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Why do PMO implementation fails?

Friends, we all know and agree that defining of any process or functions is easy but implementation is not a smooth road to success. Hence, we have to understand the reasons for failure of such implementations and here I will talk about why does PMO implementation fails and what we can learn from it.

Reasons for PMO implementation Failure:

1. One of the common pre-requisite for a person to be PMO is to be Project Management Professional and have a taste for the financial statistics and also able to present the data in a meaningful way. The data if presented is not used by the management to control their projects, then it is sheer waste. Hence, this may be one of the reason, why PMO implementation fails in an organization.

2. Moreover, there are no lessons learned and analyzed for such failures, because the management thinks it is a waste of time and continuous to do monotonous job and hence the PROJECT CRASH and lands to the ground with everybody in it getting hurt.

Recognizing the need for a PMO:

We need to understand that to avoid such crashing, PMO is also like an airplane traffic controller, who guides each and every project to land successfully to the ground without hurting anyone in the project.

Every leader faces two key project management challenges:

  • How many of our unit’s vital projects can we complete this year?
  • How fast can we complete them?

The PMO is the vehicle to help the executives deliver on their improvement effort goals. In order to meet its goals, every organization launches multiple projects during a fiscal year. Some projects may have dedicated resources that work on only one project at a time. However more commonly we see that some resources are used across many projects. Moreover, they are often assigned multiple projects at the same time.

Project development work requires process and communication. If you’ve worked on a project, you know that often the only constant is change. The changes maybe anything like change in customer requirements, resource availability and detailed schedule. These changes can place the best organized project team in dire jeopardy, leaving the project team to work in high stress situations that arise the delivery risk even higher. When change is frequent within a project, the ability to communicate changes rapidly to project team members, management and other business units can mean the difference between project delivery success and failure. However, communication is just one of several major challenges. Change brings about unplanned activity. Therefore changes are inevitable as it is truly said.

The push to establish a PMO often comes because of the reasons mentioned above. Often PMOs are established to bring order to timely project delivery expectations. Sometimes, they are established as “Mentoring PMO”, to facilitate process standardization such as consistent methodologies. In many organizations, the PMO takes on an authoritarian approach as a “Process Cop PMO”, to try to force everyone to use common processes. In other organization, PMOs are established as a “Palace Guarding PMO” to simply protect the organization from out of control and highly visible projects.

Generally speaking, PMOs established with any of these purposes often fail over time. Surely the PMO initially appears to have an impact. PMO sponsors are usually satisfied early on. However strange thing begins to occur. The organization reacts in a hostile manner to bring balance back itself as a functional unit, a project and a resource.

A PMO whose main value is a standard methodology will find its value eroded over time. Standard methodology is just one small part of total value proposition of a PMO. Once imbedded, project teams and business unit leaders will question the need for a PMO, if no other value drivers are in place.

PMOs can have the “right people”, the “right data” and the “right tools” but produce “wrong results”. If PMO does not have the correct charter, it will most certainly fail over time


The “right” people include a balance between people from the supply side and people from the market side of organization. PMO must be able to market its message in order to get the collaboration of people who do not report to PMO. This requires skills in marketing and communications. Finally the PMO should cover multiple disciplines. Every functional area that is involved in projects should feel that someone in the PMO represents their best interests.


If the PMO begins business without a marketing plan to gain strong buy-in on tool usage from most, if not all functional units, the PMO will have begun its own death march. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) formula works best at the beginning. The maturity of organization with respect to project management skills has a large impact on the acceptance by user community of Enterprise Project Management (EPM) tools and processes often in organization with low project management maturity, sophisticated tools meet heavy resistance. This is especially true with functional units that are normally autonomous to the enterprise in how they manage their work.

Thus in a PMO strategy, PMO must understand functional unit behavior characteristics and their needs. The PMO must determine what is in it for each functional unit. A PMO that has solid knowledge of the different politics in play and drivers for each functional unit will be able to establish itself more quickly as the ‘best friend’ of enterprise. Such a PMO can avoid falling into the trap of becoming a ‘process cop’.


