Organizational project management maturity at The New York Times

using the project management maturity model


This paper is designed to provide a description of real-life application of the organizational Project Management Maturity Model developed by PM Solutions to The New York Times Company (NYTCo). As in many organizations, interest in project management began with the Information Technology (IT) organization. Successes within IT generated interest in other business units and ultimately throughout the organization.

NY Times Background

Prior to 2000, The New York Times Company (NYTCo) found itself increasingly challenged to deliver projects on time, within budget, and meeting scope. During 2000, the company began a project management improvement initiative to establish the necessary components for effecting change and improving results. The project management initiative now encompasses the entire corporation. Many of the projects involved are IT-led or have significant IT involvement.

The core business of NYTCo (news reporting) is by definition reactive; because of this reactive culture, planning is a secondary activity. As in most companies, corporate culture permeates everything that is done. The IT and business units were challenged with the chaotic, reactive approach and could not achieve predictable and measurable success repeatedly. High levels of interest existed for a more structured and process-oriented approach. As project management became more understood, the IT and business organizations determined there was a strong need for the more disciplined approach project management brings.

The top executives throughout NYTCo have demonstrated their commitment and support throughout this corporate initiative. Typically, the NYTCo culture does not issue many corporate policy mandates. Because of this corporate culture, NYTCo management felt that project management should be implemented through buy-in from those using it. The leadership approach was to use grassroots efforts to apply the processes and show success through effective application of project management principles. Tailoring this implementation approach to the corporate culture has been a critical success factor of the initiative.

Why Organizational Project Management Was Important to NYTCo

Last year (2001), the NYTCo senior management team identified four key skills critical to the future success of the corporation. Consumer relationship marketing (CRM), value-based pricing, recruiting/retention, and project management were listed as those key skills. The Chairman/CEO created “The Masters Program” and supported the establishment of the four key skills within NYTCo by identifying employees with expertise in those areas to coach and mentor others in the organization.

Two individuals, Janet Burns, Director of Project Management, and David Thurm, Vice President of Real Estate Development, were selected as the “Masters” for the project management skill area. The size, complexity, and number of NYTCo projects were driving forces of project management throughout the company and indicated the need for project management skills necessary for successful project execution to be developed within NYTCo.

A common characteristic found in troubled and unsuccessful projects was the lack of adherence to standard approaches and processes. Operating in this “ad-hoc” fashion was determined a causal factor for the problems these projects faced.

Recently, NYTCo developed a new focus on boundary-less operations—the ability to operate seamlessly across operating units. One major initiative has been moving to a common business system throughout the organization, the Publishing Business System (PBS). In that initiative, 14 regional newspapers are actively supporting the deployment of PBS. The Boston Globe operates as a separate business unit and has also been deploying PBS in its business unit. With large deployments across and between business units, project management was deemed critical to developing the necessary media to enable cross-organizational communications and to coordinate all divisions deploying PBS.

Exhibit 1. Project Management Maturity Model

Project Management Maturity Model

Using the Project Management Maturity Model as a Standard

At the outset of the project management improvement initiative, NYTCo wanted to measure the company against an organizational maturity standard. The following considerations drove this conclusion:

•   The need to score the company's level of maturity against a recognized standard

•   The need for a mechanism to understand the steps necessary to increase maturity to successive levels in the future

•   A way to measure progress and maintain support for the program—focused on the value proposition of interest to corporate executives.

Exhibit 2. Baseline Assessment

Baseline Assessment

It was very important that the maturity model utilized adhere to both project management and IT industry standards. The Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM) used for NYTCo is compliant with both the PMBOK® Guide and the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) Capability Maturity Model (CMM). This provided NYTCo with the foundation necessary to effectively assess each of the six dispersed Business Divisions and develop an actionable plan to take each Business Division to their target level of maturity.

The Project Management Maturity Model integrates the nine PMBOK® knowledge areas with SEI's five levels of maturity. Underlying detail of the PMMM expands the knowledge areas into PMBOK's multiple components. This expansion ensures a comprehensive evaluation of organizational maturity for all aspects of project management. A summary representation of the Project Management Maturity Model is shown in Exhibit 1.

Organizational Approach to Building Project Management Maturity

The approach to developing a project management culture at NYTCo includes three major phases.

Project Management Maturity Baseline Assessment

A cross-functional Project Management Maturity Assessment was conducted, consisting of 58 interviews across six Business Divisions. The assessment defined a baseline of project management maturity from which to begin, by division as well as an average for the company.

The Director of Project Management, Janet Burns, became actively involved in supporting the interview process. As a result, she found there was a lot of information to be uncovered. It also served as a learning process for her. Through the interview segment of the assessment process, Janet uncovered a number of previously unknown champions and supporters. These supporters were tremendous assets and served to generate interest and buy-in throughout the organization. As a result, Janet highly recommends active project office participation during the interview and questionnaire segments of the assessment process.

Target maturity levels were identified for each Business Division. Specific recommendations were developed for the remainder of the initiative for NYTCo to attain the targeted level of project management maturity. During the assessment, we found no consistent level of maturity exists across the divisions of the company.

The results of NYTCo's Project Management Maturity Assessment are reflected in Exhibit 2.

