In the November issue, we introduced the concept of Enterprise Project Management (EPM) and the process for its implementation. Assuming an organization adopts and implements project management processes as the basis for their operations, the company would then be confronted with the question, "how are we doing?"

Project Management Maturity Models (PMMM) provide answers to that question. This article will look at the ways in which to measure your progress on the project management journey and provide you with the necessary tools to build and nurture a mature project management culture.

Since you have now, presumably, embarked on the project management journey, you will need to deploy a system to gauge your progress and define your action plan in order to stay the course. This is much more difficult to do than it may sound. How does one measure project management maturity and track progress?

Fortunately, a number of organizations have been working on the problem and have developed what is known as the Project Management Maturity Model. The models provide an assessment tool that compares your project delivery with that of established best practices or against your competition.

In general, the models measure progress along five well-defined stages, ranging from the most basic project management abilities to highly sophisticated project management practices and culture.

As is evident from the table (opposing page), the model defines five levels of project management maturity for an organization.

As one can imagine, there are not a lot of Level 1 organizations in the security systems integration world. Level 1 or "ad hoc" project management essentially states there are no established project management practices or standards followed within the organization. In other words, there is no measurement, control, or tracking of project planning, procurement, quality/installation, and costs.

From Levels 2 through 5, the sophistication of the project management practices within a company increase dramatically. Many security integrators are probably at the second level, or still have very fresh memories of this level. In Level 2, we begin to see some basic project planning and reporting practices. Management is now able to keep an eye on what is happening, but admittedly, is more concerned with larger, high-visibility projects. Thus, the practices are often applied to big projects, but glossed over on smaller ones. As we all know, a very large percentage of an integrator's business can, and usually does, come from multiple, simultaneous small projects.

Thinking that project management is only for big projects is a mistake commonly made in our industry. As many of our projects come through at the last minute, and we are likely to be behind before we start, most of us respond with, "we do not have time for all this project management stuff. Besides, the project is not that big anyway."

Although appealing, this sort of thinking is the reason we have so much trouble getting our project done (1) on time, (2) within budget, and (3) with a happy customer. We may be able to achieve two out of three every time, but will never be able to consistently hit all three.

Level 3 is when we begin to create more consistency in our operations, and begin to achieve our goal of bringing in most, if not all, of our projects in on time, on budget, and on scope (presumably translating into a satisfied customer).

Level 3 is also when the organization accepts the value of project management, and adopts clear practices across the company. The company's varying stakeholders work together to ensure the project is a success from beginning to end. Operations may be involved in the estimating process to ensure the project is feasible and that nothing is left out. Sales may be required to provide a clear "statement of work" as part of every proposal to ensure the scope is clearly understood and communicated by both sides. Projects all have a schedule and are interconnected to ensure there are no organizational conflicts. Every effort is made to ensure the resources and tools are available to close the project effectively and to ensure the customer is informed of progress and satisfied with the result.

In other words, the company – from sales, to engineering, to installation, to purchasing, to accounting, to service – are all working within an established process that:

  • minimizes risks to the company.
  • clearly defines the scope of work for every project.
  • has a plan for the implementation of every project.
  • provides the infrastructure, procedures and support to ensure a smooth installation.
  • focuses on closing the project in a timely manner.

If your company is well in command of Level 3 project management maturity, you have gone a long way along the project management path, and are likely to be a cut above your competitors.

We strive to get a company to Level 3. The intention is for the company to be comfortable with this level and to gain familiarity with basic project management practices. The more experience the individuals gain, the more ingrained the practices become to the culture of the organization.

Once basic project management practices become commonplace, organizations begin to look more closely at how they are performing. Level 4 is when the company has adopted project management policies, procedures and systems across the entire organization, and measures performance against metrics. In other words, it can tell at any give time how a project is doing in a myriad of categories, such as:

  • revenue and profits generated per installer or technician.
  • actual costs vs. estimated costs,
  • contributing margins per cost category, and
  • specific areas of project slippages.

Level 4 is the point when everyone in the organization truly gains control over the success of each and every project. All of your internal stakeholders will know exactly where they are, where they need to be, and what it will take to get there.

It can take many years (three years would be common) of focused effort to just get to the point where you are playing in the Level 4 arena. It can take many more to get proficient at it. However, once you just get a small taste of Level 4, it becomes addictive.

Level 5 is when you have become so proficient at Level 4 that you are constantly measuring your achievements, dissecting your failures, and determining ways in which to improve each and every practice, policy, and procedure in the company. You will actually develop procedures for improving procedures. The project management maturity models describe this level as continuously improving, optimizing, and sustained optimization.

Testing and tracking levels of project management maturity is invaluable to an organization. In 1998, the Project Management Institute (PMI) formally recognized this value and launched the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3) Program to pursue the accreditation of the maturity model as a PMI standard to be used globally.

The goals of OPM3 are to:

  • assess organization's ability to implement strategic planning, when managing its portfolio of projects (concepts of EPM).
  • provide tools to help businesses drive performance improvement.
  • consolidate best practices for enterprise PM for individual projects.

These goals, even if not formalized within your organization, will likely be a valuable resource to assist you in adopting a project management culture.

The implementation of a project management culture within your organization is an evolutionary process, taking substantial effort and commitment to perfect. This process should be accomplished in stages and follow a well-devised road map. Even with minor achievements on this path, you will reap significant benefits on your effort and commitment with improved margins and diminishing risks. Every dime you expend on improving your project management initiatives will have a considerable return.

To begin with and just for fun, why not see how your organization measures up.

There are many assessment questionnaires and tools available to measure your maturity level. PM Solutions, in association with Primevera, offers a free, online assessment survey to rate your organization's maturity level. It is easy to complete and provides you with a general idea on where you stand. You can access it at the following web address:

Another more comprehensive assessment tool is offered by the Institute of International Learning: This online assessment takes you through 183 questions covering the various areas of project management, and the service is offered for a fee.

These assessment tools are designed to cover the following areas of project management:

  • project integration management,
  • project scope management,
  • project time management,
  • project cost management,
  • project quality management,
  • project human resources management,
  • communication,
  • risk, and
  • procurement/vendor.

As you work through these assessment tools, you will begin to gain an appreciation for the steps and initiatives involved in moving from one level of project management maturity to the next.

A score of 2 to 2.5, when taking the test, should not get you discouraged. We believe a Level 2 to be very common in our industry. For now, just view the assessment as a snapshot of where you are and use it as a benchmark in your organization's search for excellence.

In adopting the principles of Enterprise Project Management and the tools of Project Management Maturity Models, we guarantee you and your team will:

  • Improve your bottom line
  • Reduce the risks to your company
  • Expend less effort and frustration while achieving more
  • Be more efficient and more satisfied
  • Gain a better understanding of what it is you are doing in the first place
  • Have a major competitive edge
  • And have more satisfied customers

Yes, we guarantee it.