A deep-dive into project management maturity models

Retrato da contribuidora Sarah LaoyanSarah Laoyan
3 de julho de 2023
7 minutos de leitura
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A project management maturity model (commonly shortened to PMMM) is a matrix that illustrates how a company's project management process evolves over time. Just as a company changes as it expands, it's necessary for the project management style to mature as well. The idea is that an organization doesn't grow at random—when a company grows, it grows with purpose. In this article, we cover the different facets of the project management maturity model and how you can use this model to uplevel your project management processes.

Look back to what you were like in elementary school. Did you have a mature way of looking at the world? What about when you were in high school? What do your opinions and viewpoints look like now that you're an adult and you’ve experienced more life? 

This concept of maturity can be applied to many things, including business and project management. When an organization first begins to develop work, there may be little to no standard process for project management. As the business grows, their project management style matures. This is the basic concept behind the project management maturity model.

Understanding the components of the project management maturity model can help you analyze where your organization currently stands and how mature your processes are. Then, you can use this knowledge to further develop and improve your project management processes.

What is a project management maturity model (PMMM)?

A project management maturity model (commonly shortened to PMMM) is a matrix that illustrates how a company's project management process evolves over time. Just as a company changes as it expands, it's necessary for your project management style to adjust as well. The idea is that an organization doesn't grow at random—when a company grows, it grows with purpose.

The purpose of the organizational project management maturity model is to provide leadership a guideline of steps they can take to improve. When laid out visually, the PMMM looks like a matrix with five columns across that indicates maturity levels, and 10 rows down to indicate knowledge areas.

[Inline illustration] Project management maturity model (example)
Free project management maturity model template

The PMMM was created based on already existing business models such as the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). This was developed by the Carnegie-Mellon University Software Engineering Institute and the Excellence Model from the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). It also takes aspects from the Risk Maturity Model, which outlines what aspects and activities can create a sustainable and repeatable risk management program.

5 maturity levels of the PMMM

These five levels of project management maturity all represent the stage of maturity that a company can be in. It's possible for an organization to be in different maturity levels in varying knowledge areas. This is similar to a grading rubric, or an employee performance review

Level 1: Initial process

During this level, an organization has very few project management processes in place. More likely than not, tasks are done randomly and it's challenging to predict future success since everything is done ad hoc. 

Different teams may use different project management processes, resulting in a lack of accountability and cohesion between teams. There's very little (if any) documentation, and metrics are only collected as needed. Because project teams aren't measuring metrics, there's no way to evaluate project success. 

The initial process is not necessarily a bad stage to be in—all teams have to start somewhere! The main takeaway with this stage is to be aware of the lack of processes and documentation, so you can work with your team to develop them.

Read: 27 business success metrics you should be tracking

Level 2: Structured process and standards

In this level, an organization implements basic project management, but only for individual projects. This means that there may be varying project management methodologies in use across the organization. For example, the marketing team may be organize their projects differently from the sales team. When sales and marketing need to collaborate, this disconnect causes friction. 

Since there are no broader organizational project management practices in place, the success of all projects depends on individual project managers and the teams working those projects. Metrics are only tracked in the most basic way to ensure success of the current project. 

If your team is at this level, you’re on the right track! You’re standardizing your project management processes at the team level. Now, you can focus on creating standard practices across the company to promote more cross-functional collaboration.

Level 3: Organizational standards and institutionalized processes

At this level of maturity, an organization should have a well-defined project management system that is standard throughout the organization, sometimes referred to as a project management office (PMO). Management is regularly involved in implementing new processes, including implementing change management where necessary to update or modify organization-wide project management processes. You measure metrics, but only to establish a baseline, not for strategic planning.

Documentation at this stage is important, and there are set processes and information that clearly notate what standard business processes look like. If a business-critical emergency happens, there are clear contingency plans in place to prevent the business from completely failing.

Level 4: Managed processes

At this stage, your organization exhibits all of the characteristics from level three and pushes them a little farther. An organization in the managed processes level has clear project management processes and documentation in place. Project leads regularly incorporate standard project management processes throughout corporate systems. During this stage, management regularly begins monitoring metrics and looking at past performance to make decisions for future projects.

In level four, management has a clear understanding of how to achieve project success. Based on past experiences, documentation, and current metrics, they can make informed decisions to ensure that future projects are set up for success.

Free project management maturity model template

Level 5: Optimizing process

Once an organization reaches this level of project management maturity, they can begin fully optimizing their processes to best tailor to their needs. One of the key identifiers of this stage is continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the process of adapting your processes in an effort to maintain efficiency and productivity. Mature organizations integrate continuous improvement techniques into their project management processes.

