Project management maturity model (PMMM) explained

Let’s say there’s a client with a project in mind looking to hire a company as a contractor.

You wish to land this project, but your company is just one of many candidates in consideration.

How do you increase your chances of landing this gig? 

One way is by using a project management maturity model (PMMM) to calibrate the project management maturity (PMM) of your company and communicate the results.

PMM shows how effective an organization is at using project management practices.

Higher levels of PMM require more refined and standardized processes to be in place, which in turn increases the chances of finishing projects on time, on budget, and at the desired quality.

In this guide, we’ll teach you:

  • What project management maturity models are,
  • How project management maturity is measured using the 5 levels of maturity,
  • How to level up your PMM, and
  • What the benefits of using a PMMM are.
Project management maturity model (PMMM) explained

What are project management maturity models (PMMM)?

A project management maturity model (PMMM) is a framework used to measure an organization’s effectiveness at delivering projects successfully and improve upon it.

To do this, a PMMM evaluates the project management processes of a company, with unstructured and poorly controlled practices ranking at the bottom, defined and standardized practices in the middle, and continuously optimized practices taking the top spot.

A lot of insight into PMMMs can be gained from reading about their history, so we’ve prepared this abridged version.

The history of project management maturity models

In 1986, the US Government needed a way to assess the capability of their software contractors.

To this end, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University developed a framework — the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) — that the government could use to measure the maturity of their software contractors.

In this context, “maturity” refers to how formal the software development process is. 

While it wasn’t designed for project management specifically, CMM formed the basis of what all maturity models would look like.

PM Solutions took the basis of CMM and applied it to project management, creating their Project Management Maturity Model.

This framework is used to assess which level of project management maturity an organization scores in each of the 10 project management knowledge areas defined in PMBOK:

  1. Project integration management,
  2. Project scope management,
  3. Project time management,
  4. Project cost management,
  5. Project quality management,
  6. Project human resource management,
  7. Project communication management,
  8. Project risk management,
  9. Project procurement management, and
  10. Project stakeholder management.
An example of a Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM)
An example of a Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM)

This PMM model was used by James S. Pennypacker and Kevin P. Grant in their 2002 conference paper — “Project management maturity: an industry-wide assessment” — one of the most authoritative and most frequently cited studies on this subject.

For this reason, as well as its universal applicability to all organizations, we have chosen to use the PM Solutions model when explaining terminology in this text, but it’s far from the only option available.

What other PMM models are there?

Even back in 2002, Pennypacker and Grant reported there being 27 different maturity models in a list published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) — this number has only grown since then.

So, depending on the needs of your organization, you may want to use any distinguished PMM models, like the ones listed below:

  • PM Solution Project Management Maturity Model (PMMMSM) — the model showcased above, ranking the 10 knowledge areas from PMBOK on a 5 level scale.
  • Portfolio, Programme & Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3) — designed by Alexos, this model ranks seven core processes on a 5-level scale.
  • Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) — a newer version of CMM suitable for more than just software development maturity.
  • Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3) — PMI’s very own model, very similar to the PM Solutions model showcased above but with only 4 levels of maturity.
  • Gartner Score Diagnostic Family — as one of the newest models on this list, the Gartner Score relies on intuitive and interactive online assessment to measure an organization’s PMM.
  • Berkeley Project Management Process Maturity Model — the Berkeley (PM)² Model, as it’s abbreviated, is another 5-scale model that uses the 10 knowledge areas of PMBOK to assess PMM.

How is project management maturity measured

Regardless of which PMMM you use, the methodology is largely the same — input data is used to assess the maturity of your project management practices.

The four most common types of input data used for assessing PMM are:

  • Project artifact reviews — using project documentation to review the success or failure in adhering to project processes and plans.
  • Interviews — individual and group interviews are conducted to measure how well teams understand and follow PM processes.
  • Surveys — both self-administered and 360-degree surveys serve as invaluable tools for assessing a company’s PMM level.
  • Benchmarking — the most objective mode of assessing a company’s PMM is by benchmarking their results against those of other companies.

A project management maturity model utilizes these tools to calibrate your project management maturity level.

The 5 levels of most project management maturity models

The following 5 levels are taken from the PM Solutions Project Management Maturity Model:

  • Level 1: Initial Process
  • Level 2: Structured Process and Standards
  • Level 3: Organizational Standards and Institutionalized Process
  • Level 4: Managed Process
  • Level 5: Optimizing Process

Since each category is ranked separately, a company could score level 1 for project risk management and project integration management, while scoring level 2 in other categories. 

This clearly shows you which areas of PM require your most immediate attention.

Now let’s look at what each of these levels means.

Level 1: Initial Process

If you’re at all familiar with the “we have X at home” meme, then understanding the first level of this PMM should be easy — it’s project management at home.

It tries to be project management, but it’s not quite there yet.

This is evident in the abject lack of standardized PM practices. 

Instead, everything is characterized by an informal, makeshift structure — from documentation to metric tracking.

Consequently, even measuring success is difficult.

Describing this level as immature is apt, like a child taking their first step towards becoming an adult — you know they’ll get there, but they have to start at an immature level 1.

Level 2: Structured Process and Standards

At the second level, the organization has many project management processes, but they are all applied at the team level.

As such, it’s likely that different projects, teams, or whole departments within the organization are being managed according to different standards.

When forming project teams using employees from different departments, this can cause issues as project team members will have different expectations and experience difficulty collaborating.

