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 was published in 2008 and the current Third Edition was published in 2013. The latter editions are recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American National Standard (ANSI/PMI 08-004-2008 and ANSI/PMI 08-004-2013, respectively).
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). Becoming one of PMI's foundational standards, OPM3 marked PMI's first step toward a "strategy implementation through projects" paradigm, and marketing that paradigm has been PMI's dominant logic, encapsulated in PMI's slogan "Making Project Management Indispensable for Business Results."
During development of OPM3, the 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 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 that were created by PMI volunteers, who consolidated and eventually organized the Capability Statements into groups called OPM3 best practices. Each OPM3 best practice statement denotes a group of Capability Statements. OPM3 Capability Statements 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.
After release of OPM3, PMI developed 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 because users complained that it did not reveal how to move from one maturity level to the next higher level (because it did not include the OPM3 Capability Statements). Shortly thereafter, PMI removed the OPM3 Capability Statements from the OPM3 standard and began to sell those Capability Statements separately in a software tool named OPM3 ProductSuite. To gain access to that tool, users were required to pay thousands of dollars to be certified in use of the tool, and then they were required to pay thousands of dollars each year in maintenance fees. When the marketplace would no longer support this, PMI retracted OPM3 ProductSuite. However, PMI did not release the OPM3 Capability Statements or make them available for purchase in any format.
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. However, the OPM3 Capability Statements were not included in the OPM3 Second Edition, which was subsequently superseded by the Third Edition in 2013. While the Third Edition was an improvement insofar as it aligned 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, the OPM3 Third Edition did not include the OPM3 Capability Statements.
OPM3 covers the domains of Organizational Project Management, the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the achievement of strategic goals. The domains of Organizational Project Management 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. Note: this can only be done with the Capability Statements.
- Improvement - Use the completed assessment to map out the steps needed to achieve performance improvement goals. Note: this can only be done with the Capability Statements.
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.
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. Note: the current version of OPM3 no longer identifies the specific Capability Statements that make up the Best Practices or the dependencies among Capability Statements and Best Practices (see Controversy below).
The original version of OPM3 was composed primarily of "Capability Statements" which the user would use to evaluate an organization's current capabilities and to identify the steps necessary for that organization to achieve the next level of maturity. In the first version of OPM3, these Capability Statements were provided in the back of the book on a CD. Later, PMI decided to sell the Capability Statements separately as an expensive certification, which eventually failed. In 2015, PMI stopped selling the OPM3 Capability Statements altogether 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).
The following letter was written to PMI's Executive Director in response to the controversy described above:
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 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
In 2017, PMI responded that it would no longer offer maturity assessment consulting services, that it would retract the alternative proprietary model that had been used for that purpose, and that it would decommission the company it had bought to provide consulting services using that model (HSI). The Board of Directors of PMI announced that Mark A. Langley, President & CEO, would retire from PMI in 2018. Meanwhile, PMI said that OPM3 would be updated to a fourth edition, but it is unclear whether the fourth edition will include the OPM3 Capability Statements, which are required in order to implement OPM3. Today PMI does not sell the OPM3 Capability Statements created by PMI volunteers, and organizations that wish to implement OPM3 by using the OPM3 Capability Statements must find a consultant who already has the OPM3 Capability Statements.
- Schlichter, J. & Duncan, W. R. (1999). An organizational PM maturity model. PM Network, 13(2), 18.
- Aubrey, M., Hobbs, B., & Thuillier, D., Organisational project management: An historical approach to the study of PMOs, International Journal of Project Management, 26(1), 2008
- Friedrich, R., Schlichter, J., & Haeck, W. (2003). The history of OPM3. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2003—EMEA, The Hague, South Holland, The Netherlands. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.