100 organizational improvements using OPM3®


This paper is based on the “OPM3® Portugal” project research, which consists in the analyses of 100 organizations, as case studies, that is currently under way. The actual state and future perspective of the project is described in detail, including investment, cost, and benefits analysis as well as the criteria that has been used to select an organization (a case study), how the assessments are carried out and which are the expected and actual results. Essentially, this paper shows how PMI‘s the “Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®)” standard is being applied in this project. It is also presented an explanation about how this transformation project is changing the case studies involved.

The OPM3® Portugal Project

The data to produce this paper were collected from the 100 case studies under way in the OPM3® Portugal Project (Pinto & Nigel, 2013). The OPM3® Portugal Project seeks to perform a comprehensive analysis of the state of Portuguese industry with regard to the degree of maturity in the adoption of project, program, and portfolio management methodology. It integrates the participation of a range of knowledge and reputed partners with origins in the scientific and technological organizations, including Portuguese universities. The project leader is the project management research and development organization, Ambithus. The OPM3® Portugal Project was chartered because of the need by Ambithus and other project initiators and mentors to improve the way Portuguese industry initiate, choose, manage, control, and close their projects. The understanding of this need was very helpful to take the proper actions and to take advantage of an established funding system for research incentives for these kinds of projects, supported by the European Union Government but managed by the state authorities.

The OPM3® Portugal Project consists in a comprehensive analysis of the state of Portuguese industry with regard to the degree of maturity in the adoption of project, program, and portfolio management methodology, using PMI‘s OPM3®.

Throughout the research, the study will also produce impacts on the case studies: The organizations, which are the subjects of the study, will receive the organizational improvement plans. These plans can be adopted by the participating organizations.

OPM3® (Organizational Project Management Maturity Model) was selected (PMI, 2008) as the methodology to be used in the project and the name was also established: OPM3 Portugal. The analyses made clearly show that the advantage of applying OPM3® is its flexibility and comprehensiveness because of the 600 organizational best practices, its capacity of assessing current capabilities of the organization, and because it maps the steps needed to improve organizational performance. OPM3® also enables the production of useful informational outputs to owners and managers at an early stage of the research. As a maturity model, OPM3® provides a method for organizations to understand their processes and measure the skills as they prepare to improve their internal procedures. It also enables organizations to develop a vision of the way forward to improve performance, in project, portfolio, or program management. These outputs from OPM3® can help to maintain organizational commitment to the project and support subsequent data collection by researchers.

One hundred organizations are being selected based on criteria like been engaged in either a large number of projects or having to deliver products and services that are the outputs of complex projects. Another important condition, for an organization to participate, is that the organization's top management must fully support the study.

The intervention process sequence is OPM3® compliant and all the actions are guided by senior consultants. One very important factor, for consistency, is to have steady data input and processes in place to eliminate interviewer bias.

This is guaranteed by the established quality control process, which works preventively by assuring that all collected data are properly recorded in a specific information system.

Following this fieldwork, an OPM3® status maturity's report will be generated and shall be submitted to directors and top managers. This report presentation is the working basis for the design of the improvement plan, which is also presented and delivered to the organization management, and other employees who management wants to participate in the assessment and improvement plan project.

Case Studies

One of the most important terms for an organization to be selected to participate is that the organization's top management has to fully support the study. The process begins with the signing of a protocol of cooperation, in which it is specified all the objectives and deliverables to be produced. This set of rules specifies the name of the internal promoter (project manager) within the organization involved, the entity name of the organization from the scientific and technological system that participates as a partner, and the name of the OPM3® consultant appointed by Ambithus.

The intervention process sequence is OPM3® compliant and all actions in the organizations are coordinated by senior consultants. Consistent input and elimination of interviewer bias are guaranteed by the established quality control process, which works preventively assuring that all collected data is properly recorded in the information system, developed by Ambithus to support this processes.

