Successful management of projects is a fundamental requirement in present-day businesses and corporations in order for them to remain competitive in a dynamic international business environment.  Project management maturity models have been developed to try to assess the level of usage of project management skills within the processes of project-driven organizations.

These models have been the works of individual organizations with little concerted effort coming from an international standards body. Due to this, many project management maturity models exist today. This paper attempts to gather important information about project management maturity models, carries out a comparative analysis, and identifies their assessment criteria. The paper finds out that out of over thirty maturity models, only about three are widely used. The paper finds out that because of the lack of an internationally recognized standard on project management maturity models, the field is still bound to have numerous models coming from many project consulting firms and/or individuals.

Key terms: Project Management, Project Management Maturity Models


Early knowledge about project management is traced back to the Second World War when the United States Manhattan Project was conceived in June 1942 with the sole purpose of building an atomic bomb that could be used to end the war as quickly as possible, Norris (2008). The Manhattan Project was a major construction project rapidly run by the Military under great secrecy using unorthodox means and uncertain/untested technologies. However, in less than three years, the first atomic bomb was tested in thedeserts of New Mexico on 16thJuly, 1945. Three weeks later on 6thAugust 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was bombarded followed by the bombing of Nagasaki on 9thAugust 1945. The WWII ended five days later on 14thAugust 1945, Norris (2008); this clearly demonstrates that the project objective had really been met even though the costs were high.

Business organizations deploy good project management practices as a step towards achieving competitive advantage over their competitors. In many organizations, a new business strategy of portfolio management has emerged lately, where organizations group and manage projects as a portfolio of investments that contribute to the entire enterprise’s success, Schwalbe(2006). The attainment of organization-wide strategic objectives requires the close coordination of several business processes, hence the emergence of the term “project management processes” which are a series of related actions directed towards a particular result.

A number of organizations have realized the pressing need for centrally managing projects. Project management office, which handles internal projects, develops project skills in-house, and evaluates the interrelationships both between projects and between projects and the organizational goals, developed out of this need.  Cooke (2010) refers to a group of projects that contribute collectively or severally to the achievement of common goals as programs.

Good project management knowledge is required for the success of strategic objectives of the firm whether in their projects, portfolios or programmes and Project Management Maturity Models (PMMMs), are the metrics used to evaluate the level of success in project management. Managing organizations by projects, however, needs to be in tandem with the strategic goals of the organization. For successful management by projects, Meredith & Mantel (2003) identify as a first step project selection, which is the process of evaluating individual projects or groups of projects and then choosing to implement some set of them so that the objectives of the parent organization will be achieved.  The main motivation for business enterprises is to make profits, remain competitive and satisfy the expectations of stakeholders; both shareholders, employees, and the external environment (customers, government bodies and the ‘neighbours’). This motivation to make profits forms the core need for project management in order to achieve the desired business objectives and remain competitive in a dynamic environment.

This paper will discuss project management maturity models, which are mostly proprietary in nature, in an attempt to understand any commonalities among them and/or their assessment criteria. It begins with an introduction to history of project management. The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2 discusses a few examples of common project management maturity models; Section 3 carries out a comparative analysis of these existing maturity models; Section 4 draws conclusion on the discussion; and Section 5 cites the references used.

1.1.  Defining Project Management Maturity Models (PMMMs)
Cooke (2010)defines PMMMs as “best practices database of project management contributed by leading project management professionals and volunteers around the globe” and which are being used, or recommended for use in project management processes. The best practices “are grouped and linked in chains according to their dependencies on other best practices, in increasing levels of ‘maturity’, (Cooke, 2010). The PMMMs as used today owe their origin to the pioneering works at Carnegie-Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI), beginning in 1986 and funded from the US Air Force, with a view to creating a model for use in an objective evaluation of software subcontractors for the Air Force. The result was the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) published in 1989 as Managing the Software Process but officially released in 1991, (Carnegie-Mellon, 2016).