Project cost, schedule, and performance metrics are tracked at this level, although the data gathered may not be consistent in terms of quality.

Since project managers are basically given free rein at this level, the success of any project will largely depend on the effectiveness of the project manager, irrespective of the organization.

Level 3: Organizational Standards and Institutionalized Process

At level 3, we can see organization-wide project management systems in place.

This system is formalized through documentation and used by most projects within the organization with very few exceptions.

While automation can sometimes be seen as early as level 1 or 2, at level 3 it is integral to maintaining order and uniformity in project execution.

The organization treats projects not as if they existed in a vacuum, but as part of a bigger whole, taking other projects and programs into account when making key decisions and evaluating project success.

Level 4: Managed Process

Level 4 organizations use standardized practices in all projects without exception. 

They take data from both ongoing and finished projects to chart a course towards future success.

Management in level 4 organizations also understands how to run multiple projects at once, how decisions made on one project can affect other projects, and so on. These decisions are always driven by data.

To remain efficient, level 4 organizations use automation to collect and analyze data.

Project goals and processes are always in sync with organizational strategies.

Level 5: Optimizing Process

To reach the highest level of project management maturity, all level 4 organizations need to do is not become complacent.

Level 5 organizations aren’t afraid to examine their standardized processes and seek flaws in them.

Whereas level 4 organizations strive for efficiency and productivity, level 5 organizations also seek continuous improvement, borrowing a lot from the Lean philosophy of continuous improvement pioneered by Toyota.

They use data collected through project execution to make organizational changes.

How to level up in PMMM

Now that we know what the 5 levels of most PMMMs look like, let’s see what you can do to make the jump from one level to the next.

Getting to level 1

0️⃣➡️1️⃣

The first level has no requirements other than the willingness to use project management practices. 

In fact, some project management models, like PMI’s OPM3, omit this level entirely, instead starting with what we’ve described as level 2.

Moving from level 1 to level 2

1️⃣➡️2️⃣

To get to level 2 you need to design procedures that will serve as the foundation for introducing project management into your company culture.

If both employees and management know how they are supposed to handle their tasks (and possibly react in some emergencies), then you’ve reached level 2.

Moving from level 2 to level 3

2️⃣➡️3️⃣

At level 3, organizations start to get more serious about implementing standardized project management processes across all departments.

One of the best ways to do this is by using specialized project management software like Plaky, which is flexible enough to accommodate all kinds of projects while at the same time being powerful enough to support company growth — from fledgling startups to massive enterprises.

Moving from level 3 to level 4

3️⃣➡️4️⃣

Level 3 is all about perfecting project execution. To get to level 4, you need to look past individual projects and start looking at how they fit into the bigger organizational picture. 

Understand the difference between project management and program management

Manage quality so that all projects and programs conform and contribute to the organization’s strategic goals.

Moving from level 4 to level 5

4️⃣➡️5️⃣

Understand that, while what you have at level 4 is great — level 4 is not something most companies achieve — it can be made better. 

To reach level 5, seek ways to further benefit the organization through continuous improvement and refinement of project management practices.

The benefits of using a PMMM

As mentioned in the introduction, having a higher level of project management maturity can give your company the edge over its competitors when applying for projects.

But the benefits of using a PMMM extend beyond this.

Even if your company only does internal projects and is not looking to impress any third parties, it still stands to gain a lot from seeing where it ranks in a PMMM.

If nothing else, this will highlight your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and indicate what you should focus on to boost its maturity.

We must also mention that higher PMM is directly correlated with increased project success rates, as illustrated through the following project management statistics:

Evaluation categoryHigh maturity organizationsLow maturity organizations
Projects deemed failures11%21%
Projects suffered from scope creep30%47%
Projects met initial goals77%56%
Projects delivered within budget67%46%
Projects delivered on time63%39%

It should be noted, however, that reaching the highest level of project management maturity is not and should not be the main priority for all companies at all stages of development.

For example, a start-up that’s just looking to find its footing will more than likely only be bogged down by focusing on grinding out PMMM levels as quickly as possible.

Rather, as the company grows and matures, its project management practices should mature with it.

Conclusion: PMMMs improve project management effectiveness

A project management maturity model serves as an opportunity for organizations to take a reality check on the effectiveness of their project management practices.

While all the frameworks are subjective to a degree, they still carry a lot of benefits, like being able to land more projects and seeing which areas of project management your organizations should work to improve upon.

As you increase your organization’s PMM level through standardization and automation, higher project performance will follow.

References

  • Kemp, S. (2020, May 11). The History and Purpose of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). HubPages. https://discover.hubpages.com/business/The-History-and-Purpose-of-the-Capability-Maturity-Model-CMM
  • Mateen, M. (2015). Measuring Project Management Maturity – A framework for better and efficient Projects delivery. Chalmers University of Technology. https://publications.lib.chalmers.se/records/fulltext/224129/224129.pdf
  • Pennypacker, J. S., & Grant, K. P. (2002, July 14). Project management maturity: an industry-wide assessment. PMI. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/pm-maturity-industry-wide-assessment-9000
  • Plaky. (2022). Project management statistics (2022). https://plaky.com/learn/project-management/project-management-statistics/#Statistics_on_project_management_maturity
  • PM Solutions. (2012, August 16). What is the Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM)? https://www.pmsolutions.com/resources/view/what-is-the-project-management-maturity-model

FREE project
management app

Alternative to Monday and Asana for managing projects, teams, and all types of work.

Learn more Arrow Right Primary
Pumble chat app