Sectorial Findings

On completing the company assessment, workshops will be conducted to disseminate and discuss intermediate results by industry sector. This will be done so that both the companies participating in the study and the overall market will have information on the overall development of the study. It will also be useful to confirm research findings and identify additional organizations for study.

Once company level assessments are completed, the findings will be summarized to create industry sector level measures of project management capability. Following the analysis and validation of the results achieved, an industry sector improvement plan will be presented and discussed during seven to nine thematic workshops. The integrated improvement plans will be validated in these events through discussion with sector stakeholders.

Benefits of the Proposed Methodology

Overall, this assessment exercise is meant to create multiple benefits to stakeholders. For organizations, the intent is to improve the relation between strategic planning and execution, extending the results of projects, making them more predictable, reliable, and consistent. Other benefits include the identification of best practices that can support organizational strategy for implementing successful projects and the identification of specific skills that the organization has and which can be “best practices.” For policymakers, a regional country level measure of maturity can assist in the design of future interventions and programs. Sectors with a low level of maturity can receive additional support for executing projects and can be encouraged to form partnerships with more mature sectors. Several other benefits have been identified in the OPM3® Portugal project:

1. The development of a specific methodology for intervention in companies with regard to the verification of organizational maturity level.

2. The development of an information system to manage administration of OPM3® interventions at a country level. The data can be used to assess the effectiveness of improvement actions as well as shared with countries seeking to perform a similar exercise.

3. Lessons learned from the project can be applied in a similar manner.

4. Information system that integrates the methods of intervention and might be exploited commercially.

Preliminary Results

OPM3® Portugal project research allows the identification of “general” positive and negative factors that are common in the assessed organizations and the linkage between those factors and the strategic objectives. Some of the strategic objectives of the organizations that are being analyzed are common and it would be interesting, if possible, to observe the evolution of the strategic thinking for the organizations involved.

Most of the organizations have started or are going to start international operations and many of them consider the internationalization processes as a project. Other important and common worries are in the definition of an appropriate program for the training and mentoring, especially on the more technical and difficult areas, such as engineering. Most of the OPM3 Portugal cases recognize the importance of standardization throughout the entire organization. But even being recognized as very important, it still is not a trait followed and with a low degree of appliance in some of the assessed organizations.

Most of the organizations have a huge difficulty in the detailed plan of project activities and in the risk management processes, as planning, analysis, control, and monitoring risks. Risk management is clearly, so far, the weakest point throughout the organizations the team has been working with. Besides that, some of the organizations do not follow processes at all; there is a lack of processes standardization, and a significant lack in the record and report of hours spent on each project activity. There is also a general need to create Project Management Offices (PMOs), particularly in the organizations with multiple business units. Other common organizational difficulties are: the alignment between management and engineering; the empowerment of the project managers; documenting the closed projects; sharing lessons learned; managing internal and external stakeholders; insufficient or inappropriate communication of the government bodies, specially in the dimension on what is the strategy to be followed by project managers and team members; control and reporting of the projects performance; in quality assurance processes; in tailoring training to the functions; and allocating the right resources to the right activities.

Improvement Plans

Most of the OPM3® Portugal improvement plans are consequent to the problems found. All the improvement plans, so far, have been presenting solutions for the most important organizational problems, like lack of detailed planning and inadequate risk management processes. There is a strong emphasis on the standardization processes, since for most of the organizations being analysed that is the first big step for improvement and organizational maturity. Many improvement plans suggest standardizing the main documents of the projects and to fully implement detailed cost and work oriented plans so it would be possible in the future to implement control processes. Some improvement plans take considerable effort toward the need to implement record systems for the report of project time. PMOs establishment or development is also many times proposed. Training and on-the-job mentoring, not only for project managers but also to other key stakeholders like team members and top management is also frequently stated. Some organizational changes are frequently proposed, such as giving more detailed role definition and defined ground rules for the project managers, in such a way that either the organization and the professionals know what they can do and what they cannot do. Communication improvement and consequent changes on the project management information systems issues are also very frequent. One of the proposed measures that usually causes many organizational discussions is the proposed improvements in the way strategy is communicated to the project teams, most of the time there is a lack of mutual understanding between top management and team members. Staffing and the connection between activities and resources are usually other key parts in the improvement plans. In the improvement plans proposed measures are divided in governance; portfolio management; program management; initiating; planning; executing, monitoring, and controlling; and closing.


