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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.


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 cannot do so because PMI suspended delivery of new OPM3 Professional certifications indefinitely while PMI decides how to position other benchmarking tools. PMI has signaled that instead PMI may want to compete with its members who had become OPM3 Professionals. PMI has yet to dispel this controversy

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 terribly 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 tragically 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 January 2016 elaborates the issue. [2]


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