OPM3 versus other project management assessment methodology in an EVM implementation


Nigel Williams, PhD, PMP
Council Chair of the PMI Organizational Project Management Community of Practice and
Researcher at Bournemouth University, UK

Larry Bull
OPM3® Expert and one of the original contributors for the Standard
Project Management Institute, retired, USA

Virgilio Cruz Machado, PhD
Researcher at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal


This paper presents an active research study on the power of the OPM3®. In the same organization and at the same time there were two different organizational assessments being done, by two different teams. One team was composed of three senior project management consultants, working inside the organization for three months, who produced a report of the actual state of the organization in the project management practices, tools, templates, documents and systems. The other assessment was done by one OPM3 Certified Professional who made a project scoped OPM3® Assessment; this project was done in a month of work effort.

Both research studies resulted in an improvement plan for the organization.

The interesting finding is that with much less time effort, the OPM3® improvement plan produced by the certified professional using PMI’s Product Suite information system is pretty close to the findings of the active research team that worked inside the organization. It is an effort of only ONE month compared with NINE.

The success factors that were discovered by both research studies, such as the organizational adoption of Earned Value Management (EVM) as the measurement and reporting tool for top management and the transition from an internal Project Support Office into a full strategic Project Management Office (PMO) were both clearly indicated by the OPM3® improvement plan and by the senior consultants’ work.

OPM3® is the main tool that organizations have to use to support a full Organizational Change Management process, because it is the less expensive, quicker and has a better cost benefits relationship way of knowing where to go. It is the best process for having a clear image of the organization’s abilities and of the critical actions that are necessary to develop to further improve the way the organization behaves and changes.

The OPM3® Portugal Project

The data to produce this paper was compiled from one of the 100 case studies underway in the OPM3® Portugal Project (Pinto & Williams, 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 felt by Ambithus and other project initiators and mentors to improve the way Portuguese industries initiate, choose, manage, control and close their projects. The understanding of this need was very helpful to taking the proper actions and taking 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® maturity model.

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 six hundred organizational best practices, its capacity of assessing current capabilities of the organization, and because it maps the steps needed to improving 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, such as being 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 presentation of the report will be the working basis for the design of the improvement plan, which will be presented and delivered to the organization’s management.

Once the organization’s 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 have been 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 the sector’s stakeholders.

Conventional Assessment

To produce a conventional assessment, an “AS-IS” report, usually made by an external consultancy company such as Ambithus, is based on a service model, structured in functional consulting, which defines the methodologies to establish and elaborate the design of the solutions and the mechanisms to ensure proper quality. The adoption of best practices and technical consultancy transforms the defined methodological processes into more agile and more effective based technologies. The functional consultancy is usually based on the best international standards and it is performed by certified and experienced experts. It makes the diagnosis of the current situation, studies the alternatives and solutions defined, and establishes a plan of action and improvement. All the results are recorded. This analysis reveals the current situation and it is, thus, a starting point for the definition of priorities, to align the goal’s setting and to plan all project improvement activities.

The main results from the consultancy work Ambithus did, on this case study, were two reports: The “AS-IS” report and the “TO BE” report.

In the AS-IS report, the Project Management Framework used by the organization was analyzed in detail, with a strong emphasis on the mechanisms for the monitoring and controlling of projects. This mechanisms are established when they are adopted at the full scale of an organization, becoming key elements of project management methodology and are strong bases for the organizational success.

But, on the other side, there is also a restriction that defined processes must be agile, defining simple control mechanisms that project managers understand and can apply and that are useful working tools. Methodology should not be seen as a source of additional complexity but a source of help and direction for the management of the projects.

Another key principle that should be always taken into the methodological definitions is that information and its quality has to be relevant, enabling better and easier top management monitoring of portfolios, programs and projects, based on data validated by standardized work processes and applied throughout the organization.

The “AS-IS” report characterizes the current situation, establishing itself as an element of diagnosis and the basis for developing a set of recommendations and concrete actions that, once implemented, will help meet the objectives, thus providing a consolidation for the project management models used.

The field work needed to characterize the current situation was conducted by the project team in three months of work inside the organization, involving the realization of a wide range of activities. Participation from the organization included officers, directors, line managers, project managers, and other selected elements of the organization community.

This organization has been a strong advocate of project management; its historical background and strategic set confirms and proves it. Most of the company activity falls within the concept of project, so it is easily verifiable that the rising importance that has been attributed to the processes and methodologies for project management, which are considered in the definition of organizational strategy and benefits from a special attention and direct involvement of either the directors and of the management teams. An important investment has been made through recent years to increase the maturity of the organization, reflected in the availability of extensive documentation in the forms of templates and methodologies associated with the various stages of the project, in the availability of support tools for project management, and in the realization of targeted training and in the encouragement to the certification of project managers and also in the creation of a matrix structure, embodied in the Projects Directorate.

