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Top Reasons for the Failure of a PMO

Because there are so many theories floating around as to why PMO’s fail, it is sometimes hard to know where to start! I have found a good place to begin is often with people’s experiences and observations. Here are some reasons for PMO failure that I have put together based on conversations with other project managers and my own observations.


• It should come as no surprise that if there is no support from upper management, the success of a PMO seems at the very least doubtful. Many of the people I have spoken to feel that this is one of the top reasons that causes a PMO to fail. To quote one of the responses I got from the question, what are the top reasons: A strong support and an executive order to follow PMO guidelines from senior management would definitively result in the rest of the teams ‘striving’ to understand and follow the direction of the PMO – this in turn makes PMO’s more productive and useful in the long run. Without senior management’s support, other teams would offer lip service to the PMO but no action, thus rendering it ineffective. (Rama Kizhakkencherry).

• A PMO’s future looks uncertain if there is no clear mission statement and no communication of this statement to the organisation. As Jim Wilson told me: What is the true purpose in mind? Is it a clearing house and resource assignment vehicle for all incoming project requests? Is it a project, programme, portfolio financial reporting organisation? Is it a development institution for new and seasoned PMs? What authority and responsibility does it hold? Without having a fully understood, agreed to and documented mission, the PMO is doomed.
Perhaps an even better way of explaining this failure is down to the fact that there is no charter for the PMO.  As with a normal project, when there is no charter statement or it hasn’t been signed by upper management (see the point on executive membership above), introducing a PMO is not going to be successful.

• Cindy Margules, who presented on this topic during the PMI Global Congress in October, added further to the two points mentioned above.  She felt that if the PMO director is not commercially, strategically or tactically oriented, that this could become a reason for failure. I would add to this that the PMO director also has to be a good “salesman” of Project Management principles. He/she does not necessarily need to understand all the details of it, but that he/she should be able to translate these principles into a language that can be understood by the CEO of the organisation.

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About Kees Vonk

Kees Vonk
Mr. Cornelis Vonk, an instructor with ESI International, has more than 20 years of experience in project management in the field of information technology (IT).
Since 1998, Mr. Vonk has taught project management and has assisted more than 300 candidates in their preparation for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam. In 2002, he was the project manager of the 5th European Project Management Conference held in Cannes. He is certified as a PMP® by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) and is a founding member of the France-Sud chapter. He received the PMI® 2002 Distinguished Contribution Award.“

5 comments

  1. Avatar

    i would add, jumping into bandwagon as they say without selecting the proper PMO type the result would certainly a big fail.

    • Avatar
      Cornelis (Kees) Vonk

      That is certainly another reasons for a failure of a PMO. Given your comment, have you any experience to share in this area. In other words, do you have a story that the right or wrong type of PMO was selected and what the results were?

  2. Avatar

    The PMO manager needs to regularly provide clear project status updates to upper management. Each project status should show minimal information with red/ yellow/ green status. The PMO must take credit for all project successes and show the value of the PMO. If you don’t report it, it never happened.

  3. Avatar
    Cornelis (Kees) Vonk

    Thank you Sonny for your reaction. Absolutely, if you do not make yourself (PMO) visible, nobody will realize what you are doing. It depends on how your PMO is set-up if you can take credit for all project successes; and btw should you also take blame for any mishaps?

  4. Avatar
    shailesh ardhapurkar

    While the Sr. Management´s support is very critical, experienced project managers in the PMO will bring more credibility to the PMO activities than merely implementing processes and suggesting everyone follow basic templates.
    Also the regular weekly updates to entire organization on PMO updates or activities helps create buzz and curiousity about the initiative.

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