Project Management Institute

The past, the present and the future of OPM3

Lisa Marie Kruszewski, Project Management Institute

Claudia M. Baca, PMP, QuantumPM

Ade Lewandowski, 3M

Past: The OPM3 Charter

Organizations of all kinds devote significant effort to defining their objectives, and to designing strategies to help them achieve strategic goals. Yet, as has been well documented, strategies often fail to deliver the successful, consistent, predictable outcomes they were devised to produce. Sometimes strategies fail because they are unrealistic; sometimes organizations cannot achieve the internal alignment required to move the strategy forward; but often, strategies fail because organizations have not acquired or developed the capabilities to successfully implement these strategies at the detailed, tactical level.

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

How, then, does an organization improve in the area of organizational project management?

  • An organization needs to know what specific best practices—knowledge, skills, tools, techniques—have been proven consistently useful in other organizations;
  • An organization needs a method to assess its current state of maturity; and
  • An organization needs to know how to improve the specific capabilities it identifies as requiring improvement.

In attempting to address these needs, individuals and organizations have developed various models and methodologies to assist in the pursuit of maturity. For example, in 1991, Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, dedicated to software development, published its first version of the Capability Maturity Model. Then in 1998, the Project Management Institute (PMI®)—a global membership organization serving over 133,000 members in the project management profession—entered this important arena by chartering the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3™) Project Team to develop a global standard for organizational project management. OPM3's intent is:

  • To guide the development of capabilities necessary to execute organizational strategy through successful projects, distinguished from capabilities associated only with the management of individual projects; and
  • To be able to be used by organizations of all sizes and types, in virtually any industry or culture.

Past: The OPM3 Research

PMI is, among many things, a standard-setting organization; therefore, above all else, OPM3 is a standard. PMI believes the project management profession and organizations in general will embrace OPM3, as the global standard for organizational project management. In the effort to achieve this result, the OPM3 project team conducted the research that would ensure that the end product would reflect true end-user requirements. This research was accomplished through a 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 that knowledgeable people indicated OPM3 would need to fulfill, 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, organizations, and levels within organizations. As a result of this research, QFD, HoQ, and the global breadth of input, OPM3 is a comprehensive standard, satisfying important identified customer requirements.

In fulfilling the chartered objectives for OPM3, the OPM3 Project Team conducted extensive research of many maturity models, surveyed many executives and garnered input from many project management professionals. They received input from large and small organizations, from virtually all industries, and from many countries around the world. The result is a standard that is applicable to most organizations, in most industries, in most locations, most of the time.

The work of the OPM3 Project Team culminated in December 2003 when OPM3 was released to the public for purchase through the PMI Online Bookstore.

Present: The Interlocking Elements of OPM3

Among the OPM3 elements: Knowledge, Assessment, and Improvement, OPM3 contains:

  • Best Practices associated with organizational project management;
  • Capabilities that are prerequisite (that aggregate) to each Best Practice (see Figure 1);
  • Observable Outcomes that signify the existence of a Capability (see Figure 1);
  • Key Performance Indicators, KPIs, (Figure 1) that provide a means to measure the Outcomes;
  • The dependencies that identify the Capabilities aggregating to the Best Practice(s) being reviewed (Figure 2);
  • A high level tool to allow organizations to self-assess against the body of Best Practices identified for OPM3; and
  • Searchable, interactive databases containing data pertaining to the OPM3 Best Practices, constituent Capabilities, measurable Outcomes and Key Performance Indicators.
Graphical representation of a Best Practice, Capability, Outcome and KPI within OPM3

Figure 1: Graphical representation of a Best Practice, Capability, Outcome and KPI within OPM3

Together, the Best Practices, Capabilities, Outcomes, and KPIs—along with necessary narrative explanations, navigational guidelines explaining capability aggregation, self-assessment, and description of the organizational project management process—constitute PMI's Organizational Project Management Maturity Model. OPM3 is designed to help organizations assess the state of their organizational project management maturity by assisting them in understanding organizational project management, organizational project management maturity, and how to assess their current organizational project management maturity. Assuming an organization wishes to improve, OPM3 will also help them determine what specific Capabilities they need in order to achieve the desired Best Practices, so they can advance their agenda while setting priorities for using or applying limited organizational resources.

