In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the US Department of Defense Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University was wrestling with how to evaluate the ability of government contractors to perform on contracted software projects.
Then, as now, there was a wide range of companies offering to develop software, with large variations in their experiences, capabilities, and approaches. Over time, the SEI developed the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), which defines five levels of performance for key processes:
- Level One: Initial
- No process documentation. Chaotic, ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants.
- Level Two: Repeatable
- The process is documented so the same steps can be repeated.
- Level Three: Defined
- The process is defined/confirmed as a standard business process.
- Level Four: Managed
- The process is carefully managed in accordance with agreed-upon metrics.
- Level Five: Optimizing
- The process is managed and improved using process optimization.
Using these levels (which are really a continuum, not a series of discrete levels) along with other parts of the CMM model, it is possible to score an organization’s software development “maturity”. The assumption is that the more “mature” an organization, the more likely they are to be successful when developing software.
Since the development of CMM, maturity models have been proposed for a variety of different business functions, including project management – hence the term Project Management Maturity. In this case, maturity refers not to the ability to develop software, but the ability to manage projects (and maybe programs and portfolios) in the organization. There are many several models from different authors for scoring organizations – ranging from simple to complex.
Example Project Management Maturity Models
- Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®) Knowledge Foundation by PMI
- Project Management Maturity Model by J Kent Crawford
- Using the Project Management Maturity Model by Harold Kerzner
In the project management arena the value of quantifying maturity is not so much about comparing your organization to others (although this can still have value), as much as it’s a basis for continuous improvement. Is your organization more, or less, project management mature than this time last year? What could you do to improve the maturity in the next quarter?
Even on a personal level you can develop metrics to assess your own project management maturity, and track them over time. Sometimes change happens so slowly that it’s hard to see. Thinking about Project Management Maturity is one way to quantify, visualize, and encourage, change over time.