Integrated PM System and the Project Maturity Model

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately talking to organizations who own numerous copies of Microsoft Project and who are intent on integrating their many diverse users with an integrated enterprise project management (epm) system. The release of Microsoft Project Server in 2002 moved Microsoft into the Enterprise pm space and organizations full of users who had, up until now, only been able to work on their own are now being called upon to collaborate and work together.Along with this almost universal desired to integrate project plans across the organization has come an interest in a Project Management Maturity Model (PMM). The movement toward project management maturity models can be traced back to Capability Maturity models from the Engineering world and to quality manufacturing. The notion here is essentially to qualify levels of development in a project context so that project personnel can interact appropriately with where they are in their level of development and to identify a path forward in terms of next challenges to take on.There are a number of PMM initiatives and there is yet to be a national or internationally recognized standard but the general levels are, I think agreed on by everyone.

At the first level will be some kind of planning on an irregular basis. There will not be standards and each project manager will be on their own to deploy what they wish.
The next level will be a more coordinated effort primarily focused on planning.
Third level generally adds tracking and/or resource tracking to the mix.
The fourth level deals with the first time with integration. Achieving a level four would presumably mean that a company had achieved some level of integrated project management across the enterprise. Level five typically refers to process; meaning really a reiterative process. An organization, which had achieved a level five on a project management maturity model, would be realizing ongoing process improvement as a normal part of managing projects.

So, what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, any methodology which accelerates the process of implementing pm is something to pay attention to and the basic notion of defining where your organization sits on a maturity model like this one lends itself wonderfully to the cause.

When you use a tool like a PMM to help guide your epm implementation, you gain some instant advantages. First of all, just reviewing the definitions of whatever maturity model you start from and updating these definitions for your own organization’s context already determines where you fit in the overall process of epm.

Most organizations we come into contact with are somewhere in level 1 – 3. Particularly with Microsoft Project users, most organizations fit into level 1 or 2. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. The very popularity of Microsoft Project over the years has been largely fostered by its ability install and get started with easily. Project Managers for over a decade have been able to establish their own personal project management environment on their own desktop. Well, guess what? These same users have used the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of ineffective corporate project initiatives. They’re able to create projects, update progress, create great looking reports and analysis all from the comfort of their laptop. It is these same users we’re trying to convince to move to an enterprise project environment using the latest version of their favorite tool but now in an enterprise-wide context. Convincing people that there is an advantage to not only the organization but them individually by collaborating in the enterprise system is half the battle in a full-scale epm deployment. It brings us back to the PMM. Management may not have a full appreciation that the project reports they’ve seen thus far have been largely the result of ad-hoc efforts by individuals using disparate systems. Getting everyone onto the same page in terms of where the organization lies in terms of project management maturity tells you not only where you are but also what stages lie ahead of you.

Just the discussion involved in determining where you place and what the different levels should mean is a highly productive process. Plus, the exercise generates “structural tension” between the level you’re at and whatever the next level is. It’s natural to hear in such a meeting, “Well, now that we know we’re at level 3, what do we need to do to get to level 3?”

Another helpful aspect is how these models highly a natural path from individual use toward integrated project management. When management gets involved (as they must) they’ll naturally tend to look at the top levels and ask what is the hindrance to getting to these levels.

Also, remember, that most of the interest in the results of epm comes from management who have some desire for analytical or reporting of all the projects together. Showing management where the organization fits in a PMM can be a huge benefit early in the project. Resources that might have been otherwise hard to come by may be made available or freeing up project personnel for meetings to help move the organization forward towards integration can become possible once management can easily identify the goals that need to be achieved.

One of the most common misconceptions we encounter in moving a Microsoft Project environment from individual to enterprise project management is that the installation of Project Server will magically make people collaborate. The truth is usually tougher and mapping your deployment project onto a Project Management Maturity Model can provide structure to the cause that is otherwise harder to come by.
Originally published in July 2003 in PM Times


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