Top 4 Causes Project Management Offices Do Not Meet Organization’s Needs

PMO - Collaboration is key

After over 20 years managing projects and mentoring companies in the adoption of project and program management best practices, I have come to feel  that “I have seen it all”.  I’ve seen organizations with good PMOs, bad PMOs, and no PMOs.  What is the key differentiator?  Bad PMO’s typically perform poorly because of their approach to “solving the problem”.  They are typically formed by senior management that slams together a project management office to “solve our project delivery issues”. Hmmm…Suspiciously vague… no?

Top down, bottom up support, training, clear expectations, and clear objectives are what it takes to have a successful project delivery organization (BTW, these are good tips on whatever you are trying to accomplish).

Here are some of the traits of poorly conceived/executed program management offices:

1. Lack of standardized templates and processes

If your PMO is “re-inventing the wheel” for each project, you may have a few project successes stories, but delivery success can only be achieved by seasoned and lucky project managers.  In addition, without a defined repeatable method, your organization will not be able to measure success and tweak the process to improve to make things go smoother next time.  “Lessons learned”, will not really be learned or used to improve, as the process is not consistent.

2. Important/Major/Large projects get a “free pass”

How much faith do you have in your standards and procedures?  If smaller projects are run through the established process and managed by the PMO, but larger more complex projects are given a wide birth on implementation, it shows that you have NO FAITH in your process and procedures.

A better approach is to have a methodology and templates that can adapt to the scope and complexity of the project.  Nobody wants more overhead than they need.  Consider having a standard process and templates that can be applied to all projects.  That does not mean that all projects have the same artifacts and degree de rigor.  It means that the methodology itself is designed with flexibility and “options” depending on the type of project.

3. Lack of executive management involvement

It’s often difficult to determine which is worse; A PMO where senior management is kept out of the loop, or a PMO where senior management is kept in the loop, but doesn’t care or doesn’t take action on what is going on.  Either way it is a bad situation.

Either your PMO leader is not promoting your PMO well or information that is being produced is not meaningful or relevant to senior management.  Make sure that you know what KPIs are important to senior management then tailor your reporting to what is important TO THEM.  If you keep the information about what they care about and keep it to a reasonable brevity, you will have a better chance of stakeholder engagement.

4. Lack of Training

“We have no money for training”; how often have you heard this?  Imagine if we told our doctors, lawyers, teachers this?  Yes, project management is part art, part science, part experience, but times change, techniques change, technologies change.  Training is a necessity. A successful organization requires updates in capabilities and techniques to stay current.

Even if your PMO is important to the organization now, there are always ways to improve.  If your organization is seriously strapped for cash and has a low training budget, consider online learning opportunities.  These can be a great way to keep your team trained on a shoestring.

These are just four signs…if I think of more I’ll post them.  If you have some to share please post them here.

Level 5 Partners offers mentoring and guidance to help organizations achieve these results. In addition we offer the vPMO, a completely integrated web based solution that can be used to implement the processes discussed in this blog entry.

Please be sure to check it out: Virtual Program Management Office (vPMO)

We love sharing our knowledge and information about our offerings. If you find the vPMO interesting, contact us for a free no obligation demonstration.


amagon0524's picture

In addition to the traits that  you have identified, in my experience, another differentiator between a good and a bad PMO is the quality of its PMO leadership.  In order for a PMO to be effective in an organization, it is imperative that the PMO leader ensures that an organization not only understands the value of PMO governance but commits to it and empowers the PMO Leader to engage executive management in project alignment, selection, project execution and delivery of intended project benefits.

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