Measures that will impact in the way the organization behaves as a whole are usually under this grouping. Some are proposals to define policies describing the standardization, measurement, control, and continuous improvement of organizational project management processes and to make frequent reviews of the methodologies to meet the organization's needs.

Even for organizations that mainly do projects, those where making projects is what brings money in, the adoption of the organizational project management concepts and practices is not seen as the means of achieving organization's goals and objectives. OPM3® Portugal Improvement plans usually addresses this by suggesting a change in the organizational drivers in such a way that project management concepts and practices become recognized as been essential and necessary for the organization to be successful. Measures for continuous performance observation also belong to this category.

In the governance section, the improvement plans also consider the main standardization needs, like “define scope” processes for example. Some of the processes that need to be standardized are so important and with so many organizational impact that it is mandatory that this change may be seen as a general governance measure.

Knowledge, experience, sponsorship, and other human resources subjects like selecting and personal engagement are so important that are also considered in the OPM3® Portugal as governance measures. This also includes more subjective measures like having a common project management language or getting project manager certification. Other examples are making sure that there is education for the executives on the benefits of organizational project management.

Training, oriented for project managers and prepared toward the project management professional certification is usually proposed. But professionals who have other areas of expertise are also sought after by the specific training proposed. The objective is to ensure project manager development, providing project management training appropriate for all roles within the project hierarchy. Specific measures for training in the use of tools, methodology, and deployment of knowledge are included. Other measures are also presented, like identification of future training needs and subsequent establishment of training programs, to ensure that in the near future every project role has adequate training. Revisions and improvement measures for the training policies are also regularly considered.

The appropriate organizational structure to support the projects, programs, and portfolio is one of the most endeared issues. This is a direct consequence from the establishment of strong executive support to the project management process and from the establishment of career paths for all organizational project management roles.

Metrics and project controls are very important. Estimating and standardizing have to be done in such a way that there is a consistency between projects and programs and that projects in each portfolio may also be compared, with strong foundations for similar metrics, collected in a standardized way during and after project execution are usual advices in the OPM3® Portugal improvement plans.

Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) are usually implemented in the analyzed organizations. Advices in the improvement plan are oriented toward operational functions, like velocity and availability of the system for team members. It is less frequent that improvement plans address more strategic functions in the PMIS part of the report. This is due to the fact that most of the systems solved have many more functions and capabilities than those needed by the organizations. But what happens, in most cases, is that project information is lacking, and even with the more advanced, updated and recognized PMIS the improvement plan addresses the development of a mechanism for the storage, retrieval, dissemination and reporting of the organizational project management information. This is due to the fact that many organizations do not use the full capabilities of the information system they have implemented and because many organizations use the information system without applying the methodology and the standards. But PMIS speed and its availability for all team members are usually things that have to be improved.

Standardization of methodology based on best practices is also most commonly in the implementation plans, as well as customization of generally accepted methodology adapted to meet organizational requirements.

In governance it is also becoming normal to advice the organization toward including explicit strategic goals in addition to time, cost, scope, or quality in the project objectives. This includes strategic goals into the project objectives.

The standardization of some specific processes is usually included in this part of the improvement plan: staffing oriented process; developing project team process; managing project team process standards; and developing human resource plan process standards. Other processes that appear habitually are standardize project distribute information; project estimate activity resources process, estimate costs; project plan communications; and report performance.

