Project Management Institute

Project management institute's organizational project management maturity model (OPM3)





Since the beginning of recorded history, organisations of all kinds—governments, the military, corporations, not-for-profits, charitable institutions—have devoted significant effort to defining their long- and short-term goals or objectives, and to designing strategies to help them achieve these goals. Yet, as we all know, strategies often fail to produce the successful outcomes they were devised to produce. There are many reasons for this disconnect: sometimes strategies are unrealistic; sometimes organisations cannot achieve the internal alignment required to move the strategy forward; but often, strategies fail because organisations have not acquired or demonstrated the capabilities to implement these strategies at the detailed, tactical level.

In our increasingly global economy, in which we are all competing with organisations about which we know very little, in parts of the world with which we may not be at all familiar, it is becoming clear that one critical competitive advantage is the ability to translate strategy into organisational success through a project-based approach. This means developing not only the facility to accomplish individual projects—as important as this is—but developing an overall organisational orientation toward treating as many endeavours as possible as projects, and managing them individually and collectively in such a way as to support the organisation's strategic goals. This approach is what is meant by the term “organisational project management,” which we define as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to organisational and project activities to achieve the aims of an organisation through projects.” While individual projects may be considered tactical, organisational project management is by definition strategic, because, used properly, it mirrors an organisation's business strategy and provides a high-level perspective and regulation of critical resources which directly impact financial results. Seen in this light, organisational project management is a strategic advantage in this highly competitive economy.

The question, then, becomes, how does an organisation go about improving itself in this area of organisational project management? Several assumptions seem logical:

  • First, an organisation needs to know what specific project management-related practices— knowledge, skills, tools, techniques—are considered most desirable, or have proven consistently useful in other organisations;
  • Second, an organisation needs a method to assess its current state of organisational project management against these desired practices;
  • And third, the organisation needs to know how to improve itself against the specific capabilities it identifies as requiring improvement.

In striving to address these needs, numerous individuals and organisations have developed models and methodologies to assist organisations with an interest in pursuing this idea. In 1998, the Project Management Institute—a global membership organisation serving over 100,000 members in the project management profession—entered this important arena by chartering the Organisational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3™) Project Team.

Since that time, through extensive research, the OPM3 Project Team has accomplished a number of critical objectives. For example, it has determined:

  • Best practices associated with organisational project management;
  • Capabilities that are prerequisite or that aggregate to each Best Practice (see Figure 1);
  • the observable Outcomes that signify the existence of a given Capability in the organisation (see Figure 1);
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Metrics that provide the means to measure the Outcomes (Figure 1);
  • and the pathways that identify the Capabilities aggregating to the Best Practice(s) being reviewed (Figure 2 found on p. 4).

Figure 1: Capabilities, Outcomes KPIs

Capabilities, Outcomes KPIs

Together, these Best Practices, Capabilities, Outcomes, and KPIs—along with necessary narrative explanations, navigational guidelines, self-assessment module, and description of the organisational project management process—constitute PMI's Organisational Project Management Maturity Model. The PMI model is designed to help organisations assess the state of their organisational project management maturity allowing them to plan the improvements necessary to achieve a higher level of maturity. Assuming an organisation wishes to improve, OPM3 will help them determine what specific Capabilities they need to achieve the desired Best Practices, so they can advance their agenda while conserving limited organisational resources.


What are some other ways we can describe what OPM3 is? Certainly, it is a means to assess the ability of an organisation to implement its high-level strategic planning at the tactical level of managing individual projects and groups of projects. It is also a tool that can help to drive business improvement in an organisation. It is also a merging of Best Practices from the constituent domains of organisational project management, including portfolio management, program management, and project management.

