Alexander and the Indian King – Part 3



By John Schlichter

Georgia, USA




Empathy episode #1 led quickly to empathy episode #2. Hocking an abbreviated set of cryptic questions in an appendix of the OPM3 standard as a substitute for the Capability Statements, PMI decided to remove the Capability Statements altogether, which essentially meant removing the original product (i.e. the directory of Capability Statements) from its packaging or from the book written to introduce the Capability Statements. That’s not a criticism of the book or its author. The book was written by a professional writer named Paul Wesman whom PMI hired to turn concepts and language dictated by me and a handful of others into something presentable. Paul and I had a great working relationship: Paul wrote “John directed the original team that developed OPM3 for PMI, and I was the technical writer on the team. John was a creative, visionary thinker in his field.” Paul was a masterful writer. But the book, which a very small number of people were involved in creating, was not the original standard; the directory of Capability Statements was. If PMI’s customers buy a copy of the book that is the OPM3 standard from PMI today, what they will get is the packaging for the Capability Statements but not the Capability Statements themselves. PMI decided to repackage the Capability Statements in software. I was invited to advise PMI on the matter.

The new packaging was software named ProductSuite, a database version of OPM3’s Capability Statements created by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) on behalf of PMI based on the logical data model I had authored. Users were supposed to use ProductSuite to perform assessments of organizations and plan improvements based on those assessments. While I was delighted that ProductSuite was not another OPM3 Online, that ProductSuite based OPM3 assessments on the Capability Statements, and that ProductSuite got OPM3’s logical data model right, I tried to do the job I was asked to do for PMI (to advise them), and told PMI reasons why the software was unnecessarily problematic and why it would probably never result in the most useful and valuable knowledge that one would hope to create through the aggregation of benchmark data, i.e. data comparing the ability of respective organizations to implement their strategies through project, program, and portfolio management (described in terms of the maturity levels and capabilities of those organizations). The GUI was confusing, the workflow was convoluted, and functionality was limited. I would wager if you asked anyone who used ProductSuite whether this is an accurate description, they would affirm that it is, with the possible exception, naturally, of certain persons who worked on creating ProductSuite at PMI and DNV.

I won’t bore you with the details except to say that ProductSuite’s least attractive feature may have been that it was designed so users had to access ProductSuite over the Internet and allow their assessment data to be saved remotely in ProductSuite, which raised privacy issues of the sort that now plague Facebook for the simple reason that requiring customers to aggregate their data in a 3rd party product that is hosted remotely can result in a breach of trust. But Facebook did not exist back then, and PMI was not convinced by such critiques. PMI required users not only to access ProductSuite via the Internet but to save their assessment data in ProductSuite on those remote servers. The user could delete that data later, after exposing secrets to the risk of prying eyes. It came as no surprise that there were instances of corrupted assessment data, which I had warned PMI could happen from the outset. Speaking for myself, I never uploaded assessment data to ProductSuite that reflected the reality of any client’s capabilities. As years went by, PMI never produced any OPM3 benchmark data, and OPM3 users were continuously disappointed by the discovery that the OPM3 Standard did not contain the essential ingredients needed to implement it.

To be clear, I am not aware of any actual privacy breaches that resulted from this risk of one. And to PMI’s credit, ProductSuite was a huge improvement on OPM3 Online. But the OPM3 standard was updated to exclude the essential ingredients (the Capability Statements), and PMI required customers to buy the ProductSuite software to get access to those essential ingredients without clearly warning users of privacy risks and without stating that PMI would not create derivative products or reports based on assessment data without the users’ explicit permission. PMI’s logic justified PMI’s decisions, which plainly reduced PMI’s OPM3 standard to a commercial product in risky ways that gave PMI the power to corner essential aspects of the market for professional services pertaining to the execution of strategies through projects. And this aroused a schism regarding PMI’s purpose.


Unfortunately, you couldn’t buy the ProductSuite software. You had to rent it, which is how empathy episode #2 brings us to empathy episode #3. As of 2006, PMI made users pay thousands of dollars to get certified in the ProductSuite software, which was remarkably user-unfriendly, and then users had to pay thousands of dollars annually in maintenance fees to continue to use it. OPM3 had been designed not to require expensive software, but users were locked in because there was no other way to access the Capability Statements. Full disclosure: I was hired to create the entrance exam for this certification and to pilot the certification classes, but I was outspoken that the Capability Statements should not be excluded from the OPM3 standard, that users should not be required to upload their assessment data to third-party servers, and that the pricing of the certification and software should be reconsidered. PMI’s executives were not convinced by these pleas.

Excepting a small number of consultants, most people I pitched OPM3 to balked at the prospect of paying many thousands of dollars for the certification followed by many more thousands of dollars each year for software PMI had created from the work of PMI volunteers who never intended their work to be commercialized that way. To empathize with PMI, I see this as an organic strategy that was probably simply PMI’s attempt to lead the way by following a path familiar to PMI, noting that PMI had created only one foundational standard to date (the PMBOK Guide) and only one prior certification (the PMP). Choices were made with imperfect knowledge of this new market and how to support it, choices that reflected PMI’s expertise, which pertained more to controlling the IP than to ensuring it was used correctly. The latter would have required expertise from volunteers who had been alienated by past missteps and the risk of a monopoly. Consequently, the individuals comprising the relatively small community of consultants who were certified in ProductSuite were only certified in the functions of the software, i.e. how to start the software, how to open a new assessment project file, how to import Capability Statements into that assessment project file, etc. They were not certified in their knowledge of how to advance through the maturity levels of OPM3 or in their ability to guide an organization through those levels. And frankly, a great many had no idea how to do those things (which I know because PMI hired me to teach the OPM3 certification classes for about the first year of those classes, and I asked all the students). For many, it may have simply been the case that they did not know what they did not know.


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How to cite this article: Schlichter, J.  (2019). Alexander and the Indian King: Part 3; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue VII, August.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/pmwj84-Aug2019-Schlichter-Alexander-and-the-Indian-King-Part3-1.pdf



About the Author

John Schlichter

Atlanta, GA, USA




John Schlichter coined the term “Organizational Project Management” or “OPM,” which is the system for implementing the business strategy of an organization through projects. OPM became a global standard and is how companies throughout the world deliver projects valued in billions if not trillions of dollars. “John has contributed greatly to PMI,” Greg Balestrero, CEO, PMI Today, 2002. “In John’s role as the leader of PMI’s OPM3 program, he has immeasurably contributed to the growth of the profession,” Becky Winston, J.D., Chair of the Board of Directors, PMI Today, 2002. Having created OPM3© (an international standard in project, program, and portfolio management), John founded OPM Experts LLC, a firm delivering OPM solutions and a leading provider of maturity assessment services. Industry classifications: NAICS 541618 Other Management Consulting and NAICS 611430 Training. John is a member of the adjunct faculty of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

John can be contacted at jschlichter@opmexperts.com or frank.john.schlichter.iii@emory.edu.

To view more works by John Schlichter, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-schlichter/