Evolution, so far, is going in the right direction, but it is also easily verifiable that the organization has not yet reached the desired and expected maturity, often missing the extra mile to ensure adherence to established practices and the consolidation of the Project Management Models.

Example of this is the lack of adherence to the principles and general instruments of project management in each project, and not being in place an assurance process that guaranties adequate planning and overall monitoring of the entire life cycles of projects (especially on planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting).

Another example is the lack of a shared vision about the processes, methodologies and mandatory elements related to the process of project management. Although the existence of projects managed by a non-homogeneous community of professionals and classified in different organizational structures contributes to this, such is not the sole reason for the explanation of this reality. Naturally, as a result associated with it, there is a lack of a true community of project managers who feel united and valued as professionals.

Most of the major problems encountered in this organization are connected to the fact that the information scattered is poorly organized, making access difficult and very easy to be misinterpreted by project managers. This is a strong sign that there are alternative definitions of the management projects flow of documentation. Poor communication and non-integrated changes to the methodology, templates and rules associated with the project management and the absence of a document aggregator, simple, high-leveled, which characterizes accurately the different phases of the project and contribute to the understanding of obligations to fulfill in the process of management are also major problems. Insufficient requirements gathering and a high number of amendments to the projects results in constant time overruns.

In summary, the pre-draft phase is too long, there is a lack of definition of control elements in the process of project management, a lack of established models for budgeting, an inadequate set of cost control and its standardization, which, if in place, would ensure the existence of solid baselines that take into it the assumptions and common processes, a lack of a support structure that can help standardize project management practices, a lack of systematic processes for performance analysis of projects, making it possible for there to exist very different perceptions about the quality of the same result, a lack of an annual plan for implementation and monitoring of projects (ongoing and “new” projects in the pipeline), periodically reviewed and updated throughout the year, and a lack of structures and tools to support the “staffing” projects and arbitration priorities and conflicts in the provision of services between functional areas.

In the particular case of Earned Value Management (EVM) and other control mechanisms there lacks the definition of key milestones for control without the resolution of which such mechanisms can never operate in a standardized and comparable way. There is widespread ignorance and lack of an articulated training plan.

A set of conditions associated with issues of organization and leadership was identified, which was closely related to the consolidation of the project management maturity and growth of the organization, originating in the lack of a clear definition of functions, especially at the Portfolio Management level and on the Planning, Execution and Monitoring and Control of the Projects as well as a lack of a clear definition in the organization and implementation of projects, coexisting different practices of project management in the various bodies involved and even among the project managers within the areas themselves.

In the “TO-BE” report, built based on the consultants’ internal knowledge of the AS-IS situation and on top management’s defined vision and mission for the organization, there were identified the following goals to achieve in a defined period of time:

  • Rationalize the processes for planning and control of the projects. The intention of this reorganization, especially on the processes and tools for planning and control is to reduce overhead and to enable project managers to improve organizational efficiency.
  • Standardization and adoption of procedures for planning and budgeting of projects. One of the key elements drawn from the analysis of the current situation was the fact that there was a defective standardization, especially of the processes of planning and budgeting.
  • Widespread adoption of EVM and control mechanisms in all the projects. The adoption of standard mechanisms for monitoring projects shall be a structural element for organizational improvement, and the EVM should become mandatory for all new projects underway and for all whose application is justified.
  • Clear functional definition of the project manager’s role and responsibilities. This was previously identified as one of the main categories of difficulties in project management as a hole, thus this is a strategic element to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the project manager and to improve a more clear separation from other functions.
  • Adopting standardization procedures for the establishment of project teams. To take full advantage of the theoretically defined matrix structure, the project team must consist of shared resources, involving areas of knowledge constituting the multidisciplinary team project. This is fully aligned with the strategic objective of defining rules for the constitution of the team that will promote the success of the projects.
  • Generation of information with high quality and relevancy for either the project manager and for top management. Information is a key element in making management decisions. The information currently available is insufficient and without the necessary quality. The aim is to create quality information and relevant to the various levels of organizational decision makers.

This résumé is a very high level vision of a very detailed plan with more than two hundred proposed measures to improve the organization. Several tools and templates were created to help the establishment of this plan and its implementation.

OPM3® Assessment

OPM3® focuses on the comparison of organizational activities to best practices, defined by Project Management Institute (PMI) as the optimal method of meeting a particular stated objective (Crawford, 2006). OPM3® assesses best practices in project, program, and portfolio management by analysing the “Capabilities” – Presence of specific organizational activities that have been identified as parts of a best practice, “Outcomes” – The beneficial results that organizations obtain from performance of those activities and “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs) – Measures that are used to determine the existence and strength of a capability.

Organizations can then be classified into four stages of development in each process area at the project, program, and portfolio levels: Standardize (if structured processes are adopted), Measure (if data is used to evaluate process performance), Control (if a control plan is developed for the measures) and Continuous Improvement (if processes are optimized)

OPM3® seeks to align project management to organizational strategy through creation of an overarching framework. It draws upon a database of 600 best practices and can provide defined actions for any areas of weakness.