However, because PMI is, among many things, a standard-setting organisation, we would say above all else that OPM3 has been designed from the ground up to be a standard. PMI believes the project management profession and organisations in general will embrace OPM3, as the global standard for organisational project management. In the effort to achieve this result, the OPM3 project team took great pains to conduct the research that would ensure that the end product would reflect true end-user requirements. This was done through the process known as Quality Function Deployment (QFD), which resulted in what is called a House of Quality (HoQ). The HoQ illustrates the consensus-derived requirements which knowledgeable people indicated the model would need to fulfil, in order to meet the needs it is designed to address. Throughout the OPM3 development process, large numbers of volunteers from the global project management community were involved, bringing highly diverse backgrounds from many geographies, industries, organisations, and levels within those organisations. As a result of this research, QFD, HoQ, and the global breadth of input, OPM3 is a comprehensive model, satisfying important identified customer requirements, such as practicality, scalability, and flexibility, as well as design requirements, such as the use of specific Capabilities, Outcomes, and KPIs. OPM3 also includes the incorporation of all three-project management domains and a process improvement construct.

Physically, OPM3 is organised as a book presented via a CDROM—containing the background explanatory information on the model, a master listing of relevant project management Best Practices, a means to self-assess the state of organisational project management maturity within the organisation, a process construct for portfolio, program, and project management similar to PMI's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), and a glossary. In addition, it will contain a variety of useful directories, containing the detailed cataloguing of the Capabilities leading to their Best Practices, and the information needed to help the user travel the pathways of data to develop an improvement plan for their organisation.

Some things that OPM3 is not: it is not a tool for developing an individual project manager's Capabilities, which would be a repeat of material already existing in PMI's Project Manager Competency Development Framework. OPM3 is not a duplicate or variation on other existing maturity models. The OPM3 Project Team carefully studied twenty-seven contemporary maturity models prior to the development of OPM3, to determine what the remaining needs were and to see where PMI could make an additive, unique contribution to this subject. OPM3 is not intended to be simply read cover-to-cover. While it can be a powerful reference and development tool, its effective use will require significant thought, digestion, application, analysis, and evaluation—not possible through just reading the standard.

The remainder of this paper will be devoted to a presentation of the OPM3 model itself, its components, its architecture, and the basic concept of its operation at the organisational level.


Basic Model Components

As indicated earlier, the basic components of the OPM3 model are the following:

  • Best Practices in organisational project management;
  • the constituent Capabilities that indicate the existence or attainment of Best Practices;
  • the pathways that identify the Capabilities aggregating to Best Practices being reviewed (see Figure 2) including both inter-relationships or capability dependencies across Best Practices and intra-relationships or capability dependencies within one Best Practice;
  • observable Outcomes signifying the existence or attainment of each relevant Capability;
  • one or more Key Performance Indicators, which are the means of measuring each Outcome;
  • model context, including the Organisational Project Management Process and the stages of process improvement.


An additional critical feature of the model is the dependencies existing between and among Capabilities. The attainment of each Best Practice depends on the attainment of Capabilities, many of which are dependent upon other Capabilities. Relationships also exist between Best Practices—and between the Capabilities associated with the Best Practices. These relationships can be illustrated as you see here:

Figure 2: Relationships


In the example shown, because Best Practice B depends on Best Practice A, at least one of the capabilities in Best Practice B must be dependent upon one capability in Best Practice A. As depicted in Figure 2, Best Practice B depends on Capability B3, which depends on Capability B2, which depends on Capabilities A1 and B1.

Understanding the various types of dependencies between Best Practices provides a more robust and comprehensive view of what an organisation must accomplish in order to fully achieve a given Best Practice—and thus, a more realistic picture of what is needed to progress toward maturity in organisational project management. Specifically, understanding these dependencies will generally result in a “pathway”—a Capability-by-Capability path the user will follow in pursuing a given Best Practice, though, for some Best Practices, there may be more than one reasonable sequence in which to attain needed Capabilities, while conserving precious organisational resources. The OPM3 project team has devoted a huge effort to determining the nature of these complex interdependencies, to be able to create a model that provides maximum practical information and value to the user. To date, the OMP3 project has identified in excess of 600 Best Practices, 3,000 Capabilities, and 4,000 relationships between Capabilities.

