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The Organizational Project Management Maturity Model or OPM3® is a globally recognized best-practice standard for assessing and developing capabilities in executing strategy through projects via Portfolio Management, Program Management, and Project Management. It is published by the Project Management Institute (PMI). OPM3 provides a method for organizations to understand their Organizational Project Management processes and practices, and to make these processes capable of performing successfully, consistently, and predictably. OPM3 helps organizations develop a roadmap that the company will follow to improve performance. The Second Edition (2008) was recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American National Standard (ANSI/PMI 08-004-2008). The Third Edition was published in 2013.


In 1998, PMI chartered a team named the OPM3 Program to develop an Organizational Project Management Maturity Model to be a global standard for Organizational Project Management (OPM). During development, part of that team of volunteers analyzed twenty-seven existing models and deployed surveys repeatedly to 30,000 practitioners. The concept of maturity model had been popularized through the Capability Maturity Model or CMM for software development that was created by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University between 1986 and 1993. The volunteer OPM3 model review team reviewed CMM and other models to understand the scope of each model, capabilities of each model, methodology for conducting assessments against each model, each model's structure, and each model's implementation procedures. The analysis concluded that existing models left many important questions about Organizational Project Management (OPM) maturity unanswered and that the team should proceed with the development of an original model through the sponsorship of PMI.

The project team used a brainstorming technique to facilitate the identification of elements of Organizational Project Management (OPM) in such a way that no single person could dominate the process. Participants were invited to suggest elements that constituted maturity in OPM. Such elements were refined as testable capability statements, consolidated, and eventually organized into groups called OPM3 best practices. Each OPM3 best practice statement denotes a group of capability statements. OPM3 capabilities are the testable statements of the OPM3 standard (not the OPM3 best practices). To ensure alignment to PMI's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge standard, processes from this PMI standard were incorporated in the first edition of OPM3 (see Contents below) published in December 2003.

Upon release of OPM3, the user community expressed interest in the development of supporting products and services for companies that were adopting the model. PMI responded by developing OPM3 Online, a web-based database that allowed users to search OPM3 best practices, conduct rudimentary assessments against the model, and serve as a reference when implementing improvements, but PMI later retracted this tool. Shortly thereafter, PMI also created the OPM3 ProductSuite, a set of certifications and software tools that enabled service providers with more powerful diagnostic and improvement tools, though PMI then retracted these as well.[1]

Following PMI's standard development lifecycle, the OPM3 Second Edition was published in December 2008 to update the standard based on experience in the field and align it with other PMI standards. The Second Edition was subsequently superseded by the Third Edition in 2013 to align with the Fifth Edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, the Third Edition of the Standard for Program Management, and the Third Edition of the Standard for Portfolio Management. PMI standards, including OPM3, are also ANSI standards.


OPM3 covers the domains of Organizational Project Management, the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the achievement of strategic goals.Organizational Project Management The domains are Project Management, Program Management and Portfolio Management. OPM3 uniquely integrates into one maturity model these three domains and over one hundred organizational enablers that are assigned to 17 categories.

OPM3 offers the key to making Organizational Project Management (OPM) capable with three interlocking elements:

  • Knowledge - Learn about hundreds of Organizational Project Management (OPM) Best Practices.
  • Assessment - Evaluate an organization’s current capabilities and identify areas in need of improvement.
  • Improvement - Use the completed assessment to map out the steps needed to achieve performance improvement goals.

As with other PMI standards, OPM3’s intent is not to be prescriptive by telling the user what improvements to make or how to make them. Rather, OPM3 provides guidelines regarding the kinds of things an organization may do in order to achieve excellence in Organizational Project Management.


OPM3 has been adopted by leading organizations in outsourcing, foreign relations, telecommunications, municipalities, applied science laboratories, NGO’s, hospitals, cable television providers, American military intelligence, crisis response, financial services, terrestrial and space born electronics, mega-infrastructure operations, regional governments, rapid transit, risk retention, mobile technology manufacturers, enterprise application giants, and many others across North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. [1]


OPM3 is designed to provide a wide range of benefits to organizations, senior management, and those engaged in project management activities. Some of the benefits derived from using OPM3 are as follows:

  • Strengthens the link between strategic planning and execution, so project outcomes are predictable, reliable, consistent, and correlate with organizational success.
  • Identifies the best practices which support the implementation of organizational strategy through successful projects.
  • Identifies the specific capabilities which make up the Best Practices, and the dependencies among those Capabilities and Best Practices.


