Last week I became an OPM3® Certified Consultant. After spending almost three years as the Deputy Project Manager with the volunteer team developing OPM3 Second Edition, I spent a week taking the OPM3 Certified Consultant course and passed the final exam. I have received a lot of questions about what that means and whether there is any value in it. There are about 100 OPM3 Certified Consultants in the world. I want to talk about OPM3, project management standards, getting organizationally mature, and what being an OPM3 Certified Consultant means. This might not sound exciting, but hang with me. There are very few organizations that won’t benefit from getting better at implementing strategy.
What is OPM3?
OPM3 is a standard that was first published in December of 2003 by the Project Management Institute. OPM3 stands for Organizational Project Management Maturity Model. Per PMI, “Organizational project management is the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the achievement of strategic goals. The concept of organizational project management is based on the idea that there is a correlation between an organization’s capabilities in Project Management, Program Management, and Portfolio Management, and the organizations effectiveness in implementing strategy.”
[There is some conflict in the terms process and capability. I will use the term capability consistently through my discussion. A capability describes “what you do and why you do it”. A process describes “how”. PMI doesn’t describe “how” in their standards even though they call them processes.]
To put this simply, organization’s have to implement changes in their structure, processes, management practices, and/or technology to implement a strategy. This is difficult but there are some capabilities that have been show to support them in consistently implementing these changes. These capabilities can be categorized into effectively and efficiently executing projects, the coordination of multiple projects to optimize resource utilization and project performance, and deciding which projects are the best ones for the organization to invest in based on the organizations strategy. These are Project Management, Program Management, and Portfolio Management respectively. OPM3 uses the capabilities identified in PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge-4th Edition, The Standard for Program Management-Second Edition, and The Standard for Portfolio Management-Second Edition. More on standards in a minute.
OPM3 wraps a continuous process improvement approach around these capabilities. For example, when implementing a project you probably want to manage the scope of the project. Within most organizations -most of the time, that means you have to gather requirements, define the scope of the project, and create a work plan when planning a project. There are a lot of different ways to do this. It may make sense on some projects to do this once at the start of the project and on other projects, you should do it iteratively and in progressively more detail. What organizations that are good at executing strategy do is they define how they are going to manage scope. Then they pay attention to how well this works continue to improve their method over time. This is organizationally mature. OPM3 breaks the capabilities down into Standardize, Measure, Control, and Improve.
OPM3 also includes a set of Organizational Enablers. These are the capabilities that must exist in an organization to support the implementation and ongoing existence of Project Management capabilities. These include things like project management training, project management sponsorship, and other structural, cultural, technological and human resource practices.
You can pick up a copy of the OPM3 standard from PMI’s website for about $100. This standard describes the approach in detail, lists all the capabilities, and includes a nice Self Assessment tool in the appendix.
Project Management Standards
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) is a catalog of capabilities (called “processes” by PMI) related to the management of projects. When the first OPM3 standard was published, PMI had not published standards for Portfolio Management or Program Management. These first versions came out in 2006 and have been significantly updated with the simultaneous release of new Editions of the standards for Project, Program, Portfolio, and OPM3 in December of 2008.
The new standards provide a comprehensive catalogue of the capabilities that cover Project, Program, and Portfolio Management. These standards show the capabilities that will work in most organizations most of the time. They are based on years of research and the input of thousands of volunteers. They give examples of existing practices within the capabilities. Despite what some critics claim, they don’t tell you “how” to implement those capabilities, just “what” you should be thinking about. They also don’t tell you to do all the capabilities whether they make sense for you or not, follow a high ceremony waterfall process, or make the purpose of the organization about project management.
Maturity is an interesting concept. It has a lot of meanings. Mature can be a show you wouldn’t like your kids to watch, a bill of exchange that is due, or a ripe or fully aged piece of fruit. The definition of maturity I am using here is fully developed. What makes organizational project management maturity an interesting concept in business is that fully developed is different in almost every business. It can also change over time within an organization as the needs for project management change. The key to organizational project management maturity is not to try to implement every capability with a robust set of process maturity. But to implement the capabilities that are right for helping a specific organization implement their specific strategy. This includes implementing an appropriate level of continuous improvement and only the necessary organizational enablers.
I have written about this focused approach to improving project management performance here and here. Invest when it improves the organizations ability to drive value. The goal is not to get better at project management, it is to get better at profitably delivering value to your customers. Project Management maturity efforts should be tied directly to business results.
OPM3 Certified Consultant
An OPM3 Certified Consultant isn’t just someone who understands the OPM3 standard. Just to get into the course OPM3 Certified Consultant course you must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the OPM3 standard through completion of a SAM assessment or an OPM3 fundamentals course. An OPM3 Certified Consultant has demonstrated significant program or project management experience, since a PMP or PgMP is an eligibility requirement. An OPM3 Certified Consultant also has significant assessing and/or consulting experience.
Once in the course, the consultant is trained on the OPM3 assessment methodology and tool set, and the improvement methodology and tool set. This is during an intense four day training course. The consultant must successfully complete an exam. The handbook that walks you through this process can be found at the PMI website.
The Value of OPM3 Certified Consultants
Most businesses can benefit from getting better at executing their strategy. Improving Organizational Project Management Maturity is a method of improving the organization ability to execute their strategy. OPM3 provides a systematic approach to identify and implement Organizational Project Management improvements appropriate to each business. Project Management Maturity is a tricky thing – it requires insight and experience to focus improvements in project management so it improves the organizations ability to deliver value to its customers. An OPM3 Certified Consultant has an assessment and improvement methodology, a robust tool set, and has demonstrated the experience with identifying and implementing improvements based on PMI’s standards.
For me, the value of the certification includes the assessment and improvement methodology training I received, the time I have spent with other experienced Organization Project leaders, access to the assessment and improvement tools provided by PMI, and some branding. I can combine this with my experience in software development and IT Operations excellence and cost optimization to rapidly deliver value to organizations. For organizations looking for a way to rapidly improve the performance of thier projects, an OPM3 certified consultant with proven experience and expertise in your domain is a good option. Guided by a proven systematic approach, they can perform an assessment and create an improvement roadmap and tie the improvements to your business results.