The benefits of more mature PM processes include reduction in costs and an opportunity to stay competitive. Project life cycles are reduced and quality of deliverables increased. Resources are better allocated and project investments are more closely aligned to strategy. Increased maturity translates to a better customer experience.
Fortunately there is much work done on increasing maturity of project processes and this should be leveraged when taking on the challenge to better project management in your organization.
A primary up front study is to review the various maturity models available. One of these is provided in the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) standard. This is a framework of best practices published by the IT Governance Institute.
There are six generic levels of process maturity defined in the COBIT:
- Level 0 is characterized by a complete lack of process or acknowledgement that it is needed.
- In level 1 there is recognition of the need for standardization, however ad hoc practices are applied on a case by case basis at the discretion of individuals.
- In level 2 similar processes are followed by several people doing the same task, however there is a high reliance on the expertise of individuals and no or little training takes place.
- In level 3 standards begin to emerge as practices are formalized to procedures. These are communicated and followed with deviations which are unlikely to be detected or managed.
- In level 4 processes are managed, measured and subject to constant improvement.
- Level 5 fully incorporates best practices into the working fabric of the organization through automated execution processes and established processes to improve effectiveness and quality.
Levels 1 through 5 are commonly labeled Ad hoc, Defined, Controlled, Measured and Optimized in other publications and standards for capability maturity models.
According to recent research published by Info Tech Research Group more than half of organizations are at level 2.
Interestingly the Info Tech research ‘peels the onion’ on maturity giving measures of contribution to maturity in terms of people, process and technology. They conclude that people maturity plays the smallest role yet it is a prerequisite to improving process and technology practices.
Another perspective on improving maturity is given in a recent article in the PM Network magazine. In the article entitled ‘Minding the Gap’ Peter Fretty quotes John Schlichter who suggests going beyond methodology and process to governance when improving project management maturity:
“There is a difference between creating a standard and achieving standardization. The former is a document, whereas the latter is the result of effective governance, policies that distinguish what is important, training in which users experience their competence and a compliance function”.
The job of increasing project management maturity is not trivial. It’s fueled by solid oversight by senior management, an open culture, good planning and consistent, ongoing effort. Developing an understanding of current maturity is a good starting point to identifying what the best next steps should be.
It does take time to improve project management performance and improvement programs can yield near-term benefits when designed to do so. Organizations wishing to leverage the current economic climate are well advised to be lured to this jewel of investments and start acting relentlessly to increase maturity. They stand to gain a never-ending stream of lower project costs and better competitive positioning.