Common Barriers for PMO's

There are many different barriers that PMO’s  must overcome in both an initial justification to implement and ongoing operational management, especially in a global economic downturn. These Barriers include:


Solution / Action

Start Up Funding The one basic but crucial thing you should do here to ensure you secure the required funds is build a water tight business case with your PMO Sponsor, who is responsible for securing funding, ensuring that you have engaged all of the stakeholders to gain input and buy-in before it is submitted.
The PMO is a Perceived Overhead with their processes, standards and running costs. The key to avoiding this pit-fall is to make sure you are adding value. Keeping processes simple and aligning them with other processes that are currently seen as adding value might help in getting people sign up to the new ones you are implementing.
Who does the PMO Report to? You MUST make sure that the PMO reports as high as possible within reason. There is no point having a Regional Portfolio Office reporting to the global CEO, the Enterprise PMO would report to the Global CEO, the Regional Office would be best placed to report into the Regional Director, thus ensuring you are getting the required Leadership and Governance.
Resource Management – Internal to the PMO – Getting the right resources to do the job, not just people on the bench. You must get this right as it affects not only the outcome of your actions, tasks and processes but also your credibility! You need to ensure you employ people with the right skills and experience for the role they will be performing. I would not expect to see governance roles filled by a Junior such as a PMO Analyst or Project Coordinator or even worse someone with no experience, eeek!
Resource Management (recruiting, assigning and embedding resources) This is all about adding value but will greatly depend on what you are doing within your organization. This might be managed by HR, if so link in with them to ensure there are no overlaps or gaps and corporate recruitment processes are followed.
Lack of Authority (PMO: “Ensure this is done please!” PM: “Yeah or what?”) This comes back down to who the PMO Sponsor is and your mandate. Remember you need a Senior Sponsor to be taken seriously and to reenforce your authority of required.
Lacks of focus on the whole PMO Model – if you only implement a partial PMO, then you are restricting the value you can add to the business. If you only implement part of a PMO model or only address a selection of the required services you will not deliver the required benefits and will, in the end be your own undoing. You need to at least have a full plan of how and when you will roll out all of the PMO and its services through tranches of work and what benefits each piece will deliver. Remember quick wins first then the medium and long-term objectives… This will help you gain support as you progress.
Being stuck in the “admin box” Being an admin office is not where you want to aim and if you end up here it can be very difficult to get out.To avoid getting in the Head of PMO must maintain the Vision, Blueprints and Plans ensuring that you communicate with all your stakeholders on a regular basis on progress of plans and make sure you share all the successes you have.
Disparate – not joined up and no cohesion This will not help you succeed; you need to have strong communication and reporting lines with the right level of Governance combined with senior management support to ensure that the whole organization works together in a uniform manner. Rogue offices can undo many of the benefits you are trying to deliver.
Challenging current culture or approaches – The PMO you are implementing may challenge the current culture towards projects or PMO in your organisation, the old “That is not how we do things around here!” Effective Organisation Change Management is the key to this barrier. If you are trying to change an embedded culture you need to plan the organizational change and its communications wisely. You will need the support from the Senior Executives in this area or you will struggle. You need to be honest about the changes, but focus on the benefits of your new approach and get the ring leaders on bard early, maybe get people input in planning and requirements workshops, so they feel more involved rather than having the change done to them.
Lack of clarity on the roles and responsibilities within the PMO and its stakeholders (I.e. the PMO Sponsor) Clarity is required on roles and responsibilities as you cannot hold people to account with well documented role descriptions. This also helps with workload balancing and also in appointing the right staff; to sure you have the right skills and experience to give your PMO every chance to succeed.
Lack of Senior Management Support and Commitment If you do not have a PMO Sponsor that is high enough up the business then you will struggle to gain funding and govern effectively. 2 fundamental things that are required for you to succeed.You need C-Level Executive support!
An environment that is suffering from Change Fatigue. If the organization has been going through long or a large amount of change, you may find that the recipients suffer from Change Fatigue. This is where they are unable or unwilling to take part in any further changes to their work life, remember some people like change; others will run from it if they can.If your organization is suffering from change fatigue this is a very difficult one to tackle, you need to give them space and allow them to settle if you can, if not I suggest that you try to piggy back on existing changes or adopt existing processes to limit change, but make sure you have plans to improve in the future when things start to settle down or you may run in the same “ruts” as before.

Many of these barriers are negated by setting up a strong PMO  that directly addresses the business needs and adds value through the delivery of specified benefits, following the Nemawashi Process will help steer you in the right direction and also gain support in the process.

1 thought on “Common Barriers for PMO's”

  1. Nice post and very informative. On the PMO reporting as high as possible in the organization, there might be another way to look at it since some PMO’s are created within departments and can exist anywhere vertically in the oorganization depending onthe entity they are serving. Probably when you said as high up as possible in the organization, you meant the organization they serve. On the clarity of roles point I could not agree with you more. PMO Governance can also help in this area.
    Again, nice work and thank you for posting.

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