Outcomes and Key Performance Indicators

Moving down the list of model components, we see Outcomes and Key Performance Indicators. The purpose of incorporating Outcomes in the model is that these Outcomes are the evidence that a given Capability exists or has been achieved in the organisation. In other words, if you have a certain Capability, there must be some objective evidence that this is the case. For example, if a Capability were “Regular maintenance of a Master Project Schedule,” an Outcome would be the physical existence of an up-to-date Master Project Schedule. A Key Performance Indicator (KPI), then, is a metric that can tell us, either quantitatively or qualitatively, the degree to which the Outcome exists. A KPI can be a direct measurement or an expert assessment. In the case of our example, it would not be difficult to ascertain whether the Master Project Schedule represented a sufficient number of the organisation's projects or just some of them, or whether or not it was truly being maintained frequently enough to provide the most value to project stakeholders. Therefore, KPIs might consist of a combination of hard metrics and expert assessment.

In simplest terms, an organisation using OPM3—either assessing itself against the standard, or developing its plan to attain an Organisational Project Management Best Practice—would have the tools to understand what Capabilities they currently had and those they needed to achieve as well as a recommended sequence in which to achieve them. The organisation would be able to verify the Outcome or evidence indicating they had attained each Capability, and the metric to use to measure this Outcome. Once these factors were mapped out, the organisation would know, to a full and comprehensive degree, exactly what they would need to do to achieve any Best Practices. The organisation would also have the information needed to plan for the improvement processes that would be necessary to achieve these Best Practices.

How the Model is Organised

Because maturity's constituent parts include improvement and the steps leading to improvement, many maturity models make use of the well-established stages of Process Management as a basis for organising and presenting their content. The Process Management stages, listed from most basic to most advanced, consist of the following:

  • Standardise
  • Measure
  • Control
  • Continuously improve

The OPM3 model, too, uses the logic of these Process Management concepts. Doing so allows an organisation to see which Best Practices are specifically associated with organisational project management maturity, where the organisation falls on the continuum of maturity, and how it might embark on the journey to organisational improvement. However, OPM3 does not use only the Process Improvement stages to organise its content. It also builds upon the process framework for Project Management, as defined in the PMBOK® Guide, and extends that framework to the additional domains of Program and Portfolio management. This framework permits further refinement of the model so users can understand the implications of every Best Practice in terms of its potential applications to any or all of these three domains which, as a whole, comprise organisational project management.

The basic Project Management Process Groups identified within the PMBOK® Guide are:

  • Initiating Processes
  • Planning Processes
  • Executing Processes
  • Controlling Processes
  • Closing Processes

Shown in terms of their interrelationships and the normal flow of information, these process groups look like this:

Figure 3: Project Management Process Groups

Project Management Process Groups

These same processes can be extended to apply to program management and portfolio management, as well. Placed within the context of the three domains, we can see how these same process groups take on the added dimension of strategic importance.

Figure 4: Organizational Project Management Processes

Organizational Project Management Processes

Finally, with the OPM3 Process Construct (Figure 5), we can see everything combined: The five Project Management Process Groups, within each of the three domains, interacting with and progressing through the four stages of Process Improvement.

Figure 5: OPM3 Process Construct

OPM3 Process Construct

Every Best Practice within OPM3 is mapped to one or more locations within this three-dimensional model. In other words, OPM3 will tell the user where a Best Practice falls within the Project Management Process Groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, or Closing), within which domains (Project, Program, or Portfolio), and at what stage(s) of organisational process improvement (Standardise, Measure, Control, or Continuously Improve).

Model Summary

To sum up, then, OPM3 identifies hundreds of Best Practices in organisational project management, determines which specific Capabilities are needed to achieve these Best Practices, and how to determine when each Capability has been achieved. In turn every Best Practice and Capability has been placed within a context called the OPM3 Process Construct, mapping them to the project management domains and processes, and to the stages of process management.


