Just like every person, every organisation has its good days and its bad days; and the Project Management Office (PMO) is not immune to this. I’ve seen it firsthand and I have been a part of it. Without continuously questioning everything we are doing (purpose, value, meeting stakeholder needs, etc.), we are choosing to continue blindly.

Even after reaching out to my network and asking what they felt the most frustrating things about the PMO were, I was unsurprised with their answers. Many of the issues brought to my attention are discussed in our global white paper and again by networks of individuals who know what a “good PMO” entails.

So… putting aside my own bias, today I am sharing the 8 most frustrating things about the PMO that were brought to my attention by others.

1. Not being able to adapt over time (and not maturing)

A common complaint made by teams outside of the PMO is that they are not adapting with the organisation, and more frustratingly not maturing as time goes on. We know evolution is necessary to remain competitive. It is evident in Project Management and done in various manners. There are several causes for why PMOs lack in adaptability and evolution and some of the strategies in this article help to address this. More commonly we find PMOs aren’t aware of their maturity when compared to other departments. New issues are identified as other departments mature and PMOs are focusing too hard on working around these. In many of our engagements with clients we find great value in measuring current maturity. That is, how aware, established and understood core functions are by comparison to industry standard. There are various tools on the market that help achieve this. We like to reference Axelos P3M3® model, a model that helps to measure maturity based on 5 levels of maturity. Sadly, many PMOs don’t take the time to self-assess. Instead focusing on Project/Delivery maturity. PMOs; take the time to assess your own department. Where are you now, where you should be and how you can get there.

2. Not enabling flexibility and common sense in delivery approach

Most PMOs will run their department or team using a Project Management methodology. Why? Because there aren’t many methods out there for PMOs, and many PMOs aren’t experienced enough or interested in creating their own, or maybe they don’t have the authority to do so as we know PMO’s lack authority. To combat this, you may be required to adapt to existing methods but be sure to use your own judgement to model one that works for your own PMO. Do not blindly follow a methodology regardless of whether it is deemed ‘fit for purpose’; take the time to consider other factors that will affect your specific application. Culture, industry, size of team, authority, etc. are all considerations.

3. Only provides templates; not value to achieve the best outcomes

Pushing out templates as a means of reactively responding to the requests from Project teams, is not solving the underlying root cause of the problems. It is without understanding the ‘why’ behind the request that PMOs will tend to fall over, and therefore imperative to understand the root cause of a problem and how ‘templates’ fit in with the bigger picture. Ask yourself, are you yet again working around the problem or providing a longer-term solution?

4. Paperwork

Refer to the point above. No, seriously, paperwork is not always a PMO decision. Often requests for reporting comes from other departments. That is, the likes of Finance, Human Resources, Internal Auditors or, of course, Executives. The reason they request so much ‘paper’ may be because they lack confidence that teams are delivering well or feel the need to be in complete control. Reporting adds layers and layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and can restrict effective delivery. This is usually because reporting cycles are often long and become outdated when the report reaches its destination. A simple solution is to conduct a review of all reports. How many do your teams produce? How much of that information is duplicated and how can it be streamlined?

5. Ignoring Change Management

I believe one of the most under-utilised skillsets in PMO is change management. For many PMOs this is a skill they attempt to learn as they go. For others, it’s not a conscious thought. Lack of change management means forgetting to use this important capability when rolling out new initiatives. Sometimes PMOs will take it for granted; because they believe that dealing with Project Managers will make change easy. The typical result: PMO will often roll out multiple changes lumped together with no thought as to how they will be understood and adopted. Try creating micro projects, with smaller cluster of activities delivered as change over a longer period.

6. Getting stakeholders on board

Most, if not all the comments I received were from frustrated stakeholders who worked with PMOs but were not in the PMO themselves. They feel as though they aren’t engaged in the right way to effectively support them through the change. They are not asked; they are told. PMOs will often favour executive demands over pragmatic process. Sometimes it’s important and relevant to raise the stakeholder’s feedback and use this as a source of guidance when planning out your function and process.

7. Never understanding the reason behind PMO requests

How many times do you find you are hassled by PMOs for information with no context for the why or the how? Requesting things for the sake of requesting things and providing no guidance as to how or where it will be used, or not even sharing the outputs can lead to pushback on future requests. As said at the very beginning of the article. Everyone should question the value of everything, and you should therefore attempt to provide context and clarity for WHY you are requesting information. Be sure to include the outputs with the stakeholders. Provide a central location to re-use content in future.

8. Not having access to tools

This one is common but is also often because most PMOs have no budget (or, rather, no say over any budget). It is often their costs are lumped with delivery. Any hope of introducing new tools will come from IT or from an Enterprise PMO. Though that does not mean there are not tools already available to PMOs, which they could be using. Leveraging tools such as SharePoint, Excel, etc. are powerful enough to develop internal solutions. Online training, if available, will help you to get the most out of these tools.

Now what….

It is clear – there are a LOT of moving parts to the PMO that people consider frustrating and we have done our best to identify the common reasons why this may be the case. It ultimately comes down to this – if you want to stop frustrating your stakeholders, you need to act. Use any time you have available to re-energise and re-invigorate your PMO. Do so in a controlled manner; introducing change progressively s that your stakeholders and teams have an opportunity to adapt. The last thing you want it change fatigue, and rest assured your stakeholders will be thankful for it.

If you want to learn more about our proven PMO Assessment or our unique AMO Method that helps to identify change needed and provides you with a path to implement the change, get in touch HERE.