Project Management Implementation Planning and Methodology Development

Following the organizational assessment, a Project Management Task Force was formed with representatives from the six major divisions. The Task Force was chartered to begin the project management implementation by developing a project management methodology, named PM Roadmap. PM Roadmap was developed to establish a consistent approach for project management across the entire company. While the methodology initially focused on IT-led projects, it was designed with the flexibility to also be used on non-IT project management efforts. The methodology was then web-enabled to provide a community of practice utilizing the NYTCo.'s intranet.

NYTCo deployed PM Roadmap as a recommended process rather than a directive process. In addition, many elements of PM Roadmap were found to be very valuable for use in the NYTCo project management deployment approach itself. PM Roadmap is designed to be flexible and offer many options of how to plan and execute a project. A brief (15-page) PM Handbook was established for those projects that do not need as much detail. The PM Handbook is used as a high-level guide and targeted to the project teams who do not need to fully understand PM Roadmap.

Initially, the focus of PM Roadmap was a software development life cycle (SDLC). On further evaluation, the Project Management Task Force determined it would be very difficult to implement an SDLC if no standard approach to managing projects existed. To resolve this issue, it was necessary to start with a more “generic” methodology—PM Roadmap. As success is demonstrated with the PM Roadmap and organizational culture change, NYTCo will continue with development of an enhanced SDLC as a supplement to PM Roadmap.

The project sponsors of PM Roadmap are the CIOs of each division, led by the Corporate CIO, Michael Williams. This group is called the IT Council. The IT Council did not want to place emphasis on selecting/deploying a project management software tool. Therefore, focus was placed on developing a project management process and building recommended templates. Because a number of project management tools are in use across the operating divisions, the Project Office recommends the individual organizations apply the tools they are comfortable with. For example, one division uses the Rational tool suite. Some tools create too much focus on use of the tool versus a focus on applying the best-practices process of planning, scheduling, and control. At present, it is too early in the maturity of the company to mandate a standard tool suite across the organization. The focus is on establishing standard approaches to requirements development, planning, chartering, and other best-practices project management processes.

Deploying the Project Management Methodology on Pilot Projects

The IT Council selected several projects for the PM Roadmap pilot. Pilot activities were led by the Project Management Task Force with representatives in each Business Division accessible to coach pilot participants through the execution of PM Roadmap practices. The Task Force meets weekly to assess the progress of Pilot activities, sharing learnings from each Business Division to maintain momentum.

A comprehensive training strategy to support the implementation included instructor-led training in project management essentials, tailored to reinforce the PM Roadmap methodology. The pilot projects applied the use of the PM Roadmap approach and training to project management in several business divisions: The New York Times Newspaper, The Boston Globe, New York Times Digital, the Regional Newspaper Group, and the Broadcast Group.

Over 200 employees across business units have participated in classes on Project Management Essentials and PM Roadmap during the project management rollout. As these folks have become more educated in project management, they have been drawn more into managing projects.

As a result of project management training, much ad hoc interest has developed throughout the organization. Because of the training, mentoring opportunities have developed. This informal development has created a “pull” of interest in PM Roadmap and the project management initiative. PM Roadmap has now been “webified” along with training schedules, project contacts, project repository guidelines, and samples of project deliverables in the PM Roadmap format.

Planned Future Developments in Project Management

The initial phases of growing project management maturity have focused on building a base infrastructure of methods, process, and training. In moving to increasing levels of maturity, the Project Management Maturity Model will continue to be the guide through specific steps necessary to build the next levels of project management maturity within the organization. In 2002, NYTCo will utilize the Project Management Maturity Model to evaluate progress in changing the corporate culture to a project-based organization. Using this assessment, NYTCo will validate current progress and recast direction for future maturity enhancements. The maturity assessment is expected to reflect significant improvement in these areas.

In the near future, NYTCo expects to continue expansion of the role of the PM Task Force. Currently, the PM Task Force operates like a virtual Project Office. Project Office roles are ancillary job responsibilities and not primary job positions for the PM Task Force representatives. Through deployment, numerous areas of development and enhancement have been identified. There are also plans to establish mechanisms to receive feedback from users to determine what is working and what is not working within the project management methodology and processes. The Project Management Task Force expects to continuously enhance PM Roadmap with SDLC tools and templates and other content based on user feedback.

As PM Roadmap is embraced, we expect to expand its use and encompass more and more projects. This will help to achieve higher levels of maturity throughout the corporation, while still working within the parameters of the corporate culture. Ultimately, a corporate project office could be structured to provide management and support for enterprise initiatives that span divisional boundaries. The corporate project office would be responsible for establishing integrated project/program reporting, methodology maintenance, mentoring, maintaining a corporate library of lessons learned, coordinating training, and providing corporate planning for resource and budgetary requirements. A key driver in project office development is that NYTCo is looking for opportunities to generate cost savings across corporate divisions. Prominent cost-savings opportunities will set the priorities for project integration and cross-organizational communications on new initiatives for the organization.


Understanding current project management maturity is an important element to build a plan for developing the project management culture. Existing corporate culture, willingness to change, investment ability, and executive support must all be carefully developed and managed. The Project Management Maturity Model is a critical tool for assessing, planning, and measuring development of project management at The New York Times Company.

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



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