Benchmarking project management maturity

moving to higher levels of performance


Effective project management deployment requires a clear understanding of current project management maturity and the steps required to move to higher levels of performance. That understanding comes about through an assessment of the organization against a project management maturity model and the development of a strategic plan for moving project management forward in the organization. This paper explores the results of a survey of 126 seniorlevel project management practitioners on their organizations' project management maturity (Center for Business Practices, 2001). The paper demonstrates the value to an organization in using maturity models, presents a baseline for attendees to measure themselves against, and offers a tool that other researchers can use in evaluating project management maturity in organizations. A project management maturity self-assessment survey will be given to all attendees who are at the presentation.

Organizations are at the bottom rungs of the project management maturity ladder, and they have particularly immature risk management processes. These conclusions are among the results of a survey of 126 senior-level project management practitioners by the Center for Business Practices, the research arm of the consulting and training organization, PM Solutions. The Project Management Maturity Benchmark survey asked organizations to self-assess their project management maturity using a model developed to enable them to measure their maturity in project management processes generally accepted as crucial to successful project completion.

Exhibit 1. Project Management Maturity Benchmark Summary Results*

Project Management Maturity Benchmark Summary Results

Exhibit 2. PM Solutions Project Management Maturity Model

PM Solutions Project Management Maturity Model

The CBP surveyed senior practitioners with knowledge of their organizations' project management practices and their organizations' business results. The results show that 88.9% of organizations are at Level 1 maturity, 6.3% at Level 2, 3.2% at Level 3, 0.8% at Level 4, and 0.8% at Level 5 (see Exhibit 1). The survey used PM Solutions' Project Management Maturity Model in the assessment (see Exhibit 2). The model describes how organizations mature as they improve their project management processes. As such, it is a useful framework for organizations wishing to improve their project management processes.

The maturity model is fully aligned with the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model (featuring five levels of maturity) and the Project Management Institute's PMBOK® Guide (assessing maturity in the nine knowledge areas—project integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, communications, risk, and procurement management). The knowledge areas are further decomposed into components for more detailed assessment. For example, risk management (which showed the poorest maturity among all organizations) is divided into risk identification (maturity level average: 1.95), risk quantification (1.69), risk response development (1.74), risk control (1.71), and risk documentation (1.42) (see Exhibit 3).

Survey results document the maturity level of organizations in the nine knowledge areas (see Exhibit 4), as well as 42 specific components that make up those knowledge areas. The results present a baseline of project management maturity in organizations. The report documents the project management maturity model in a way that organizations can use to perform a self-assessment and compare their maturity to the baseline survey.

The survey sample was segmented according to company size, including small businesses with annual revenue under $100 million, midsize organizations with revenue between $100 million and $999 million, and large companies with annual revenue of $1 billion or more (see Exhibit 5). The study sample was also segmented according to several industries (information; professional, scientific, and technical services; finance and insurance; and manufacturing). Data from respondents reporting on the maturity of their IT division only (28%) was segmented as well (see Exhibit 6).

Survey Conclusions

Observations and conclusions drawn from the study include the following:

•   Organizations, on the whole, are on the bottom of the maturity ladder.

•   The calculated level of maturity (avg. 1.18) was significantly lower than the average of the direct responses to the question, What is your overall project management level of maturity? (2.40). The difference is probably due to the respondents not understanding the cumulative nature of project management maturity (the organization is as mature as the lowest component maturity). But it might also reflect an overly optimistic assessment of maturity when thinking about the whole as opposed to thinking about specific processes. Nevertheless, the calculated level of maturity is the more accurate information.

Exhibit 3. Maturity Model Knowledge Areas and Components

Maturity Model Knowledge Areas and Components

Exhibit 4. Project Management Knowledge Area Maturity

Project Management Knowledge Area Maturity

Exhibit 5. Project Management Maturity by Size of Company

Project Management Maturity by Size of Company

Exhibit 6. Project Management Maturity by Industry

Project Management Maturity by Industry

•   Risk management maturity is significantly lower than all other knowledge areas.

