An effective project management office (PMO) can be a powerful partner in driving positive business outcomes. When all the pieces come together, the benefits of a solid PMO are numerous: improved decision-making reduced exposure to risk, better resource allocation and utilization, and repeatable wins. When the pieces do not fall into place, however, a PMO can become a liability.
The potential for PMO failure is why so many companies struggle with the idea of utilizing a PMO in the first place. We can’t just look at success factors. We need to understand: What causes PMO failure? Let’s first examine it from a broad perspective.
The Big Picture of PMO Failure: Poor PPM Implementation
When a PMO falters, it is often related to mistakes made in the implementation of Project Portfolio Management (PPM). On the surface, a PMO and PPM seem to go hand-in-hand. But if that was the norm, there wouldn’t be a need for this article.
Unfortunately, it is far more common to find that PPM has been poorly implemented, much to the detriment of the company. Poorly executed PPM is a sign that your PMO has not achieved maturity and can result in failure.
The positive news is that these problems can be averted and there is still hope for success if you and your PMO can recognize and correct the following common mistakes.
1. Lack of Visibility and Data
If the staff of your PMO can’t see what is going on across the organization, they won’t be able to make educated decisions. What does that mean for your projects? Nothing good. Limited visibility and limited data result in consequences like poor project selection, lack of organizational focus, inaccurate forecasting, limited resources, and a lack of strategic direction and alignment. Externally, your customers will lose trust as poor performance results in increased time to market, mediocre or failed products, and diminished brand equity.
How to Fix It
Take the first step toward correction by centralizing resource management and reporting to create a single source of information across all departments. Facilitate this by dropping cumbersome spreadsheets and long meetings. Instead, provide your PMO with an agile portfolio management tool that will provide visibility to people, deliverables, resources, and benefits.
2. Poor Resource Management
One of the key reasons that many companies deploy a PMO is to improve resource management. For a less mature PMO (and even a few seasoned ones), that task can be their biggest challenge. There is a lot of pressure to achieve deliverables as quickly as possible. This pushes some PMOs into survival mode. Instead of thoughtful planning and resource allocation, they are driven to deliver as much as they can as fast as they can. Unfortunately, that can cause problems like competing goals or schedules, budget disputes, shortages, stoppages, understaffing, overstaffing, and poor morale.
How to Fix It
There are four steps your PMO can take to improve resource capacity planning. First, determine resource and demand constraints on current projects and determine projected resource needs from future projects. Next, cultivate several reliable supply and demand scenarios that encompass 3-, 6-, and 12-month periods of time. These projections will help hone in on estimated resource needs. Next, allocate the resources to the deliverables based on past performance data or similar projects. Last, circle back to technology and visibility. A solid portfolio management tool is your PMO’s best friend in forecasting, strategizing, and allocating your resources because it lets them see everything at once and use that data to drive decisions.
3. PMO Failure to Prioritize Projects
Every project cannot be the most important project in the company — even if the project owners feel differently. When a PMO assigns the same value or urgency to all deliverables, there will be inevitable deficiencies in execution. For example, big projects could suffer as lower-value projects consume resources; small, necessary projects could get shelved or completed poorly in order to finish larger deliverables faster.
How to Fix It
First, assess the overall deliverables of the entire organization. Next, narrow in on those deliverables to determine scope. Examine the importance of each project compared to the business goals to determine priority. Based upon that data, divide projects into categories by asking questions like: Is this a filler activity that amounts to useful, but not critical, busywork? Does it offer quick wins that will boost morale? Is it worth the time and effort, or should it be shelved or tossed? Is it a major project that offers huge rewards but utilizes a lot of company resources? These questions will help your PMO categorize — and prioritize — projects.
How Do You Combat PMO Failure?
A rocky start doesn’t have to be the end of your PMO journey. By addressing common mistakes such as lack of visibility and data, poor resource management, and failure to prioritize projects, your PMO can make great strides in achieving maturity that will benefit not only the PMO but the entire organization.
What measures have you taken to ensure your success as PMO?
Please share them with the Project Manager News community in the comments below.