In every type of organization, functional units compete with one another everyday. The issue is often scarce resources or different views of how and where to change the organization. When it comes to scarce resources, functional units often view themselves as stand-alone. To survive, they must compete or risk falling to the last spot and missing their fiscal year objectives. The challenge for PMO is to assist these units to be collectively better at project delivery. In order to improve, project delivery must be measured. The measurement process is often accomplished through project status reporting from all identified projects that are key to the business.

The PMO can be very effective by making sure that the project management methodology or tools provide timely information. If PMO can help the project managers to identify problems early corrective actions can be taken in small doses. This provides less stress to project teams and also to the steering committee members. Remember that the projects are more likely to be cancelled if the corrective plan requires more changes. Also, the more often this happens, the greater the likelihood and the steering committee will question what the PMO was doing all this time.


Why PMO implementation fails?

  1. PMO did not define its value proposition

The PMO is in business to help the organization meet its goals. Almost anything else is a waste of effort that will be realized sooner or later. For e.g. it may take weeks or even months to force project managers and their teams to use a methodology that PMO is pushing. PMOs should strive to demonstrate tangible value in the first 3 months in terms of improving project delivery speed. The political pressure to deliver value will increase month by month. At some point, PMO will run out of time.

  1. PMO is not perceived as impacting project delivery abilities

PMOs that are focused primarily as administrative score-keepers, information providers or process developers have a declining curve.

These PMOs start out by fulfilling a critical senior management need for information. The organization units and PMs receiving negative press without tangible help from the PMO, resist the PMO. This resistance becomes more serious overtime and is often a defensive reaction to PMO. When the combined resistance of a few functional units exceeds the perceived value of the PMO, PMO will cease to exist- it has no tangible value to prove its worth.

  1. PMO is seen as threat – most often too authorative

Many established PMOs operate in this manner. There are some environments where strict adherence to authority works well. For e.g. business that gain revenue through the military or government agencies are often required to follow strict project delivery guidelines such as “Earned Value” techniques.

These businesses are measured and compensated on the Earned Value metrics as a percent of available compensation for a project phase. So, if the business achieved 90% of Earned value metrics for a project phase, it would receive 90% of the available compensation for that project phase. For some firms operating this way, their survival may depend on cash flow and the careful tracking and progress associated with it. In cases of survival, authoritarianism works. Authoritarian PMOs operating in these environments can sustain themselves, because there is a clear value proposition.

  1. PMO is too low in the management reporting structure

PMOs that are established in this mode are usually found in the supply side of the business-normally IT. This type of PMO is sometimes established as a defensive measure against pressure from other groups. Often they are catching the blames for projects failing to meet requested timelines and promised quality levels.

This type of PMO exists near or below “radar” detection. This means that PMO often spends most of its time collecting data on IT project initiatives. The CIO/ management needs the data to survive and certainly wants to improve project management results.

  1. PMO does not have any buy-in from the senior functional managers

PMOs that do not cultivate the buy-in from the senior leadership of their organization or of other organization that are customers of senior leadership are making a serious mistake.

PMO that takes an initiatives that excludes or does not explicitly include the interest of senior managers across functional areas puts the project teams in a cross fire. The project teams must now choose priorities between the PMO initiative and the project managers initiative. Who do you think the project teams will listen to first and last?

  1. Project Management Overhead – bad PMO acronym

Teams may see PMO initiatives as unnecessary overhead.

  1. PMO is micromanaging – trying to control every project directly

According to Dr. Harold Kerzner, “If the project managers report to the PMO, then PMO effectively micromanages projects and the result may be a loss of strategic direction for the firm. For strategic efforts, it may be advisable for the project managers to report to the strategic PMO on a part time basis.”

According to Gerald and Steven, “Project managers should have internship within the PMO to understand its purpose, functions and methods. However, the internship, generally speaking, should be in performing a PMO role, not a project management role.”

Concluding this section, I will say that we should not ignore the importance of PMO and build the PMO team with the help of some PMO consultants and definitely it will give you results.

Friends, If you have any queries regarding PMO then please leave your comment and I will reply to you. Also, if you need consultancy for PMO implementation in your organization, then you can contact me or leave your comment.

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