Not only does your team regularly report on metrics, you also use those metrics to create a strategic plan moving forward. While organizations in level four of PMMM review metrics to make key business decisions, companies in level five also actively improve business processes.

Read: Understanding kaizen: A guide to continuous improvement in business

10 knowledge areas of project management

If the five maturity levels of PMMM are the columns in the matrix, the 10 knowledge areas are the rows. These different knowledge areas are identified by the Project Management Institute's (PMI) guide, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®). This is the industry standard for identifying what knowledge areas are essential for project management. 

  • Project integration management: The coordination of different moving pieces of projects. This includes individual tasks, resources, stakeholders, deliverables, and portfolio management. This knowledge area identifies how all of these moving pieces are communicated to other team members.

  • Scope management: The way the team ensures a project fits the project scope, whether that's time, budget, or resources.

  • Time management: Similar to project scope management, this is how a project management team uses time during a project.

  • Cost management: A subset of scope management, this is how a team manages the costs of a project and if they're using budget efficiently.

  • Quality management: How teams use their processes to produce quality products.

  • Resource management: How teams organize, process, manage, and lead team members during a project.

  • Communication management: The way teams communicate projects both internally to other employees and externally to future and current customers. This can include real-time and asynchronous communication, all of which should be documented in a communication plan.

  • Risk management: How a team proactively mitigates project risk. This includes any contingency plans a team has in response to potential risk. 

  • Procurement management: How an organization obtains goods or services from external vendors. This could either be at the project level or at the company level. 

  • Stakeholder management: The way your team manages expectations from different stakeholders, plus how you communicate status updates with various stakeholders.

How to move from one level to another

If you're looking to move your team's project management processes from the current level to the next one up, it's important to understand that the project management maturity model is not a hard set of rules. They're more guidelines and characteristics for what a good project management process looks like. 

Unfortunately there's no standard way to guarantee your company can move from one level to another. There are many different factors that influence your organization's ability to move levels including the industry you're in, company culture, and growth goals.

If you feel like your team is struggling to move from one level to the next, take a look at the 10 knowledge areas to see how your team is progressing. For each knowledge area, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you established project management best practices? If not, you may be at level one for this knowledge area.

  • Do you have documentation in place about how your organization coordinates each specific knowledge area? If not, this knowledge area may be stuck at level two.

  • Have you standardized practices across all teams in your organization? If not, you’re likely at level three for this knowledge area.

  • Do you monitor metrics and evaluate project success based on standardized practices? If not, this knowledge area may be at level four.

  • Are you continuously re-evaluating how well your team is managing each knowledge area? If not, focusing on continuous improvement can help you reach level five for this knowledge area.

When you ask these questions, you can pinpoint what processes you’ll need to focus on to increase your organization’s project management maturity. For example, if you’re currently in level one, you know that the act of creating a project management process is enough to bump you up to the next level.

Benefits of utilizing the project management maturity model

If you want to see performance improvement in your business, optimizing your project management processes is a good step to take. Here are a few reasons why this is beneficial to your organization.

Encourages scalability

One of the major benefits of using the project management maturity model to analyze your current project management processes is to create a solid foundation for growth. Establishing clear project management processes helps give your team the framework you need to clearly measure project performance and success. 

As your team begins to grow, use the PMMM to re-evaluate whether or not your organization's project management style will work for the team size you have. This is why continuous improvement is a key aspect of level five—it gives your team the ability to find what works best for them as the team shifts and grows. 

Minimizes miscommunication

When your organization establishes a standard form of project management, everybody on your team has all of the shared tools and language needed to communicate effectively. For example, if your team uses a sea of applications like Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, and e-mail, it can be hard to know what the real source of truth is. But if you use a work management tool like Asana as part of your project management process, you can establish a source of truth and minimize miscommunication. Asana helps you coordinate plans, projects, and processes in one central location. Plus, you can create templates to standardize processes across your organization.

When everything is standardized and everyone is using the same processes, your team doesn't have to worry as much about missing files and documents. Each team member knows exactly where to find the information they need.

Increases business performance

When your team has a standardized structure for managing their work, they don't have to worry about how to communicate. They can just focus on what's important—doing the work. This saves time and mental bandwidth. Your team can focus on the meaningful work that helps your company grow, instead of doing menial work about work like deciphering email threads and chasing down approvals. 

Up-level your project management with Asana

One of the easiest ways to start improving your team's project management processes is establishing a central source of truth. Using a work management tool like Asana can help mature your project management to the next level.

Free project management maturity model template

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