Additional strategic measures are connected with the involvement of the organization executives in shaping the business change management program that has to be common across the organization. Making sure the executives know about the organizational project management and its impact to the organization and involve them in business change management.

Metrics are also very important. A good example in an improvement plan is: “Define process to collect, organize, analyze, take proper action based on defined metrics for projects performance – planned investment and returns against actual and final investment and returns oriented for the business results. Define range of objectives for investment and return and define project success based on those. The accepted variance, per period, in project returns for each project as to be defined. In the formal state reports, project managers have to review goals and plans, explain the differences between plan and actuals and propose solutions.” Another one: “Define an independent process to evaluate documents, metrics, systems, procedures and applied policies in every critical project; in most of the big projects and in some of the smaller ones.”


Portfolio management processes are in their early stages in most of the organizations under the study. So the improvement plan usually focuses on standardization of the more important processes, like “portfolio identify components” or “portfolio categorize components.” One of the most important is the connection between environment, the organizations and its strategy, so usually “portfolio monitor business strategy changes” standardization is advised.


Specific advices for projects or programs initiation are to improve the develop project charter process and to communicate it to all necessary stakeholders. Many organizations envolve in the project charter only very high organization placed persons and do not take into account several risks and even facts that may make the project charter very different – improving the ods of the project being not aproved or vice versa. This means that many times project go/no-go decisions are being made without the full organizational knowledge. So, this is a very important and definitive process that many times organziations need to improve. To achieve this, it is also mandatory that the process “project identify stakeholders” is fully aligned with those principles. This process should be known and used by the entire organization, incorporating the relevant information into the project charter document. In many organizations, it is necessary from the early stages of the project, to define the “project manage stakeholder expectations” process.


Planning is the thing project managers are good at. That is one of the main reasons why organizations hire project managers – so the organizational planning improves. But organizations are not good at planning, especially on detailed planning. So, to have a proper process in place is very important. OPM3® Portugal found in many organizations a strong need to make team members and other stakeholders more aware of what is happening, improving the prevision of what are the actions in the projects. This comes with staffing plans, that, to be properly implemented have to considerer the communication with the stakeholders of a project develop human resource plan process.

The project management plan process is very important, since it shoud integrate all the planning information in such a way that it should be a point of analisys in the future. Surprinsigly, the research so far indicates that many organziations do not keep a formal project plan database for their projects; either the information is spread through some information system or it is not organized in such a way that there is a simple, defined, comparable plan for each project.

Other more detailed planning processes usually need improvement plans for their standardization. Examples are “determine project collect requirements,” “project estimate activity durations,” “project create WBS,” “project estimate costs process,” “project develop schedule,” and “project plan quality.”

Other planning process such as “project plan risk management” or “project plan communications” are many times refered in the improvement plans.

The incorporation of the detailed plans in the “project management plan” is also a strong point for improvement.

Executing, Monitoring and Controlling

Some of the process that are usually found in OPM3® Portugal improvement plans with a strong advice to further standardize are: “establish monitor and control project work,” “project develop schedule process,” “direct and manage project execution,” “project report performance,” “project verify scope,” “project control scope,” “project control costs,” “monitor and control project work process,” “project determine budget,” and “project perform integrated change control.”

Stakeholder's management processes also appear in many improvement plans, as well as other strategic oriented, for example to establish the revision of the project goals and plans as necessary.

Team management processes are also needed, specially “acquire project team.”

Quality is very important and to have processes like “project perform quality control” and “perform quality assurance” standardized is also important.

Other more specific examples may be stated, such as “development and analysis of requirements for a mechanism for the storage, retrieval, dissemination and reporting of organization project management information” or “always include in the formal reports and in the project meetings a point about risk changes” or even “make mandatory identify risks at least in three categories.”


