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The Basics of PMO Maturity

I would argue the it’s important to every organization to first know at what level is their PMO operating.  It is equally important to determine what level their PMO should be operating.  In reflecting on the multitude of organizations I have had the pleasure of working with I’ve seen three basic PMO operating levels.  These are…

Basic – An organization with a “basic” PMO operating level may or may not have dedicated project managers.  However, the organization typically has some standards associated with their chosen delivery methodology (i.e. Agile, Waterfall, etc.).  They will also have some rudimentary processes and documentation.

Comprehensive – A Comprehensive PMO will have dedicated project managers and a well-defined process for all of their projects.

Optimized – An Optimized PMO is similar to that of a comprehensive PMO however there are some specific differences in that the PMO will continually evaluate their level of rigor for each given project and typically achieve high success rates.

While these three categories may seem mutually exclusive they are not.  As an organization is maturing through the levels they may find themselves somewhere between basic and comprehensive.  This would be particularly true as an organization strives to define and implement the well-defined process for all of their projects.

The primary mistake I see is an organization trying to jump over a maturity stage.  For example, moving from Basic to Optimized.  While not impossible it is difficult and the process in and of itself is a highly complex project.  Maturing through these stages should be driven but organic.  That is to say, you must progress through the maturity stages in turn.

Nor should these three categories be confused with the level of rigor that is applied to an individual project.  For example, in an optimized PMO the organization may apply a “basic” level of rigor to a relatively simplistic project while opting to apply a more “comprehensive” level of rigor to a relatively complex project.  The trick in this case is knowing when to apply what level of rigor.

For many organizations, a Basic to Comprehensive level of PMO operating maturity is sufficient to successfully deliver those projects that mean the most to their organization.  The trick is knowing what at what maturity level your organization currently operates and then determining what maturity level best suits your organizations needs.  More to come on that process!