Physically, OPM3 is organized on a CD-ROM—containing the background explanatory information of OPM3, a master listing of relevant organizational project management Best Practices, a means to self-assess the current state of organizational project management maturity within the organization, a process construct for portfolio, program, and project management consistent with PMI's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), and a glossary. In addition, it details the cataloging of the Capabilities leading to Best Practices as well as the information needed to help the user travel the pathways of data, via dependencies, to develop an improvement plan for their organization.

Present: Dependencies

OPM3 contains 586 Best Practices, 2,109 Capabilities and 2,259 relationships between Capabilities.

A unique feature of OPM3 is the identification of 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 in Figure 2 In Figure 2, because Best Practice 42 depends on Best Practice 51, at least one of the Capabilities in Best Practice 42 must be dependent upon one Capability in Best Practice 51. Hence, Best Practice 42 depends on Capability 42C, which depends on Capability 42B, which depends on Capabilities 42A and 51A.

Relationships among Best Practices

Figure 2: Relationships among Best Practices

Understanding the various types of dependencies between Best Practices provides a more robust and comprehensive view of what an organization 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 organizational project management. Specifically, understanding these dependencies will generally result in a “pathway”—a Capability-by-Capability path the user may follow in pursuing a given Best Practice. However, for some Best Practices, there may be more than one reasonable sequence in which to attain needed Capabilities, while conserving precious organizational resources.

In simplest terms, an organization using OPM3—either to assess itself, or to develop its plan to attain an organizational project management Best Practice—would have the tools to understand what Capabilities they had achieved and those they needed to achieve as well as a recommended sequence in which to achieve them. The organization would be able to verify the Outcome or evidence indicating they had attained each Capability. Once these factors were mapped out, the organization would know, to a full and comprehensive degree, exactly what they would need to do to achieve any Best Practice. The organization would also have the information needed to plan for the improvement processes that would be necessary to achieve the targeted Best Practices.

Present: OPM3's Categorizations

Because of the robust nature and number of the OPM3 Best Practices and Capabilities, Best Practices and their aggregating Capabilities are organized, or categorized, in order to make them more manageable. There are three categorizations within OPM3 : PPP, IPECC, and SMCI. Exploring each categorization further…

OPM3 builds upon the process framework for Project Management, as defined within the PMBOK® Guide, and postulates the extension of this framework to the additional domains of Program Management and Portfolio Management, as shown in Figure 3:

  • Project Management
  • Program Management
  • Portfolio Management
Organizational Project Management Processes

Figure 3: Organizational Project Management Processes

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 improvement as a basis for organizing and presenting their content. Based upon the work of Walter Shewart, popularized by W. Edwards Deming, OPM3 employs the Stages of Process Improvement (SMCI), listed from most basic to most advanced, consisting of the following:

  • Standardize
  • Measure
  • Control
  • continuously Improve

Using the logic of these stages allows an organization to see which Best Practices are specifically associated with the progression of organizational project management maturity as it relates to process standardization, measurement, control and improvement, and where the organization assesses itself on the continuum of maturity, as well as how it might embark on the journey to organizational improvement.

In addition to Best Practice categorization by domain, PPP, and by stage, SMCI, OPM3's Capabilities are categorized by the basic Project Management Process Groups identified within the PMBOK® Guide. These Process Groups are: Initiating Processes, Planning Processes, Executing Processes, Controlling Processes, and Closing Processes:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Controlling
  • Closing

This framework permits further refinement of OPM3 so users can understand the implications of every Best Practice in terms of its potential applications to any or all of these three domains that, as a whole, comprise organizational project management.

Finally, with the OPM3 Construct (Figure 4), we can see how these categories are related to one another; the five Project Management Process Groups, IPECC, within each of the three domains of organizational project management, PPP, interacting with and progressing through the four Stages of Process Improvement, SMCI. All the relationships are represented by either categorizations or by dependencies.

OPM3 Construct

Figure 4 – OPM3 Construct

Every Best Practice within OPM3 is mapped to one or more locations within domain and stage. In other words, OPM3 categorizes each Best Practice according to which domain (Project, Program, or Portfolio Management) and stage of organizational process improvement (Standardize, Measure, Control, or continuously Improve) they address.

To sum up, OPM3 identified hundreds of Best Practices in organizational project management, determined which specific Capabilities are needed to achieve these Best Practices, and how to establish when each Capability has been achieved. In turn, every Best Practice has been placed within a context called the OPM3 Construct, mapping them to project management domain and to process management stage. This provides a framework for applying process improvement to the domains of program and portfolio management, and communicates how the domains are interrelated through dependencies.