The SEI-CMM was replaced by Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) model, training, appraisal method, which incorporated software and systems engineering. CMMI was released in 2000 and it helps to integrate traditionally separate organizational functions, sets process improvement objectives and priorities, provides guidance for quality processes, and provides a point of reference for appraising current processes, (Carnegie-Mellon, 2016). From the initial SEI-CMM Model, other project bodies of knowledge as well as project professionals have come up with several other PMMMs. There are over thirty known PMMMs, however, out of all this number only a few are widely used.

1.2.  Generic Project Management Maturity Model
In the corporate world, organizations prefer benchmarking as a form of peer review, however, in project management the level of strategic planning adopted by any firm to some extent is based on “”a trial-by-fire basis” (Kerzner, 2003). But there are models that can be adopted by corporations in performing strategic planning for projects and achieving maturity and excellence in a reasonable period of time. According to Kerzner (2003), the generic form for such a model, known as the project management maturity model (PMMM), comprises five levels as defined here below.See Figure 1.

Level 1 – Common Language:  The organization recognizes the importance of project management and the need for good understanding of its basic knowledge, along with the accompanying terminology.
Level 2 – Common Processes: The organization recognizes that common processes need to be defined and documented so that successes on one project can be reused on other projects.
Level 3 – Singular Methodology: The organization recognizes the synergistic effect of combining all corporate methodologies into a singular methodology, whose centre is project management. The synergistic effects also make process control easier with a single methodology than with multiple ones.
Level 4 – Benchmarking: This level recognizes that process improvement is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage, and benchmarking is done on a continuous basis. Level 5 – Continuous Improvement: The organization evaluates the information obtained from benchmarking and decides whether this will enhance a singular methodology.
2.1.  Why Model Project Management
“The power of a science seems quite generally to increase with the number of symbolic generalizations its practitioners have at their disposal”.
Thomas Kuhn (unknown date)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Forsberg et al. (2000) point out an interesting fact that “Psychologists agree that most people have insight and creative abilities far beyond those used routinely… and visualization, a right brain activity, is employed to give insight into the logical and systematic project management process – a left brain activity”. They point out that visualization empowers even the most experienced project manager to comprehend the complex project management process with a complete understanding of every piece, and how each fits into the overall project picture.

Project management models arose because of the need to develop sufficient clarity and detail to be applied routinely and effectively by the project team. According to Forsberg et al. (2000), “a model is a schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics”. The authors argue that the first step towards defining an explicit model is to establish a vocabulary. Generally, models help to provide a common conceptual frame of reference for a particular discipline, clarify relationships and eliminate confusion factors through analogies.
2.2.  Project Management Maturity Models
2.2.1    Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3)

Organizational Project Management may again be defined as the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to the organizational and project activities to achieve the aims of an organization through projects, (Chui, 2007). The degree to which an organization practices this type of project management is called organization project management maturity.

Project Management Institute (PMI) developed OPM3 between 1998 and 2004, a type of maturity model premised around the combination of Best Practices achieved within the Project, Program, and Portfolio domains, (Chui, 2007). OPM3 does this by tapping from a rich knowledge base drawn from project management experts and coded by knowledge engineers in order to determine the dependent elements in project management maturity.

Fahrenkrog et al. (2000) stress that OPM3 is designed from the onset to be a standard organized as a book – containing the background explanatory information on the model, a master listing of project management Best Practices, a means to assess the state of Organizational Project Management in the organization, and a glossary. In addition, it contains appendices cataloguing the Capabilities leading to the Best Practices, as well as necessary information for the user to assist in developing an improvement plan for their organization.

A key feature of the OPM3 model is the dependencies that exist among the Capabilities, because the achievement of one Best Practice will equally depend on the attainment of a string of Capabilities, most of these do rely on other Capabilities, (Fahrenkrog et al., 2000). A simple illustration shows this feature inFigure 2.

Best Practice B depends on Best Practice A, and there must be at least one pair of Capabilities from each Best Practice. Here, Best Practice B depends on Capability B3, which depends on Capability B2, which depends on Capabilities A1 and B1. Fahrenkrog et al. (2000) note that it is such dependencies which provide 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 necessary steps towards maturity in Organizational Project Management. An understanding of dependencies between Best Practices and Capabilities assist the organization in assessing the sequence that will best conserve resources while achieving the desired improvements.

