Why is this happening? My assumptions are lack of support and/or interest from above. Lack of funding. Lack of real PM need. I personally believe the others but would have a real hard time convincing myself of that last one
Executive management support. I’ve seen project management offices startup, fail, startup again and fail again. And the underlying problem in more than one organization was the lack of executive management support. Projects are everywhere. The CEO comes up with them. Outside clients come to us with a need for projects. Internal business units need apps developed, websites designed, etc. Projects are everywhere in the typical organization. When you have executives who don’t support the project management office, where do their projects go? Not through the PMO director or standard process to the PM infrastructure that is setup in the company. No, they go to some pet project leader and special team to execute. Eventually the PMO becomes 2nd rate or obsolete in some of those organizations. At best they become a unit competing with other units for the good project resources. That can’t happen. Senior management must buy-in to the PMO concept or scrap it.
Hiring of good, experienced project managers. The PMO must focus on hiring good, experienced project managers. Too many times they phone it in and ask HR to find some PMs with 3-5 years experience and PMP certification. That’s the lazy route and there is no way that organization will find long-term success. Find experienced PMs with good successes and a few failures under their belt and the rest will take care of itself.
A PMO director who directs PMs and doesn’t manage projects. There may be lots who feel differently about this than I do, but I feel strongly that a PMO director should only direct and a project manager should manage projects. I’ve seen too many PMOs led by directors who were also leading projects. Every single one I witnessed that in has failed. I realize that smaller organizations may not be able to financial support a full-fledged PMO that has a dedicated director. That’s understandable and their model will likely need to be different. But when possible, the director needs to be a dedicated leader of the PMO who:
- Guides the career development of the PMs
- Hires good, experienced PMs for the PMO
- Knocks down roadblocks on projects for the PMs
- Gets involved in specific projects when issues arise
- Acts as a liaison to senior management (really, a buffer but liaison sounds more positive)
Templates and processes in place. A productive PMO should – must? – have proven, reusable tried and true templates and processes in place to help PMs realize repeatable success from project to project. This common thread allows them to share knowledge and experiences and benefit from each other as they work collectively to even improve those templates and processes as the PMO matures.
You can hire the best PMs, plan your project management office for months, hire a great PMO leader and still have it fail. But if you have executive backing – which also means good funding, experienced project managers, a dedicated PMO director and not a PM leading the PMO, and processes in place to help the PMO get off on the right foot, then success for the PMO is much more likely. And, as it should follow, success for those project managers and projects will be much more likely as well.
Thoughts? Readers…what are your experiences with good PMO structures and failed PMOs? Please share your thoughts on this list and what is missing from it.