OPM3 Online versus OPM3 ProductSuite
In order to increase an organization's level of maturity using OPM3, you must implement specific OPM3 "Capability Statements."
In order to know which OPM3 Capability Statements to implement, you must use the OPM3 Capability Statements to perform a maturity assessment of the organization.
OPM3 Online has been marketed as a maturity assessment tool, but it does not enable the assessment of any OPM3 Capability Statements whatsoever.
Naturally OPM3 Online has caused organizations to falter in their pursuit of capability and maturity for this very reason.
PMI has begun to distance itself from OPM3 Online and no longer sells it directly to the public. It has transferred that liability to consultants who act as resellers. As of December 2012, PMI has announced that it is considering retiring OPM3 Online altogether.
There are tools other than OPM3 Online that should be used to implement OPM3 correctly to increase the project, program, and portfolio management maturity of an organization.
Most people do not understand that OPM3 Online excludes 72% of PMI's OPM3 Standard from the assessment questions, rendering it difficult if not impossible to determine the correct improvement steps. Not understanding this distinction can cause upsets, and has. In 2010, PMI withdrew OPM3 Online from the general public, but OPM3 Professionals who are certified in the use of the correctly designed and more robust OPM3 ProductSuite assessment tool still have access to OPM3 Online - and may try to use it to assess your organization. You need to know the differences between these tools and the results you get from them respectively.
Consider this analogy. If you were a gardener who wished to grow a Florida orange tree from a seed to maturity, you would probably be pleased if someone offered you a water bucket. That’s assuming you interpret the words “water bucket” to mean a bucket of water. Obviously if that person were only offering you a bucket that could contain water but didn’t, then you would not have what you needed. Certainly you would have the shape of what you needed, but not the thing itself. At best, you might find this aggravating. At worst, your seedling could die. Either way, it is what’s in the bucket that you need. Obviously we are interested in growing organizations, not oranges. But the metaphor is useful: The OPM3 Standard is to water what OPM3 Online and OPM3 ProductSuite are to water buckets and buckets of water, respectively.
Figure 1: PMI offers two different tools to implement the OPM3 Standard.
The implementation of the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model Standard requires users to understand the Standard, use it to assess the organization in which it is being implemented, use the assessment results to identify capabilities and outcomes that are missing, choose improvement steps from among any missing items, orchestrate improvements and reassess to demonstrate progress. The Project Management Institute has made two tools available to support this straightforward process: OPM3 Online and OPM3 ProductSuite. But many OPM3 users do not understand the difference between these two tools—specifically, they do not realize that OPM3 Online excludes nearly three-quarters of the OPM3 Standard from its assessment questions, does not employ questions that help users identify the capabilities and outcomes that are missing (per the implementation steps described above) and is nothing like OPM3 ProductSuite. To understand this problem and how to deal with it, first you need to understand what the OPM3 Standard is, and second, how each tool represents the Standard.
One of the PMI’s main activities is the sponsorship of volunteers who develop business standards. PMI’s most widely adopted standard is A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge - Fourth Edition (2008), or PMBOK® Guide. The PMBOK is applicable to most projects most of the time, and is the basis of PMI’s popular Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. As a company, PMI does such a good job of protecting its brand as an indicator of quality that PMI is able to enroll subject matter experts as volunteers from across the globe and beyond its ability to hire as employees in the development of PMI standards. We support PMI and its products because we know we can count on PMI to do what is best for constituents in the global project management community. The popularity of PMI’s PMBOK Guide and PMP Certification are testaments to this fact.
The OPM3 Standard, which is designed to help organizations assess and develop the capabilities necessary to enact organizational strategies through projects, incorporates the PMBOK with other content. During the development of OPM3, the authoring team realized that other resources were needed in addition to the PMBOK Guide. Those resources included standards for Program Management and Portfolio Management. As a result, PMI’s Standard for Program Management was developed to describe the management of programs as groups of projects managed in a coordinated manner to achieve benefits available only when those projects are managed together. Likewise, PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management was developed to describe the selection and prioritization of programs, projects and other work undertaken at a specific point in time to help the organization reach strategic objectives. The OPM3 Standard incorporates the PMBOK Guide, The Standard for Program Management and The Standard for Portfolio Management into one framework for assessing capabilities and producing specific outcomes.