•   Scope management maturity is higher than expected given that the project management literature regular lists problems with scope and scope changes as a major cause of project failure.

•   Cost management maturity is lower than expected given the emphasis of financial factors is business.

•   Organizations are, on average, most mature in quality management.

•   The highest levels of maturity are in technical requirements definition (2.58), scope definition (2.58), project plan execution (2.54), activity definition (2.52), business requirements definition (2.46), issues tracking (2.38), and solicitation/source control (2.27).

•   The lowest levels of maturity are in risk documentation (1.42), risk quantification (1.69), risk control (1.71), risk response (1.74), cost resource planning (1.82), cost control (1.92), cost estimating (1.94), risk identification (1.95), and schedule control (1.98).

•   Organizations are surprisingly mature at scope definition and requirements definition (both business and technical) given the industry research that shows that problems sticking to scope and requirements is one of the leading factors in project failure.

•   Organizations are relatively immature in work breakdown structure (WBS) processes (2.06), a surprise given the emphasis on WBS in the profession.

•   Organizations are particularly immature in cost management, and especially immature in resource planning.

•   The size of company, in general, makes little difference in project management maturity, with the following exceptions: small companies are especially immature in business requirements definition (although they are more mature in technical requirements definition); large companies are particularly immature in project plan development.

Assessing Your Organization

A project management maturity assessment should be aimed at providing a path forward for the organization in improving its project management capabilities. Typically, organizations start with a baseline assessment of their current situation. This is accomplished by performing a comprehensive assessment evaluating all areas where project management has an influence. From here, a periodic, abbreviated assessment can indicate where progress is being made in the application of project management methodologies. The baseline assessment enables an organization to identify those areas that will provide the greatest return on investment and will show where immediate actions will have an impact.

There is a great difference between each of the five levels; organizations should strive to fill in the pockets that are weak while advancing those that will provide benefit. Striving to increase the maturity level just for the sake of having a higher level is an unwise use of the tool. It is also recommended that an organization attempt to maintain a close relationship of levels across the various knowledge areas—the benefits associated with achieving a Level 5 maturity in one knowledge area will be erased if the other knowledge areas are all at Level 2 maturity (Crawford, 2002).

Setting Maturity Goals

Level 5 maturity is not for everyone. Each organization needs to determine the minimum level of maturity at which the return on investment (ROI) is achieved and then determine the ROI associated with achieving the next level. It is important to realize that these levels are evolutionary steps. Establish an incremental improvement program with specific focus and measurable goals that allow your organization to realize some benefits within a short period of time (six-month increments, whenever possible).

It is also beneficial to maintain project management maturity in synch with other corporate process maturity, including financial management, software engineering, etc. For instance, implementing mature project management processes such as earned value tracking is meaningless if the organization has not implemented time reporting processes. Experience shows that advancing project management practices far ahead of other corporate processes can cause turmoil and mistrust.


The benefits of a structured assessment of project management maturity lie in setting direction, prioritizing actions, and beginning cultural change rather than in understanding the current level at which an organization is performing. The emphasis is on “structured.” It is important that the assessment itself be repeatable, provide consistent measurements and results, and provide for some degree of benchmarking with other organizations. This provides the basis for any assessment to be utilized as a “checkup” tool to measure progress, and to identify the next logical steps forward. Like it or not, maturity assessments may be here to stay in this complex project management world we live in—not too distant or different from the software development world and SEI's CMM (Crawford, 2002).


Center for Business Practices. 2001. Project Management Maturity Benchmark. Havertown, PA: Center for Business Practices.

Crawford, J. Kent. 2002. Project Management Maturity Model: Providing a Proven Path to Project Management Excellence. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
October 3–10, 2002 • San Antonio, Texas, USA



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