Preliminary approaches to maturity management were drawn from the quality management domain. The focus at that time was on the identification, documentation, control and optimization of production processes. The intended outcome was the reliable and efficient performance of operations.

The OPM3® fully compliable work in an organization has two main deliverables: The assessment report and The Improvement plan.

In the case study organization that we address in this paper, the work on the field was done by an OPM3® certified consultant and it took two months to do, on an average of 50% occupation, thus one month of effort.

The best practices achieved in the project management by this organization are detailed in Exhibits 1 and 2:

Best practices achieved

Exhibit 1 – Best practices achieved


Exhibit 2 – Best practices achieved (second part)

The OPM3® Improvement Plan, adapted and improved by Ambithus implementation methodology, presented a set of measures that are divided into Governance, Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing.

Governance: identifies and defines the processes and procedures needed to implement in the organization’s working structure.

Initiating: identifies the procedures for improving the performance of project management defining and involving all the stakeholders.

Planning: identifies the planning documents needed to standardize all the phases of the project.

Executing, Monitoring and Controlling: describes the procedures and actions needed to control and evaluate all the phases of the project.

Closing: identifies processes to allow the correct evaluation of the project and analysis of results.

OPM3® Improvement Plan


Make a new organizational chart.

Make project managers formally dependent on the project management director.

Redefine all the project policies.

Define processes to collect, organize, analyze; take proper action based on defined metrics for projects performance.

Define an independent process to evaluate documents, metrics, systems, procedures and applied policies.

Define the staffing process for the projects.

Define the project manager’s power and responsibilities.

Define that all changes are managed by project managers and as a project.

Create a portfolio management framework

Create an escalation process

Develop requirements for a mechanism for the storage, retrieval, dissemination, and reporting of organization project management information.

Promote training for the top executives in project and organizational project management.

Promote quick and straight to the point training of team members and other participants in the projects.

Promote training for project managers to develop leading and managing skills.

Evaluate project managers on managing skills.

Define a mandatory process for estimating cost and time for the charter and for the project plan.



Create a Project Identify Stakeholders process.

Detail the level of requirement analysis in a way that project prioritization may be done.

Define a process to validate and to make conceptual testing for the most critical projects.

Promote consumer and user involvement in the business requirements process.



Define a mandatory Project Management Plan document.

Raise the level of requirement business analysis.

The Project Define Scope process has to be implemented and practiced across the organization.

The development and application of a standardized global mandatory WBS template.

The Project Define Activities process has to be implemented and practiced across the organization.

The Project Estimate Activity Durations process has to be implemented and practiced across the organization.

Establish a Project Estimate Costs process.

Establish a Project Determine Budget process that extracts baselines and make them the confirmed project budget.

The Project Develop Schedule has to be consistently implemented and practiced across the organization and the main milestones incorporated in the Project Management Plan.

Develop a Project Develop Human Resource Plan process and incorporate it in the Project Management Plan.

Include the “Risk Plan” in every Project Management Plan

Make Project Communication Plan mandatory.

Establish The Project Plan Quality process.


Executing, Monitoring and Controlling:

Follow the Communication Plan and update it if necessary

Always include in the formal reports and in the project meetings a point about “Risk Changes”

Make mandatory to identify risks at least in three categories and to make a very brief qualitative and quantitative analysis on them. Update the response risk plan as necessary.

Use the Staffing process.

Update staff requirements through the project, updating the staffing plan.

Review project goals and plans as necessary.

Update “Critical success factors.”

Project managers perform the documents to authorize a new project or phase and define its scope.

Empower the project manager.

Improve the reporting system in a way that it will produce actual reports and trends automatically. Make EVM report mandatory. Share the report or defined part of the report with the costumer and get mandatory feedback from the costumer to proceed.

Make Project Managers responsible for planning the effort of the human resources in the project activities.

The Control Change board should approve all the changes in projects.



Define a Close Project process.

Establish a defined process to deliver the results of the project to the maintenance areas.

This action plan is much more detailed than this simple résumé of the report.


This paper compares the application of OPM3® with traditional consultancy methodology. When we analyze both results, there are many points in common and there are even a few measures specified in the OPM3® improvement plan that were not previewed in the conventional “TO-BE” analysis. This is due to the fact that when applying OPM3®, the consultant has all the power of the organizational knowledge already inserted into the Product Suite® PMI system, potentiated even further by the methodologies and systems developed by Ambithus, that are being developed using real case study’s from the OPM3 Portugal research project.

Using OPM3®, with the assistance of this already developed systems and methods, we will get almost the same results – in some areas even more detailed results – with a much less effort. This means that organizations who are using OPM3® can go more directly to the concrete actions, that will improve and change the organization, without having the pain and the cost of employing consulting teams just to find out what the organization does and what it should do to go after its strategy.


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© 2013 Pinto, Williams, Bull, & Machado
Originally published as a part of the 2013 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA