Categories: Agile, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Communication, Complexity, Leadership, PMI Pulse of the Profession, Portfolio Management
By Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP
Seven in 10 organizations have a PMO, according to PMI’s 2016 Pulse of the Profession. That’s roughly the same as what other PMI surveys have shown in recent years. Why has the prevalence of PMOs plateaued? It could be that many people still perceive PMOs as providing low value but high administrative costs while doing little to improve project delivery.
Worse, the general state of project management isn’t improving in spite of this increase in PMOs. Organizations waste US$122 million for every US$1 billion invested in projects, according to the 2016 Pulse report. That’s a 12 percent increase over the previous year.
Why the disparity between project success rates and the prevalence of PMOs? There’s a gap between the vision and reality of PMOs. Here are four reasons why people may hate PMOs—and what PMO leaders can do about it.
1. Redundancy Over Efficiency
I’ve worked in multiple Fortune 100 organizations where there were not just one, but multiple PMOs, that a critical portfolio may have to report into.
There may be functional PMOs (i.e. IT PMOs and/or business division PMOs), capital-planning PMOs, product PMOs, or enterprise PMOs, just to name a few. These multiple layers can cost the portfolio manager tremendous time and energy in trying to manage multiple PMO demands and requests.
There is value in centralizing and standardizing portfolio information and providing visibility to executives to enable decision-making. However, the next time we just start up a new PMO or implement portfolio management processes, we should ask ourselves if there are existing areas that already provide the same type of oversight and control.
2. Bureaucracy Over Execution
In many organizations, it takes a village just to get a new program or project approved. The focus is on the administrative side of things—filling out the right forms and attending the right meetings—and rarely on improving project delivery or execution. If a PMO’s primary focus is on gathering status reports for a dashboard, it loses touch with day-to-day execution.
There is a lot of complexity in organizations that portfolio managers must navigate, and the key is not to add more.
Ask yourself: Is your PMO’s focus on adherence to process and methodology, gates and deliverables? Are you generating voluminous portfolio data without succinct actionable plans that will increase project success?
3. Templates Over Talent
PMOs often focus on generating templates rather than having trained and skilled project managers that can assist in all aspects of delivery, especially enabling organizational change management. Portfolio management processes need to be sustainable and repeatable, demonstrate measurable impact and contribute to project success.
Too often, PMOs focus on the templates to try to enforce the process instead of having the right talent in place to help programs and projects be successful.
4. Tactics Over Strategy
For some organizations, there’s not as much value in tracking schedule and budget adherence as there is in developing the next innovation that will greatly advance strategy.
By definition, strategy changes in response to environment conditions, competitors, or the need to innovate. Is there agility (speed and flexibility) in your PMO processes that allow you to react rapidly? How can you inspire innovation in your portfolio rather than stifle it? Is your PMO positioned to identify the next innovation, and rapidly move it forward? Why not?
Why do people that you have worked with dislike PMOs? How can they be improved? Please share your thoughts below!