In 2015, PMI stopped selling the OPM3 Capability Statements and suddenly entered the maturity assessment consulting business directly through a company named "HSI" which PMI acquired for this purpose. PMI began competing with OPM3 users and promoting an alternative proprietary model used only by their own HSI consultants. Some said this was both unethical and illegal (including charter members of the original team that created OPM3, per the letter given below in the "Outcry" section). In 2017, PMI decided that it would no longer offer maturity assessment consulting services through HSI and that it would retract the alternative proprietary model that had been used for that purpose. Meanwhile, PMI said that OPM3 would be updated to a fourth edition, but it is unclear whether the fourth edition will include the so-called "OPM3 Capability Statements," which are required in order to implement OPM3. In light of these developments and because OPM3 users said it needed to be updated to streamline its use and because updating OPM3 is taking so many years, charter members of the original team that created OPM3 published another model designed to enable users to infer their OPM3 maturity level and to achieve the highest level of OPM3 in one-fourth the time typically required for OPM3.[2]

OPM3 was designed to require use of testable criteria called Capability Statements, which are the basis of OPM3 as a “Capability” Maturity Model (CMM). Between 1998 and 2003, the team that created OPM3 spent most of its time distinguishing these Capability Statements. One simply cannot increase an organization’s OPM3 maturity level without the Capability Statements. Today those Capability Statements are unavailable to new users of OPM3 unless those users engage the help of someone who was certified as an OPM3 Professional previously. If you try to "buy OPM3" from PMI, you are essentially buying a book that contains a set of "best practices" and "high level" assessment questions, but neither of these include the essential Capability Statements, which were only available to people who paid for a more expensive certification in OPM3. This has always been a source of controversy, and late in 2015 the controversy worsened when PMI ended the OPM3 certification program and withdrew the OPM3 Capability Statements from the inventory of products that it sells. As of 2015, newcomers to OPM3 who want to become certified as an OPM3 Professional could not do so because PMI suspended delivery of new OPM3 Professional certifications indefinitely while PMI deliberated how to position other benchmarking tools. PMI signaled that PMI may want to compete with its members who had become OPM3 Professionals.

Originally, the OPM3 Capability Statements were provided on a CD in the back of a short book titled the “OPM3 Knowledge Foundation,” which was a kind of brochure for the Capability Statements. Hundreds of volunteers spent nearly 5 years developing these Capability Statements, and a handful of them wrote the Knowledge Foundation in the final couple months of the original program (helped by a professional writer hired by PMI). However, PMI confused the issue by including in the Knowledge Foundation a series of questions called the “Self Assessment Mechanism” or “SAM.”

The SAM questions were written by someone who was not on the original architecture team that created OPM3’s logical data model, and it appears that this person did not understand the architecture because the SAM questions conflated dozens of Capability Statements into assessment criteria so diluted as to render words meaningless. To make matters worse, PMI then put the SAM questions online and called this product “OPM3 Online,” which was a misnomer in the worst sense because it represented less than 20% of the original standard and failed to use even 1% of the essential Capability Statements.

It was common for users of OPM3 Online or the SAM questions to answer these questions incorrectly, usually producing false positives, which led to upsets when users later realized they could do nothing with these results or worse that capabilities they had reported that they had achieved in their organizations were actually lacking. The SAM questions used jargon, combined many best practices into individual questions so you could not determine which thing was which, and were misunderstood by users, and understood by users in different ways so 5 different people in the same organization may answer 5 different ways. More importantly, one simply cannot increase an organization’s OPM3 maturity level without the Capability Statements, a fact that is easily proven, undeniable, and inescapable. It came as little surprise when PMI later retired OPM3 Online in 2013.

Meanwhile, PMI engaged DNV to develop a tool that used the Capability Statements as the basis of OPM3 assessments and organizational improvements. This was called “OPM3 ProductSuite.” While this tool had many flaws, its one saving grace was that it enabled use of the Capability Statements. Along with ProductSuite, a certification in the use of this software was released and became known as the “OPM3 Professional Certification.”

Unfortunately, the OPM3 Professional certification was expensive compared to OPM3 Online and was based merely on “point-and-click” training in the software (not in the underlying fundamentals of OPM3 or how to improve organizational capabilities in project, program, and portfolio management processes). Many people, including many OPM3 Professionals, were confused about the differences between OPM3 Online and ProductSuite.