Present: How are organizations using OPM3?

OPM3 provides users the knowledge to understand organizational project management, a tool to assess themselves against the body of Best Practices contained within OPM3, the ability to determine their current state on a maturity continuum, and the information necessary for the organization to 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 organizational resources. In broad terms, the OPM3 Steps are as follows (Exhibit 5):

Exhibit 5

Exhibit 5

Prepare for Assessment. The first step is for the organization to understand the concepts behind OPM3 as thoroughly as possible. Those involved in applying OPM3 on behalf of an organization should take time to study the contents of OPM3, becoming familiar with organizational project management and with the components and operation of OPM3.

Perform Assessment. The next step is to assess the organization's degree of maturity in organizational project management. To do this, an organization must be able to compare the characteristics of its current maturity state with those described by OPM3. The OPM3 Self-Assessment is one way to accomplish this assessment giving users a top-level tool to make this comparison. Through assessment, an organization can identify areas of strength and weakness, and locate its general position on the continuum of organizational project management maturity.

The most common next step would be to conduct a rigorous, detailed assessment of the Best Practices' aggregating Capabilities, to determine which of these currently exist in the organization. This assessment would allow the organization to make final decisions regarding possible improvements and determine where to allocate resources. One possible approach to this process is outlined in OPM3.

Following the assessment phase, then, an organization might take one of three paths: 1) continue into the improvement planning process, 2) repeat some part of the assessment, or 3) exit the process, if it is comfortable with its maturity in organizational project management. If an organization chooses to exit, it may want to revisit the assessment step periodically to monitor the effects of any changes.

Plan for Improvements. For those organizations choosing to pursue an improvement plan, the results of the previous step will form the basis for beginning the development of the organization's improvement plan. The documentation of the Outcomes which have not yet been observed--indicating Capabilities that have not been fully achieved--permits a ranking of needed Outcomes and Capabilities according to their priority for the organization. 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. Therefore, the organization may use the results of Step 2 in concert with its organizational priorities to determine the scope and sequence of improvement efforts.

Implement Improvements. This step is where actual organizational change will take place. Once the plan has been established, the organization will have to implement the plan over time, i.e., execute requisite organizational development activities to attain the needed Capabilities and advance on the path to organizational project management maturity.

Repeat the Process. Having completed some change activity, the organization will either reassess where it is currently on the continuum of organizational project management maturity or begin working on other Best Practices identified in an earlier assessment but not acted upon.

Although the OPM3 Cycle is the approach that PMI endorses, PMI also recognizes that organizations, as they become familiar with the OPM3 Knowledge Foundation, will uncover innovative approaches to OPM3. For example, one such innovation could be demonstrated through a two-step application of the OPM3 Self-Assessment. In this case, rather than an organization completing one OPM3 Self-Assessment, an organization may decide to take two OPM3 Self-Assessments simultaneously, each with a different focus:

In the first approach, the organization completes the OPM3 Self-Assessment with a very optimistic or liberal point of view in mind when answering the OPM3 Self-Assessment questions. The result of this process would allow for a slightly liberal assessment, and would identify those Best Practices that the organization clearly has clearly not achieved.

In the second approach, the organization completes the OPM3 Self-Assessment with a very conservative or analytical point of view in mind when answering the OPM3 Self-Assessment questions. The result of this process would yield those Best Practices that the organization has, indeed, clearly achieved.

This variation would soften the requirement for meeting all the criteria to determine the achievement of each Best Practice as it maps to the individual OPM3 Self-Assessment question1. It also validates the assertion that OPM3 is flexible, capable of being tailored within an organization based upon an organization's unique environment, infrastructure and goals.

Present: Concluding Thoughts

Clearly, embarking on the OPM3 journey represents a very serious commitment of organizational time and resources. It may take some organizations months or even years to implement the OPM3 Steps 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 organization needs to implement to achieve its strategic goals through projects while conserving organizational resources. OPM3 is designed to be easy to understand and to use for anyone interested in organizational project management maturity. It is also designed to be scalable, flexible, and customizable, to accommodate the wide range of individual needs and objectives of organizations of varying types and sizes. The OPM3 Knowledge Foundation, (not the self-assessment tool), provides the basis for improving the process.

