How Do You Know When Your PMO is Mature Enough?

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Project Management Offices, or PMOs, help businesses to decide which projects to select, and how to implement and manage them. And the more mature they are, the better they are at doing that. So the question of PMO maturity is one that the Project Management Institute (PMI) has returned to on a number of occasions.

Numerous papers have been presented at their annual Global Congresses, the most practical of which was How to Assess the Maturity of a PMO, from 2012.

3 types and functions of PMOs

They identify three different types of PMOs; for the project or program, for the department, and for the organization as a whole, which they refer to as the Enterprise. Similarly, they go on to describe the three functions; operational, tactical, and strategic.

However, it isn’t simply a matter of then pairing off one with the other. So project-based PMOs are not exclusively operational, departmental PMOs tactical, and so on. Each one will have a different level of maturity across each of the different functions, depending on what its mission is.

Nor can we say that a PMO becomes increasingly mature as it ‘evolves’ from operational to tactical and finally strategic. Some will need to be more strategic and others more tactical. Instead;

“The level of maturity of a PMO results from the extent to which it is capable of generating value for its clients and for the organization as a whole.”

And a PMO’s clients can, once again, be divided into three; the executive, the PMO management team, and the actual clients, each of whom will have different priorities. Even if, ultimately, the PMO is answerable first and foremost to the executive, as they’re the ones who allocate the budget.

The PMO Maturity Cube

What they end up producing is a cube to assess your PMO’s maturity. There are three levels of maturity along one axis, basic, intermediate, and advanced. Then you have the three functions, for operational, tactical, and strategic along the other. And finally, you have the three types of PMO, for a project or program, for the department, or for the Enterprise, along its third and final axis.

The important thing is not that you sit down to actually calculate how your PMO scores – although you can do that here with our PMO Maturity Assessment tool. The very act of thinking about your PMO in this way will allow you to understand where it could be helped to mature more quickly. And all roads lead in the same direction.

The right tools produce maturity

As Janet Liao concludes in another PMI paper, Growing Pains, from 2007;

“PMO maturity (depends on) measuring key performance factors—budgets, schedules, resources, change requests, and lessons learned. That means deploying an enterprise project portfolio management tool to gather data on projects (to) help with resourcing (and) tracking costs.”

In other words, you need to invest in a software tool. Which isn’t a sales pitch. We’re not telling you which one to opt for. But the fact of the matter is, all the research done on this shows that it’s very much like learning to ride a bicycle.

Yes, it’s useful to read up on it before getting one, but it’s impossible to learn how to use it, or appreciate how useful it is, until you actually get your hands on one.

Once you start using your software package, your PMO will mature overnight. And you’ll quickly see which areas are working well, and which ones need further investing in.

As a matter of fact, it’s even more fundamental than that. It’s very hard to imagine how a PMO could ever mature without employing a software tool to make that happen. After all, how can you improve your processes and correct your predictions, if you don’t have somewhere to capture and analyze all your data?

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