To make matters much worse, with the release of ProductSuite, PMI removed the OPM3 Capability Statements from the Knowledge Foundation (book) and proclaimed that the Knowledge Foundation was the actual standard, once again promoting the use of the flawed SAM questions over the Capability Statements. Proclaiming that the Knowledge Foundation was “the” standard (when the Knowledge Foundation was written originally, in fact, as an afterthought to provide an introduction to the Capability Statements) made it easier for PMI to obtain ANSI accreditation of the OPM3 Standard, but it degraded adoption of OPM3.

In 2013, PMI did withdraw OPM3 Online, announcing the retirement of the product, but allowed the SAM questions to remain in the Knowledge Foundation. Then in 2015, PMI announced PMI was preserving the OPM3 Standard (by which PMI meant the “Knowledge Foundation” with the flawed SAM questions) but was retiring OPM3 ProductSuite and the OPM3 Professional Certification, meaning one could not gain access to the Capability Statements if one had not already done so (which has fomented a controversy that PMI has yet to resolve), essentially ensuring the demise of OPM3 unless the Capability Statements are released and the SAM questions removed.

An article titled "Did PMI Screw Up OPM3?" published in December 2015 elaborates the issue. [3]


PMI members have begun to demand that PMI place the OPM3 Standard and OPM3 Capability Statements in the public domain. The following letter was written to PMI by a leader from the original team that created OPM3:

Date: June 1, 2016

To: Mark Langley (President and CEO of the Project Management Institute) Cc: Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, MBA, PMP (PMI BOD Chair), Mark Dickson, MBA, PMP, FAICD (PMI BOD Vice Chair), J. Davidson Frame, PhD, PMP, PMI Fellow (PMI BOD Secretary/Treasurer and Chair of the Audit and Performance Oversight Committee), Caterina La Tona, BCS, PMP, PfMP (PMI BOD Chair of the Strategy Development Oversight Committee), Randy Black, P. Eng., PMP (PMI BOD Director), Margareth Carneiro, MBA, MSc, PMP (PMI BOD Director), Steve DelGrosso, MSc, PMP (PMI BOD Immediate Past Chair), Todd Hutchison, MCom, MBA, PMP, FPMIA (PMI BOD Director), Victoria S. Kumar, MM, PMP (PMI BOD Director), Wagner Maxsen, PMP, PMI-RMP (PMI BOD Director), Kathleen P. Romero, MBA, PMP, CSM, SAFe PM/PO (PMI BOD Director), W. Stephen Sawle, PE, CMC, PMP, PgMP (PMI BOD Director), Jennifer Tharp, PMP (PMI BOD Director), Cecil White, MBA, EdD, PMP (PMI BOD Director), Al Zeitoun, PhD, EVP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP (PMI BOD Director) and others (see email)

I am writing to you for the benefit of all PMI members and all persons involved with managing projects in organizations.

This letter is to request the following:

   That PMI effectively manage the OPM3 standard;
   That PMI make the Capability Statements of OPM3 available to everyone (and preferably place the Capability Statements in the public domain);
   That PMI remove Human Systems International’s (HSI’s) diagnostics for organizational project management, 4Q Quadrant Assessments, and any other HSI OPM3-related products and services from the PMI website; and
   That PMI terminate all activities that may compromise the OPM3 standard and its use. 

PMI is engaging in unethical and perhaps illegal business practices by replacing OPM3, temporarily or permanently with HSI’s products and services. The OPM3 Standard was created by volunteers with the expectation that the fruits of their labor would become a standard (this happened) and that the project management community would continue to be able to access and benefit from this standard. For this to happen, the community must have access to the OPM3 Capability Statements.

When OPM3 was first published, these OPM3 Capability Statements were provided on a CD in the back of the OPM3 book. But soon PMI removed the CD from the book, announcing that the OPM3 Capability Statements were no longer part of the standard itself (which was ludicrous), and made the CD of OPM3 Capability Statements the basis of an expensive OPM3 Professional certification scheme (at a much higher price than the OPM3 book). This severely limited adoption of OPM3, and ultimately PMI suspended this misguided certification in 2015. However, in doing so, PMI did not simultaneously make the OPM3 Capability Statements available again to the project management community.

