Project Management

The PMO of the Future Doesn't Exist

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

There are a couple of ways to take the title of this article. The first possible interpretation is that we have yet to see how the structure of future PMOs will evolve. The second is that PMOs won’t exist. I’m going with the second premise.

To some, that may seem threatening, misguided or even downright preposterous. This will be particularly true for those who currently find themselves working in—or leading—project management offices. Threats to job security notwithstanding, that is the way I think things are going to play out. And I would argue that signs already exist that the seeds of this future are already being planted.

The first reality that we have to contend with is that project management offices have a largely abysmal record. Numerous research projects over an extended period agree that the average life expectancy of a PMO is two years. That’s an incredibly short time for an organizational intervention of this scope and magnitude to last. While there are PMOs that last longer, there are many more that don’t even make it that long.

A fundamental reality that drives this is that PMOs are often established in crisis. They are a panic response to failed or failing initiatives, or the fear that a coming strategic initiative will fail if it gets managed the same way as everything else in the organization. When the crisis fades …

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