The OPM3 gives users the knowledge to understand organisational project management, the tools to assess themselves against the Standard, determine their current state, and decide whether or not to pursue a plan of improvement. For those who choose to undertake improvements in maturity, it then provides guidelines to use OPM3 to determine an appropriate course of action while conserving organisational resources. In broad terms, the OPM3 steps are as follows:

  1. Study the Standard. The first step is for the organisation to understand the concepts behind the model as thoroughly as possible. Those involved in applying the standard on behalf of an organisation should take time to study the contents of the standard, becoming familiar with organisational project management and with the components and operation of OPM3.
  2. Assess the Organisation. The next step is to assess the organisation's degree of maturity in organisational project management. To do this, an organisation must be able to compare the characteristics of its current maturity state with those described by the model. The OPM3 Self-Assessment methodology gives users the tools to make this comparison. The Self-Assessment tool is based on a cross-section of key traits distilled from the model. Through assessing itself in relation to these traits, an organisation can identify the general characteristics of its own current state, including areas of strength and weakness, and its general position on the continuum of organisational project management maturity. It can then determine whether or not to pursue a course of improvements.
  3. Determine Focus of Improvements. The OPM3 Self-Assessment methodology will identify the general characteristics an organisation currently possesses, and those it does not yet possess, relative to organisational project management. The user will then be able to focus on the areas of Best Practices associated with those characteristics in need of development, and plan for appropriate improvements. Once the user knows, based on the assessment, which kinds of Best Practices need to be examined and addressed, specific Best Practices and their descriptions can be located within the directories provided.
  4. Determine the Path to Improvements. Once the organisation has determined which Best Practices most need to be addressed, they will refer to the directories to view the series of Capabilities leading to each Best Practice in question. This will identify the prerequisite manageable steps--the path-- for planning the journey from their current maturity state to an improved maturity state within each Best Practice.
  5. Evaluate Current Capabilities. At this point, the user will need to determine which of the prerequisite Capabilities identified in Step Four already exist in the organisation. This step will involve studying each Capability and determining whether or not its associated Outcomes exist and are observable as evidence of the Capability in question. The evaluation step will help the organisation determine which specific Capabilities they will need to address to reach the desired state of maturity.
  6. Plan for Improvements. For those organisations choosing to pursue an improvement plan, the results of the previous step will form the basis for the organisation's improvement plan. The documentation of the Outcomes which have not yet been observed--indicating Capabilities that have not been achieved--permits a ranking of needed Outcomes and Capabilities according to their priority for the organisation. This information, combined with a determination of which Best Practices most merit the use of available resources, opens the way to develop a specific plan to achieve the Outcomes associated with the Capabilities within those Best Practices.
  7. Implement Improvements. This step is where actual organisational change will take place. Once the plan has been established, the organisation will have to implement the plan over time, i.e., execute requisite organisational development activities to attain the needed Capabilities and advance on the path to organisational project management maturity.
  8. Repeat the Process. Having completed some change activity, the organisation will either reassess where it is currently on the continuum of organisational project management maturity or begin working on other Best Practices identified in an earlier assessment but not acted upon.


Clearly, embarking on the OPM3 journey can represent a very serious and long-term commitment of organisational time and resources. It may take some organisations months or even years to implement the steps of the model and to address the issues revealed by following OPM3's recommended process. OPM3 is not intended to be a quick fix—but rather a roadmap, a well-structured and detailed guide to the Best Practices an organisation needs to implement to achieve its strategic goals while conserving organisational resources. The OPM3 is designed to be easy to understand and to use, for anyone dedicated to maturity. It is also designed to be scalable, flexible, and customisable, to accommodate the wide range of individual needs and objectives of organisations of varying types and sizes.

We have great expectations of the OPM3 as a worldwide standard for organisational project management. To the degree that we have succeeded over these several years of its development in gathering input and consensus from a wide and diverse group of organisations and individuals, we believe we have produced a standard that will serve the needs of all types of users. We will monitor with interest the great variety of innovative applications of OPM3, which we expect to see throughout a wide range of industries, and will maintain ongoing communications with the global user community to hear about what they are doing. We will interact with them on questions that may arise, and ultimately learn from their experience. We expect that, like the PMBOK® Guide, OPM3 will evolve over time.

We encourage you to watch for the release of OPM3, to become engaged in investigating it and discussing it within your organisation, and to look for unique and powerful ways to apply OPM3. If we have done our work well, and if you pit this work to the test on behalf of your organisation, we will have accomplished a significant advancement toward helping organisations achieve their strategic goals more effectively, predictably and consistently, through the systematic use of the knowledge and proven practices of organisational project management.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.



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