it was a cube because there are three dimensions:
- Scope (whether services are provided to a project or program, department or to the enterprise)
- Approach (e.g. tactical, operational, strategic)
- Level of maturity (e.g. basic, intermediate, advanced).
You can assess yourself against each dimension: for each service that you offer, do you do so:
- To a particular project, a whole division or the business overall?
- On a tactical basis, on an operational basis, or as a part of the overall strategic governance framework for the business?
- To what level of maturity?
Your maturity assessment questionnaire will guide you through the different dimensions. It’s a good idea to include some nod to business objectives as well as the operational questions and categories that you would naturally include. This should ensure that you maintain a good alignment with operational requirements and the strategic objectives of the business.
At the end of the exercise, you should have a good idea about where you sit on your maturity model.
Putting together a maturity assessment for your PMO can feel like it is going to take you away from your business as usual work. Setting up a maturity assessment for the first time can also feel quite daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before. How do you know what the right questions are for your business? Should you be using a bespoke tool or a commercial product for self-assessment? What do you do with the output from the assessment anyway?
It can be hugely helpful to have a third party take the burden of working with you to understand where you are in your PMO journey, and helping you to plan the next steps. A PMO Pulse Check is a good way to quickly establish where you are and where you should be focusing next. This will help your team understand the PMO roadmap, and allow you to put your energy into delivering great value.
PMO maturity is something that you can develop at your own pace. You need to know where you are starting from, and have a practical model to help you measure and assess your maturity over time.