Capability Maturity Model
This large team spent years identifying and articulating “Capability” statements (elaborating them in terms of testable Outcome statements and KPI's). The work of this global team resulted in a large network of Capabilities, which were testable statements sequenced to show how lesser capabilities aggregate to more advanced capabilities in a modular and scalable fashion. In the final year of the OPM3 program (first release), PMI hired a professional writer to work with the team to write an overview of the standard, and this overview document was named the "OPM3 Knowledge Foundation". If you order “OPM3” from the PMI bookstore, this overview document is what you get, but the assessment questions in the back of the book do not contain any of the essential capability statements. These are the same questions posed in OPM3 Online (described below). Relative to the size and substance of the large network of Capability statements that make OPM3 a Capability Maturity Model, the Knowledge Foundation is more like a brochure than a book, and it does not include the essential network of Capability statements that comprise the core of OPM3. OPM3 was a "Capability Maturity Model" or CMM precisely because of the Capability statements developed by the global team, but the Capability statements are not represented in the pages of the Knowledge Foundation.
SAM, I am - OPM3, I'm Not
When the OPM3 Standard was first published, so was a CD containing a “Self Assessment Mechanism” (SAM), a poorly designed survey that was written by somebody not on the architecture team in the “final hours” of the program. In truth, the development of the SAM had not been authorized by the OPM3 Program Manager. Instead a PMI employee had instructed a volunteer to develop the SAM, although that volunteer was never part of the team that designed the architecture of the OPM3 Standard . The Program Manager, who had been leading the development of OPM3 since inception of the program several years earlier, objected immediately to the SAM when it was presented as a fait accompli, and later resigned.
No Capabilities Assessed in OPM3 Online
The root cause of the upset over the SAM is that the SAM did not pose assessment questions in terms of the OPM3 Standard's "Capability statements", which correspond to identifiable and actionable improvement options that hundreds of professionals had developed over a period of many years based on surveys deployed to thousands of people. The SAM (and later OPM3 Online) would cause users of OPM3 to ask the wrong questions and get the wrong answers.
The SAM simply grouped categories of Capability statements without identifying the actual Capabiltiy statements. Each category was called a “Best Practice” but the truth is that best practices were merely ways to organize content, i.e. containers. In other words, in OPM3 a “best practice” is a bucket of capabilities and outcome statements. OPM3 is a “capability maturity model” (CMM) because it describes how lesser capabilities are developed over time, leading to more advanced capabilities. Each capability corresponds to an expected outcome. It is these specific capabilities and outcomes that describe how organizations get better as they mature that are the heart of OPM3. The OPM3 Standard has 488 best practices (BPs) that organize 1,773 Capability-Outcome (CO) Statements. Without the CO's, the method of standardization, measurement, control, and improvement cannot be orchestrated, and the meaning of organizational enablers cannot be discerned. It’s not the bucket you need, but what’s in the bucket.
Figure 2: A “Best Practice” is a container used to organize Capability-Outcome statements.
Within the total 488 best practices, 412 pertain to the Standardization, Measurement, Control and Continuous Improvement of the Project, Program and Portfolio Management Processes. These 412 best practices organize 1,530 Capability-Outcome Statements. This is because each of the OPM processes requires 15 Capability-Outcomes. The project management domain has 42 processes, the Program Management domain has 47 processes and the Portfolio Management domain has 13 processes--summing to 1,530 Capability-Outcome statements. In addition to this content, a large number of experts from companies of all shapes and sizes across industries in 35 different countries identified the Capability-Outcomes required to create an environment in which the Project, Program and Portfolio Management Processes could be managed from a cultural point of view. Likewise, these cultural Capability-Outcomes were organized by best practices after the fact. Over 800 volunteers contributed to the development of these Capability-Outcomes, leveraging surveys we had deployed repeatedly to over 30,000 people.
An organization must be assessed in terms of Capability statements in order to identify appropriate improvements to increase the capability and maturity of the organization per the OPM3 Standard. But the SAM does not assess any Capability statements.
The SAM was made available over the Internet and rebranded as "OPM3 Online." However, because OPM3 Online does not assess Capabilities, most informed people agree it is not an online version of the OPM3 Standard. Most customers who wish for their organizations to be assessed using OPM3 do not recognize this.
Later another tool named OPM3 ProductSuite was developed by PMI to enable OPM3 Professionals to assess the essential Capability statements. ProductSuite is only available to certified users who meet experience requirements in assessments and consulting and who pass a comprehensive exam and pay annual licensing fees to PMI.