2.2.2    PM Solutions’ Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM)
PM Solutions’ Inc, a US-based firm, developed and published in 2002, their PMMM tool based on the nine project management knowledge areas. The PM Solutions’ model also follows from the generic one given in Section 1.2. and it defines five evolutionary maturity levels (stages) namely:
i.    Initial process
ii.    Structured process and standards
iii.    Organizational standards and institutionalized process
iv.    Managed process
v.    Optimized process

2.2.3    PRINCE2 Maturity Model (P2MM)
The major objective for this model is to enable organizations gauge themselves by assessing their maturity in the use of the PRINCE2 project management method, which is a national standard in the United Kingdom. The PRINCE2 Maturity Model (P2MM) was developed by the United Kingdom’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in 2006. P2MM derives most of its contents from the OGC Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3) and PRINCE2 Manual, (UK Government, 2006). The P3M3 identifies five different levels for Portfolio, Programme and Project management maturity, while the P2MM identifies only three different levels derived from P3M3.

PRINCE2’s three stages are:
i.    Level 1 (Initial Process) – no standard/tracking system.
ii.    Level 2 (Repeatable Process) – P2MM is adopted but applied inconsistently across projects.
iii.    Level 3 (Defined Process) – P2MM is adopted as a standard and is applied consistently across projects within the organization.


A discussion of project management maturity modelsappreciates that they lack a universally defined single standard. Examples of project management maturity models derive their fundamental concept from the Carnegie-Mellon SEI-CMM – beginning from level one (when there are no established processes), progressing to level two (where processes are ad hoc), then to level three (when a singular methodology is adopted), then to level four (when processes are managed) and finally to level five (when continuous improvement takes place).

The well-developed OPM3, which has been recommended by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the UK’s preferred PRINCE2 Maturity Model and the PM Solutions’ PMMM give insights into the lack of a universal standard for assessing project management maturity. However, what is common in all of them is that they consider the assessment of project management maturity in terms of the nine project management knowledge areas. Many organizations try to keep their maturity models as business secrets only selling them to clients while restricting the public information about the assessment levels used.

Another fundamental problem in the comparative study of maturity models relates to the lack of a generally agreed definition of what mature project-based organizations look like or ought to look like. Cooke-Davies (2004) notes that “different maturity models embody both different concepts and different suggestions as to the route to maturity” and further adds that capability and maturity studies are a semantic minefield with very many different technical words used to mean different things.

Cooke-Davies (2004) also describes the original SEI-CMM as embodying a simple process model – that if organizations would like to develop predictability and repeatability in their information systems/information technology (IS/IT), then they need to develop a number of process areas, each of which consists of related processes. These process areas in turn will develop gradually from being informal at the lower end to highly routine with continuous improvement at the highest end. Therefore, as each individual process improves, its capability will improve and this will demonstrate the maturity of the process as well as that of the organization. When these capabilities are aggregated for a number of processes necessary for the running of projects, then, the maturity is described in terms of project management. Cooke-Davies (2004) summarizes that “maturity as used in capability-maturity model refers to the extent to which an organization has explicitly and consistently deployed processes that are documented, managed, measured, controlled, and continuously improved”.

According to Brookes & Clark (2009), most maturity models identify a group of knowledge areas and a series of maturity levels; the simplest models use the original Carnegie Mellon maturity levels defined as shown below.
Table 1: Original Carnegie-Mellon Stages of Maturity
Stage     Description
Performed    Unpredictable process that is poorly controlled and reactive
Managed    Project process is characterised but is often reactive
Defined    Characterised process for the organization that is proactive
Quantitatively Managed    Process measured and controlled
Optimising    Process focuses on improvement

The knowledge areas considered in maturity levels sometimes are less consistent and as depicted in Brookes & Clark (2009), the general approach is to use the nine knowledge areas identified in the PMBOK. Additionally, other writers come up with additional domains for assessing the maturity levels, yet others consider the traditional project management knowledge areas but apply maturity level assessments to each of the five parts of the project processes – initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling and closing.