PMI has great expectations for OPM3 as a global standard for organizational 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 organizations 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.

Now that OPM3 has been released, we encourage you to become engaged in investigating it and discussing it within your organization, and to look for unique and powerful ways to apply OPM3.

If you put this work to the test on behalf of your organization, we will have accomplished a significant advancement toward helping organizations achieve their strategic goals more successfully, predictably and consistently, through the systematic use of the knowledge and proven practices of organizational project management.

Future: OPM3 Ancillary Products and Services

While PMI will not provide consulting products and services to support organizations in their application of OPM3, PMI does recognize the need for OPM3 ancillary products within the marketplace. Hence, PMI is considering a proposal from a vendor to create, distribute, manage, and continuously improve ancillary products and services based upon and derived from OPM3. These offerings include assessment products and services, consulting products and services, training products and services, and benchmarking products and services.

The Assessment Products and Services may include the following elements:

An administrative system and set of objective criteria to solicit, train and approve internal and external OPM3 assessors and monitor their performance.

Protocols, templates, and other tools for use by assessors.

An assessment tool that increases the capability of assessors to conduct independent, objective assessments.

A listing of approved assessors to be published on

The Consulting Products and Services may include the following elements:

An administrative system and set of objective criteria to solicit, train and approve OPM3 consultants and consultancies to monitor their performance.

Improvement services tailored at achieving increased strategic project management performance.

An on-line, searchable registry of ‘PMI Approved OPM3 Consultants/Consultancies’ to be maintained on

The Training Products and Services may include the following elements:

Training modules explaining the intricacies of OPM3.

Alternative methods of applying OPM3.

In-depth review of the operation of the OPM3 CD-ROM.

The Benchmarking Products and Services may include the following elements:

A secure electronic database designed to house data generated through the OPM3 Self-Assessment as well as the additional assessment tool to be developed by the vendor.

A robust means of collecting and analyzing assessment data to provide confidential and secure trend and comparison reports. Organizations should be able to use the benchmarking service to compare their own progress over time and to compare themselves with the aggregate results from assessment of similar organizations based upon industry, size, geographic location and other appropriate factors.

The benchmarking database should have the capability of separating data collected through the OPM3 Self-Assessment and from data supplied by approved assessors using approved assessment tool(s) and protocols.

Future: Final Thoughts

The release of OPM3 is the beginning of a journey. The significance of this work extends beyond its immediate implications and applications. OPM3 will establish a strong conceptual foundation and become a critical leverage point for future work on organizational project management maturity. As is the case with all standards, the concepts presented evolve as the PM community leverages the work done to date to advance OPM3 and its body of knowledge. The significance of OPM3 does not simply lie in what companies can do with it today, but also lies in what it provides as a starting point for future work, not only by industry and private companies, but also by future PMI standards work on the topic, and project management maturity in general.

Most people may not know that OPM3 had considerable impact before it was even published. For example, the process modeling work that was involved in developing OPM3 revealed a serious need for industry standards on Program Management and Portfolio Management, and PMI subsequently initiated new standards development projects to address these two areas.

When published, these new standards, in concert with the PMBOK® Guide – Third Edition, will complete the process understanding of all three domains of Project Management, Program Management and Portfolio Management.

OPM3 is also beginning to impact organizational project management education and training. Many universities and colleges have designed and developed their undergraduate project management curricula based upon the PMBOK® Guide. Continuing the evolution of study, some universities are setting the stage to include OPM3 concepts and material in their graduate curricula focusing on Program Management and Portfolio Management.

These are just some of the many examples of the potential impacts that OPM3 will have on the project management community, mirroring the impact on the project management profession that PMI standards have played in the past. As all PMI standards involving projects, people and organizations evolve, PMI remains committed to maintaining the integration and consistency across all the standards as the journey continues.


1 Within the OPM3 architecture, each OPM3 Self-Assessment question is tied or ‘mapped’ to one or more OPM3 Best Practices. According to the OPM3 Cycle, after completing an OPM3 Self-Assessment, in order to gauge the achievement of a Best Practice, the organization must assess its achievement of the individual Capabilities that aggregate to the Best Practice of interest.

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.

©2004 S. Fahrenkrog, L. Kruszewaki, C. Baca, Alewandowski
Originally published as part of 2004 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – North America



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