Top Five PMO Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Insights | 21 January 2013

Many businesses let common challenges act as a roadblock to a mature PMO when in fact, understanding the issues inherent in an evolving PMO is the number one step to overcoming them.

The 2012/13 Project Management Office (PMO) Survey conducted by PM-Partners group reveals five core challenges for PMOs over the next 24 months. These include:

  1. Benefits realisation
  2. Supply and demand planning
  3. Project and program prioritisation
  4. Organisational alignment
  5. Resource management

According to the survey, 64% of respondents believe that organisational resistance to changing culture and project management practices will be a significant barrier to the progression and evolution of the PMO over the next two years.

These insights reflect a need for a wider organisational perspective and a shift in thinking. In the past, this would be managed at the executive level, which is held directly responsible for results. However, business is traditionally managed in ‘silos,’ which PMOs are forced to work across, yet they can often experience resistance from key stakeholders who might restrict the access of the PMO and limit their effectiveness overall.

Darrel Raynor, managing director at US project management company Data Analysis & Results, says PMOs that are given responsibility for resource allocation across the business can improve employee productivity.

“By having an oversight of all projects and personnel, a PMO can assign the best people to priority projects and keep their attention focused on that project,” says Darrel*.

“It’s not about losing control or independence at the executive level,” adds Pete Swan, Director of PM-Partners group. “Too often PMOs are seen as a competitor for resources when this is simply not the case.”

Taking an umbrella view of PMOs to overcome challenges

Executives may hamper progression and benefits realisation by not releasing resources for high priority projects. The tendency is to classify a some projects as ‘business as usual’ to avoid the governance of a PMO and actively discourage their staff from adhering to PM practices. To combat this, an enterprise view of projects and PPM must be encouraged throughout the organisation.

PMOs can achieve this through a carefully planned system of reporting. PMOs must report into the highest level of management possible so that it has sufficient authority and credibility to conduct its duties effectively.

Over half (55%) of PMOs surveyed report directly to senior executives. Is your PMO one of them?

The use of expert support is an increasingly popular solution for a PMO when it is struggling with organisational resistance or integration. This approach can be very effective, as external experts have the broad experience across many PMOs, as well as the background to operate at the appropriate level. This can prove vital regarding reinvigoration of a PMO or marketing a PMOs success.

The PM-Partners group is Australia’s most highly accredited project and PMO partner. We are the trusted service provider to Australia’s leading and emerging PMOs. Call us on 1300 70 13 14 for further information.


2 thoughts on “Top Five PMO Challenges and How to Overcome Them”

  1. pieter Meyer says:

    Why does PMOs fail? Provide me with the most common challenges PMOs have?

    1. PM-Partners says:

      Hi Pieter,

      Thank you for your comment. In our experience, there are a number of factors that impact on the success or otherwise of a PMO. In no particular order some of these most common factors include:

      • PMO not sufficiently empowered by the organisation to fulfill its responsibilities and obligations, needing support by executive and all layers of management
      • Often as a corollary to the above, mistrust and/or misunderstanding of the role of the PMO
      • Project teams circumventing and/or not utilising the services of the PMO
      • PMO acting in the role of ‘enforcer’ as opposed to a coaching, supportive assurance role
      • Main responsibility is just to create/update project reports

      The combination of some or all of these factors can lead to the PMO as either that of an irrelevant ‘toothless tiger’ or perceived as an overhead slowing down or encumbering project teams. Where either of these are the case the PMO is not set up for success and will often fail.

      In our experience, an effective PMO should be set up for success as an empowered and trusted function of the organisation that is there to support, mentor and provide a trusted centre of excellence for project teams. An effective PMO not only provides assurance for the project teams but ensures that they are provided with the right level of support to maximise their chance of success and provide trusted, appropriate transparent and accurate levels of project controls for the organisation.

      To find out more and to help ensure that your PMO is set up for success you can reach out to one of our experienced consultants on 1300 70 13 14.

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