Success factors and maturity

Definition

Success factors are management practices that, when implemented, will increase the likelihood of success of a project, programme or portfolio. The degree to which these practices are established and embedded within an organisation indicates its level of maturity.

General

There are many recognised factors that are known to contribute to success. Their presence in a project, programme or portfolio does not in itself guarantee success, but their absence will contribute to its failure. Some high-level success factors include:

  • defining clear goals and objectives;
  • maintaining a focus on business value;
  • implementing a proper governance structure;
  • ensuring senior management commitment;
  • providing timely and clear communication.

These success factors can be collected together to form a framework that not only describes an organisational environment in which success is the norm, but also provides a mechanism to help organisations improve.

A maturity model identifies the stages in an organisation’s development from its initial chaotic attempts to manage projects, programmes and portfolios, to a point where most initiatives succeed and the organisation has the ability to improve continuously.

Most models are based on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) originally developed at Carnegie Mellon University. This identifies five levels of progression:

Level 1 - Initial: the delivery process is ad hoc and occasionally chaotic. Few processes are defined and success depends upon individual effort and heroics.

Level 2 - Repeatable: basic processes are established and the necessary discipline is in place to repeat earlier successes.

Level 3 - Defined: processes are documented and standardised. All projects, programmes or portfolios use an approved, tailored version of the documented processes.

Level 4 - Managed: metrics are gathered on process performance and used to control future performance.

Level 5 - Optimising: continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies.In the P3 management environment, an organisation’s maturity can be defined separately for projects, programmes and portfolios, i.e. an organisation may be at level 3 for the management of projects but only at level 2 for the management of programmes.

Maturity may be further divided into key process areas such as:

  • scope;
  • schedule;
  • finance;
  • risk;
  • quality;
  • resource.

This enables an organisation to assess and develop maturity in particular areas such as project risk management or programme resource management.

Each area has a number of attributes that are indicative of the level of maturity. For example, a well-known success factor is that risks should be identified, assessed and acted upon. The relevant attributes that indicate an organisation’s level of maturity may then be:

  • Level 1: risks arbitrarily classified and rarely, if ever, quantified;
  • Level 2: some projects recognise different categories of risk;
  • Level 3: risks identified, assessed and controlled in accordance with recognised procedures, across all projects;
  • Level 4: projects able to demonstrate resource and budgetary implications of risks throughout the project life cycle;
  • Level 5: risk assessment underpins all decision-making.

If an organisation wishes to deliver projects, programmes and portfolios effectively and efficiently, it should aspire to level 3 and upwards. This requires serious commitment from senior management to establish the maturity of the organisation, benchmark against a standard model (such as P3M3) and implement planned improvements.

Project

Projects are the basic building blocks of both programmes and portfolios and many organisations start to develop their maturity by addressing success factors in the project environment. It is highly unlikely that an organisation could start to develop a mature approach to delivering programmes and portfolios without first establishing a consistent way of managing projects.

Programme

Ideally, programmes are initiated in an organisational environment where project management is already well established and consistent. However, it is not uncommon for an organisation to be managing projects in an inconsistent manner and then collect these together in a programme.

In this instance the programme management team has an opportunity to develop programme-wide governance mechanisms for the component projects. In this way, programmes can not only deliver defined organisational change and benefits, but also act as a catalyst for improving the maturity of project management which in itself leads towards programme management maturity.

Portfolio

Achieving maturity in portfolio management first requires the development of maturity in project and programme management.

The scale of portfolios means that they have an important role to play in embedding mature practices in the project and programme domains. The portfolio management team can provide the continuing drive to improve project and programme delivery that leads to the ‘managed’ and ‘optimising’ levels of maturity.

Similarly, over several cycles of strategic planning, the executive board of the organisation are the ones who must drive maturity in portfolio management.

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