One good example of closing: “Define a close project process that makes sure the project is reviewed by the appropriate governing bodies, to make critical decisions on organizational process improvement goals and plans and to have proper approved lessons learned and final results of the project.” An example of advice from the improvement plan for the closing processes is about the caption and sharing of lessons learned from projects, programs, and portfolios.

Ambithus Specific Results

The OPM3® Portugal methodology is based on the PMI‘s OPM3® standard. Ambithus took further the appliance of the standard, developing a consultancy methodology, which makes the consultants involved in each case to produce specific orientations for the organization.

Some of those special notes are presented in this section as examples, since most of them are only useful in the organization where the measure is proposed. But from these examples, it is possible to understand the value that organizations are taking from the participation in the project:

Clarify the company's strategy, which sometimes is not clear. This makes each business unit running on different directions.

Create a position of leadership and governance specific for project management, common to all business units, such as a PMO (Project Management Office). A PMO has the authority to act as an integral stakeholder and is a key decision maker in the beginning of each project to make recommendations and may be involved in the selection, management and deployment of shared or dedicated project resources to centralize, to coordinate the management of projects, methodologies, risk/opportunity and to support project managers in a variety of ways which may include: managing shared resources across all projects; identifying and developing project management methodology, best practices and standards; coaching, mentoring and training; monitoring compliance with project management standards, policies, procedures and templates; developing and managing project policies, procedures, templates and other shared documentation; and coordinating communication across projects.

Improve the investment on training in critical organizational areas such as project management, including budgeting, foreign languages, innovation and general management.

Increase the number of certified project managers.

Promote the empowerment of project managers.

Make Biannual 360° HR evaluation.

Create a profile responsible for Quality Assurance/Quality Control, to ensure independent quality processes in project management.

Improve the assessment of the customer satisfaction at the project level, to improve account management ability and impacts on new business.

Create templates and guidelines that must be common to all business units.

Create a systematic process for registration of work hours, applicable to all personnel.

Create a process to make clear the career paths for project managers, team members, and other key project roles.

Create rules for managing the contents of the existing projects on the file server – ensure that everyone registers the information related to the projects in the most appropriate way, to improve future reuse of the contents.

Create a process for sharing throughout the organization the actual state, objectives and other relevant information about the on-going projects (for example, workshops or pechakucha meetings).

Create a welcoming manual for new employees.

Create internal procedures for transversal organization processes.

Generalize the use of the CRM system.

Improve the exploitation of project results for the marketing activities.

Improve the alignment of Human Resources selection processes with the strategic vision of the organization.

Create structures that will allow management competency-based Human Resources compensation system.

Increase the contribution of project managers in the evaluation of their team members.


This paper presents preliminary results from the “OPM3® Portugal”, a project research that consists in the analyses of 100 organizations, as case studies, that is currently under way.

The researchers’ hope is that, as the number of cases improves, it'll also progresses the data quality and the ability of the researchers to make sectorial investigation, enlightening the understanding of the organizational main problems and difficulties in the project, program, and portfolio management. The first results from the investigation of the improvement plans show clearly that most of the organizations need to do much more process standardization and that a strong improvement in the establishment of the main processes from the integration knowledge area is needed.

From the analyses of the non-quantitative data, such as the top-level meetings and the presentations with key personal from the organizations, this research has undoubtedly proved that applying OPM3® with a strong, tested and detailed methodology such as the one Ambithus is using produces assessment reports and improvement plans in which the top management of the organizations fully review themselves.

With the quickly rising of closed cases – with full implementation plans presented – it is becoming more and more possible to have detailed and consistent data to be used for new papers.

Ambithus methodology is also improving fast because of the knowledge that is collected from the fieldwork.

But the most important result is the concretization of the improvement plans in 100 organizations, acting as change plans, which were produced by the results of the project. We hope to go further and to be possible in the future to analyze the impacts of the project in the involved organizations.

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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.

© 2013, Jose Angelo Pinto
Originally published as a part of the 2013 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA



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