To be clear, despite PMI’s Core Value on Volunteerism that “Volunteers and effective volunteer partnerships with staff are the best way to accomplish the Institute’s goals and objectives,” PMI has made intellectual property developed by volunteers unavailable (i.e. the OPM3 Capability Statements), intellectual property that volunteers created with the explicit understanding that it would remain available to the world. PMI has made the Capability Statements available only to OPM3 Professionals whose expiring certifications were current when PMI finally suspended the certification process, so new users cannot become certified (and cannot obtain direct access to the OPM3 Capability Statements as a result). PMI has not made the Capability Statements available to any OPM3 Professionals who let their certifications lapse in the face of PMI’s mismanagement of OPM3. Worse, PMI has not made the OPM3 Capability Statements available for PMI members at large to obtain for their own use.

PMI has mismanaged the OPM3 standard from the outset. PMI never created a database for OPM3 results, which could have at a minimum provided standard benchmarking reports. PMI seriously diluted the OPM3 standard by creating a “Self-Assessment Mechanism” or “Best Practice Self-Assessment” that misdirects users from the only content that enables identification of the steps necessary to implement OPM3 (i.e. the Capability Statements) and produces an assessment result that simply cannot be used to identify the improvements an organization must make to increase its maturity in OPM3. But PMI’s gravest mismanagement of OPM3 began with removal of the Capability Statements from the OPM3 book, which was compounded by PMI’s mismanagement of a certification process that continues to severely limit OPM3 adoption today by virtue of the fact that not a single new user of OPM3 can obtain for their own use the OPM3 Capability Statements, which are absolutely essential to the implementation of OPM3. It is impossible to implement OPM3 without these OPM3 Capability Statements, and withholding this IP is unethical.

Despite the fact that OPM3 was developed by thousands of volunteers from 35 countries and based on surveys to 30,000 people; despite the fact that OPM3 was created with more input and expertise than any other model for assessing and improving Organizational Project Management to date; despite the fact that OPM3 has been certified by ANSI and updated to its 3rd edition (each time adding the experience and expertise of hundreds of professionals, a testimony to the broad consensus regarding its value); and despite the visible success of OPM3 consultants who have implemented OPM3 in a myriad of Fortune companies, the OPM3 standard has been effectively suspended for nearly two years and is officially under review. To be clear, PMI has said that it is not suspending the OPM3 standard, but PMI has withheld the OPM3 Capability Statements from purchase by new users, effectively suspending its adoption by new users, who must rely on a small number of OPM3 Professionals whose certifications are expiring, which has signaled to the market that OPM3’s future is questionable.

PMI has said repeatedly that PMI would complete its review of OPM3 in early 2016, yet we are already in the sixth month of 2016 with no conclusion in sight. No other PMI standard has received such treatment, and this has been concomitant to PMI’s acquisition of HSI. PMI has been marketing its subsidiary HSI aggressively this whole time, going so far as to state in the “OPM3 FAQ” on PMI’s website that customers interested in assessing their Organizational Project Management (OPM) capabilities should consider hiring PMI’s subsidiary HSI instead. Never before has PMI blatantly offered on its website PMI’s own commercial products and services that compete with one of its standards while actively degrading the standard’s adoption behind a murky review process. This must stop. PMI is marketing HSI as a substitute for OPM3 even before it has completed its “review” of OPM3, and PMI is withholding the essential components of OPM3 while doing this! The conflict of interest is blatant and egregious. It appears that PMI may use false claims of the alleged “ineffectiveness” of OPM3 to terminate it as a standard and defer to HSI’s products and services. It would be interesting, and perhaps enlighten this matter, to know exactly what the legal and business relationships are between PMI and HSI.

By not addressing these issues in a timely manner, PMI is provoking other stakeholders to take matters into their own hands. On April 18, 2016 the Supreme Court supported the lower courts that ruled the scanning of books by Google for its searchable online database was “fair use.” Do you believe that it is better for PMI to take a leadership position in making the OPM3 Capability Statements available again voluntarily or to provoke others to challenge the status of that material under “fair use” statutes?

Mark, you have not responded to several previous inquiries about OPM3, the Capability Statements, and related topics. It leads one to wonder, and to ask questions, such as - are you/PMI hiding something? Or, is this a covert operation? – what is going on behind the scenes? – why so secretive? Further, and more important, PMI is obligated to its membership and the project management community to make its standards effective and to continuously improve each standard, including OPM3, or to release this material by placing it in the public domain. The “end run” PMI appears to be making around OPM3, and to ultimately terminate OPM3 is unethical and perhaps illegal.

Please address this matter now.

I look forward to your prompt response.


Peter Rogers PMI member and OPM3 charter team member


Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®) — Third Edition, 2013, Project Management Institute