PMI Withdraws OPM3 Online from General Public
In 2010, PMI withdrew OPM3 Online from the general public but said that it would continue to be available through OPM3 Professionals. So two tools may be used by OPM3 Professionals, but one represents the original standard correctly for Capability assessments while the other does not, per figure 4. The onus is on OPM3 Professionals to use these tools correctly.
Figure 4: One tool represents the OPM3 Standard accurately while the other is lacking content required to identify which improvements to undertake.
The link to OPM3 Online has been removed from PMI’s website. PMI is promoting the rebranded OPM3 Professional Services (delivered by certified OPM3 ProductSuite users) as the exclusive outlet of all current OPM3 Products.
The only way to increase the maturity of an organization per the OPM3 Standard is by assessing Capability statements, and these statements are not represented in the OPM3 Knowledge Foundation (book), the SAM, or OPM3 Online. The only place they are represented for assessments in any current PMI product is OPM3 ProductSuite, and the only people with access to ProductSuite are PMI certified OPM3 Professionals who meet work experience criteria, are trained, earn a certification, and who pay licensing and maintenance fees to PMI.
Prospective customers of services from OPM3 Professionals need to understand the differences between the tools that an OPM3 Professional may use to conduct an OPM3 assessment, and instruct the OPM3 Professional to use the one that will produce the desired results.
Here is what people are saying about the article:
"Thank you…the mystery is solved! I would HIGHLY recommend this article to anyone who is beginning an OPM3 initiative in hopes of raising the project management maturity within their organization. I have been working with OPM3 Online for several months after being assigned the task of leading an initiative to take a fresh maturity assessment for our PMO and update our roadmap for improvement. At this time we are only focused on the Project Management domain. I conducted the assessment (basically ignoring all sections of OPM3 except the Project Management section) and have been studying the output trying to figure out the value of the information provided. Frankly, until I read this article, I was beginning to think that OPM3 was nothing more than an outline of best practices with no supporting detail with which to develop a roadmap for improvement. The assessment left us with more questions than answers. Having read this article I think there is significant risk with marketing OPM3 via OPM3 Online. Even though the literature clearly mentions two different OPM3 offerings, it is very misleading because the difference is easily interpreted as a choice of interface. For example, would you like to order your food via the Drive-Thru and basically serve yourself? Or would you like to go inside the restaurant, be seated, and be served your food having the benefit of an experienced waiter who can recommend the best food to meet your tastes? In either case, the same food is being served…it’s the same restaurant with the same menu and same cooks. However, I now understand that this is not the case with OPM3 Online vs. OPM3 Product Suite. Following the analogy above, the food is actually different depending on the interface you choose. I would even go so far as to say with OPM3 Online you only get the menu...no food is served…you just get the list of entrees offered. So with OPM3 Online you are left with the conclusion that you need to search for food elsewhere. Looking at the menu doesn’t satisfy the appetite. (not a perfect analogy, but hopefully you get the idea) ...Thank you again for the very informative and enlightening article! "
"A very instructive, insightful and useful article – not only in terms of explaining the purpose, structure and approach of OPM3 but the respective roles that OPM3 Online and OPM3 ProductSuite play (or don’t play in the case of OPM3 Online) in providing tools for organisations to assess and then grow their organisational project (or program or portfolio) management maturity. Definitely worth book marking this article."
"I thoroughly enjoyed this article, John, and commend you for your insights in describing the OPM3 Standard, OPM3 Online, and OPM3 Product Suite. You have explained the key differences in the two PMI tools, OPM3 Online and OPM3 Product Suite, and your insightful, and objective, comparison shows why OPM3 Online cannot be a substitute for the use of OPM3 Product Suite. Your continued commitment to Organizational Project Management since 1998 is impressive. My sincere thanks."
"John, great article, insights, and leadership perspective on OPM3, a very important and challenging domain. This is a very helpful and accurate piece as there is quite a bit of confusion regarding the OPM3 Online Assessment and the Product Suite. Additionally, many people not aware of the purpose and scope of the OPM3 Online Assessment draw incorrect (and negative) conclusions regarding both the tool and OPM3 in general. This is unnecessary and regretable. Like you, many experts in this domain have offered their analysis of the OPM3 Online Assessment tool. Ralf Friedrich (2007) suggests that the standard assessment (OPM3 Online) is too superficial to be effective. Another expert, Craig Curran-Morton (2004) advises that the binary form of assessment survey methodology (OPM3 Online) is problematic citing the example of a woman being either pregant or not. I couldn't agree more with your very fine and well written article. Thank you for the effort and for your continued leadership in this very important domain."
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