What Is a PMO Maturity Model?

PMO maturity models have been called indispensable for their ability to ensure continuous improvement, involve strategic insight from upper management, and create a personalized benchmark system for growth. But what is a PMO maturity model, and why and how should your team use one? In this guide, we will dive into that while also teaching you about other related, must-know tools like the PMO maturity cube and Wrike. 

What is a PMO maturity model?

A PMO maturity model is a tool for recording and analyzing the level of sophistication for a business’s project management offices and systems. From there, users can easily track what they need to keep or improve on in the future. Then, the PMO maturity model will serve as a roadmap for moving forward and measuring improvements. 

PMO maturity models don’t just cover tools. They also are helpful when evaluating individuals, teams, and workflows. They can be made for both one-offs and repeating projects. And they’ll be a great asset when it comes to big picture decision-making for strategy and corporate budgets. 

The Project Management Institute states that a PMO maturity model offers the following benefits: 

  • Supporting a wide range of project types, including product launches
  • Strategically uncovering the highest ROI initiatives 
  • Creating resilience in the face of turbulent market conditions and rapid globalization
  • Showing where your PMO is today
  • Highlighting process gaps that affect growth
  • Determining realistic target maturity levels 
  • Help guide process development by making priorities clear
  • Improves decision-making for software and tool selection

As you can see, these massively impactful benefits aren’t just nice-to-haves. In most cases, they provide mission-critical insight for company-wide strategy. Expert Agile project manager Joey Perugino agrees. In an article for LinkedIn, Perugino writes, “PMO maturity models are indispensable” because of their impact on both culture and management. 

There are typically five levels in a PMO maturity model. 

  • Initiation: Most items are undefined. 
  • Developing: Some PMO processes are established but not all. 
  • Defined: All processes are defined and used consistently. 
  • Managed: Some processes are further optimized but not all. 
  • Optimized: Advanced optimization practices are carried out for all processes. 

The bigger your portfolio is, the more mature you need your PMO to be in order to master the complexities and continue to grow. Firms with fewer projects or a portfolio of projects that ultimately don’t move the needle towards the company’s big picture goals might not benefit from this tool until after they’ve acquired more work. At the end of the day, it’s a judgment call. Once this assessment is made, it’s time to move on to phase two: the maturity cube. 

What is the PMO maturity cube?

If a PMO maturity model is the “what,” a PMO maturity cube is the “how.” A PMO maturity cube is a tried and tested method for fairly evaluating the success of a PMO. It’s called a cube because the model is depicted as three-dimensional. The three dimensions are scope, approach, and maturity level. 

  • Scope can be broken down into enterprise, departmental, or by project. 
  • Approach is either strategic, tactical, or operational. 
  • And maturity level is defined as basic, intermediate, or advanced. 

To use the PMO maturity cube, you’ll also need to create a corresponding and unique questionnaire with the help of your team. The questionnaire is a table that includes each dimension and its chosen level, plus two columns: one for the current level and another for the target level. Depending on the service and the question, a checkmark will go in the appropriate column for each item. 

The point of the questionnaire is to define and categorize all the services being evaluated under the appropriate columns. 

From there, the team can decide whether or not the service in question is at the target level. Levels are defined by a number (0-5 are commonly used) and include a single sentence summary for each. For example, level 0 could be as simple as “the service does not have this function.” The higher the level, the more favorable the performance. In this example, level 5 might be “the PMO has surpassed all target levels and goals, outperforming previous best practices.”

To determine the holistic maturity level, teams compare the total number of points on the questionnaire to the total number of positive assessments. These points are usually marked as checks or X’s in the appropriate columns, making this step simple and easy to read. 

From there, the points are used to create percentages that define what percentage of the overall business is working well. The standard unit for evaluating percentages are as follows: 

  • 0-33% is basic
  • 34-66% is intermediate
  • 67-100% is advanced

Why do PMO maturity levels matter?

PMO maturity levels determine the current state of an organization, where it wants to be, and how it can get there. Think of it as a physical but for your entire project management structure. Continuing this analogy, the cube is your holistic view of the patient, and the questionnaire is their chart. 

Without it, the health of your company is just anecdotal. It can be hard to treat someone if they say they eat well and exercise but still don’t know what’s wrong. 

With it, you form a realistic foundation for improvement based on a thorough understanding of all the complex factors that make the company tick. Just like how having a full panel of tests and records of preexisting conditions makes for a much better long-term treatment plan for both healthy and sick patients, so too does knowing your PMO maturity levels from the outset. 

How to carry out a PMO maturity assessment

PMO maturity assessments are carried out with some initial upfront evaluation by the PMO team followed by input from other teams and stakeholders. Although the PMO team owns this process, it’s important to get everyone’s perspectives to achieve an honest and holistic view. 

First, start by determining your current level. If you’re at the first or second level, it’s likely that the organization either lacks foundational procedures, is currently using outdated ones, or has some processes in place, but either they aren’t consistently followed or need additional oversight. If you’re on the third level, you’ll see that things are generally established and running smoothly but are not fully optimized. At the fourth and final levels, it will be obvious whether or not you have optimized some or all processes, respectively. 

Then, you’ll need to use the PMO maturity cube to look at the issue from all angles. Bring in team members to comment on specific areas and drill down on details that can be used to fill out the accompanying questionnaire. Get a temperature check on the level of individual items. 

After, take a look at the gaps, develop a realistic maturity level goal based on past performance, and create an action plan. Your action plan may involve revisiting this evaluation process at regular intervals to track your KPIs, so creating templates for it now will help make streamlining your optimization process that much easier. 

How to plan your PMO maturity assessment with Wrike

Wrike is a project management software that can both start and assess a Project Management Office. We’ll walk you through how to use Wrike to organize team feedback, view and efficiently use relevant data, and ultimately streamline the entire PMO maturity model process. 

First, create a new project for the PMO maturity model process. Wrike provides a personalized dashboard for everyone on your team, so the entire PMO management team can immediately see this and other relevant projects’ status once they sign in. Like all of Wrike’s projects, the PMO maturity model process will offer the classic Agile features that make this unique tool that much easier to use. Features like Gantt charts and document sharing are vital to the PMO maturity model process by organizing everything in one easy to understand way. 

Next, begin to add PMO maturity model phases and tasks to your project in Wrike. Each will be automatically made into an easy-to-read chart so everyone from stakeholders to creators can follow along. Tasks offer a high level of detailing through features like notes sections, individual due dates, and even approvals, the latter of which will come in handy when getting sign-off on your PMO evaluations from upper management. 

Finally, begin your assessment as a task in the greater PMO maturity model project. Invite relevant collaborators so they can all add their thoughts to the task itself. While some teams rely on email, using task notes to communicate about the task makes it easier to organize. Plus, it helps keep everyone up to speed because they can go back and look at the rest of the conversation as needed. 

Even after the PMO maturity model is complete, Wrike helps project managers define workflows, distribute resources like budgets and time, and easily keep track of everything going on at once. Check out Wrike’s two-week free trial and discover how easy it is to both evaluate old processes and create better, more optimized features like custom templates, visual task tracking, and in-platform file storage.

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