Brookes & Clark (2009)further indicate that maturity models owe their origin to the Deming quality management practices because of their strategically linked continuous improvement, which requires a thorough understanding of an organization’s current position and where it aims to be in the future. This represents the similarity of all the maturity models; the attainment of quality in project management is the whole essence even though arguably not all organizations ever achieve this objective.

The scope of different maturity models has also been found to be variable with some focussed on the project management process, whereas others are broader and stretch taking into consideration the entire organization. The argument is that there is likely to be more maturity in the latter group than in the former and as Cooke-Davies (2004) adds, human interactions, attitudes and relationships lie at the heart of organizational performance. Therefore, it is essential to have maturity models that encompass more varied categories of human thought, action and interaction than simply processes and workgroup practices; which are the common control/systems thinking upon which most project management maturity models are based. This argument is also supported by Brookes & Clark (2009) who suggest that because of this interrelationship, there is need for the “development of a collaborative relationship between the fields of project and general management and a common language that fosters dialogue” if projects are to be performed successfully.


According to Chui (2007), project management maturity may be summarized as the virtuous cycle of project management, which is the condition whereby as more investments are pumped into project management, there are improved returns providing that the organization’s project management maturity is high; otherwise the returns will be low. See Figure 3.

According to Chui(2007), a PMI-commissioned research in 2002 made the following observations for project management.
i.    Companies with more mature project management practices have better project performance.
ii.    Project management maturity is strongly correlated with more predictable project schedule and cost performance.
iii.    Good project management companies have lower direct costs than poor project management companies.

Therefore, good project management maturity leads to better returns on investment, better quality and schedule predictability.

Brookes, N., & Clark, R. (May 1 – 4, 2009). Using Maturity Models to Improve Project Management Practice. POMS 20th Annual Conference. Orlando, Florida: The Centre for Project Management Practice, Aston University, Birmingham.

Carnegie-Mellon. (2016). Brief History of Capability Maturity Model Integration. Retrieved from Software Engineering Institute: //www.sei.cmu.edu/library/assets/cmmihistory.pdf.

Chui, K. (2007, June 05). Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3). Retrieved from //www.hkcs.org.hk/en_hk/misc/industry_update/journal/OPM3_050607_HKCS.pdf.

Cooke, H. S. (2010, March 15). Using OPM3 in the Project Management Office. Retrieved from murad.karimi.com: //www.murad.karimi.com/articles/2010.03.15.pdf.

Cooke-Davies, T. J. (2004). Measurement of Organizational Maturity. Retrieved from Human Systems: //www.humansystems.net/papers/measuring_organizational_maturity.pdf.

Fahrenkrog, S., Wesman, P. R., Lewandowski, A., & Keuten, T. (2001). PMI’s Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3). Retrieved from Zulanas: //www.zulanas.lt/images/adm_source/docs/2Fahrenkrog_paperENG.pdf.

Forsberg, K., Mooz, H., & Cotterman, H. (2005). Visualizing Project Management: Models and Frameworks for Mastering Complex Systems, 3 ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Kerzner, H. (2003). Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. 8 ed. . New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Meredith, Jack, R. & Mantel, Samuel J. (2003). Project Management: A Managerial Approach. 5 ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Noris, R. S. (2008, September 05). NRDC: Document Bank. Retrieved from US Natural Resources Defense Council Web site: //docs.nrdc.org/nuclear/files/nuc_08100901A.pdf.

Schwalbe, K. (2006). Project Management in Information Technology, 4 ed International Student Edition. Ontario: Thompson Course Technology.

Daniel KetotoOunda holds a B.Tech(Electrical & Communications Engineering) degree from Moi University (2001) and a Master’s degree (Systems Engineering & Engineering Management) from South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, Germany (2011). Between 2002 and 2004, he worked at the International Energy Technik (K) Ltd as a Projects Engineer. He has been working at the Office of the President as a Systems/Projects Engineer since 2004, and is registered as a Graduate Engineer with both the IEK and EBK. His research interests include: Technical Project Management, Artificial Intelligence, Mobile Communications and Smart Metering. 








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