Posted by: ThePMOView | September 12, 2012

Why do people hate PMOs?

We have discussed learning and how that applies to Project Managers in the last few posts. But this post is going to start looking at projects and PMOs influence on them. I have had the fortune (or misfortune, lol) to work with many different PMOs across a variety of industries. While this may not make me an expert (although I think it does), it does give me a viewpoint that many people in my field do not have.

Of course the message that a PMO is supposed to bring is to improve a company’s responsiveness by streamlining process and to be able to provide clarity on which projects are the most important for the strategic vision of the business. A well run and managed PMO can do this plus a lot more. Unfortunately, the majority of the PMOs I have dealt with are not well run and/or managed.

But you do not have to believe me. A well-documented study in December of 2007 highlights the issue using IT projects (http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/news/2007/ict-contract-chaos/105-ict-contracts.pdf). While the report does not specify which companies had PMOs, it should be safe to assume a lot of them did given their size. This report does not showcase IT projects, much less, PMOs, in a very good light. So why is this?

Many companies think that a PMO is nothing more than a organization holder for PMs. So if a department in a business needs a PM, they request one from the PMO. Furthermore, the PM career path usually goes PM to Program Manager to PMO Manager. A good PM does not necessarily make a good Program Manager nor does a good Program Manager made a good PMO manager.

Just like many other specialized fields in the corporate world, the subtle differences that make someone good at each of these levels are not obvious. To further make it difficult to decide who would be good candidates for these roles, companies tend to use how successful the PM is in completing projects as that is pretty easy to determine. Complete a lot of projects successfully and, voila, you are now a PMO Manager.

This is not to say all PMs are bad regardless of level, it is just that promoting the wrong people because they were successful at one level does not automatically going to make them successful at the next one. This happens in all fields so I am not just picking on PM’s here.

I actually worked in one PMO where the PMO’s performance was so bad; the company actually shut it down. They went back to each PM working in different areas of the company. Needless to say this was an extreme example, but it does highlight that just putting together a bunch of PMs and calling it a PMO does not give much (if any) chance of success.


Responses

  1. You will not hire a tech lead to constantly monitor, preach and micromanage another tech lead. You won’t do that to a BA or anybody between them and the CEO. Then why do it to PMs? PMOs are nothing but people hired to do nothing more micromanage the PMs

    • Thank you for the comment.

      Actually that is not quite true that PMO’s are to micromanage PMs. Although many PMOs actually do that. The real purpose of a well designed AND operated PMO is to provide a strategic view to the company’s leadership about ALL the projects/programs that the business is involved in. It is not supposed to worry about if a PM is attending meetings, following up, etc.

      A PMO should make sure all PMs are following approved business practices, correct templates, risk/issue reporting, etc. But once there are communicated to the PMs, it is not something that needs to be talked about repeatedly. Unless of course no one is following the standards. But then you have other issues if that is the case 🙂

      Unfortunately, many PMOs are not designed as a strategic arm to the compamy and are looked to as just an admin center for managing PMs. And a ‘one stop shop’ for different BUs needing a PM for their projects.

      A well run PMO is truly amazing thing to behold. It is too bad so many are not.


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