When it comes to being successful in setting up a PMO, it may come as a surprise that the challenge is not gaining the support of senior management, the real challenge is gaining the support from your peers, projects and other departments.

When you think about this, it does make sense.  Usually the initial driver behind the set-up of a PMO is senior management.  They have a reason why they need the services of a PMO.  So, they are clear of the purpose and the desired outcomes.  Therefore, it is only logical that they are already supportive.

The real challenge is gaining the support of the projects and departments that the PMO will have oversight over.  Getting these stakeholders on-board can be difficult, especially if the PMO sponsor has not issued a formal communication.

Why peers and departments are resistant?

I have said this many times, in order to solve a problem, it is important to understand the drivers.

The project teams and departments that will need to follow the PMO process and provide progress updates will resist for a number of reasons including:

  • Too busy getting work completed
  • Established processes
  • Do not want to be monitored
  • View PMO’s as overhead
  • Competing agenda
  • Already have own PMO
  • Don’t want to be “told what to do”

At the most basic level, people run departments and projects.  Many like to control their own destiny.  Others simply do not want others to tell them how they should go about the execution of their change work, especially if the people in the PMO asking are the same level or lower in the organisation structure.

How to overcome the challenges

Invest in working relationship

Change is a people business!  Therefore, it is important that you invest in building productive working relationships.

It is very rare for the PMO to have line management of the project teams.  In fact many teams may be virtual i.e. drawn from different parts of the organisation with each resource having a hard line to their line manager (the one who has most control on career and renumeration) and a dotted line to the project manager.  This means that the PMO will have very little direct influence.

To achieve results, you will need to build the relationship, effectively win the trust and support.

This can be achieved through formal channels like regular meetings and clearly communicating objectives.  Then there are the important informal channels like dropping by the desk, informal chit chat and going for a coffee (or tea if you prefer).

Like in your personal life, you must invest in the business relationships – they do not just happen.  Plus, it does make work fun if you enjoy spending time with the people you work with.

Explain objectives

One of the common traits of the human race is that we all want to have meaning.  Therefore, you have a better chance of gaining the support you need when you explain what you are trying / need to achieve and why.  People may not always agree but at least they will understand the reasons.

This actually can help as you may be provided with ideas that will help achieve the required outcomes.


Closely linked to explaining objectives.  Make sure that you are communicating objectives and what is required on a continual basis.  You do not want to be the person who only sends a communication when you need something.

Use the communication to celebrate success.  If someone in a project team or department has a major achievement or made a significant contribution, celebrate this in the communication.  This will not only act as encouragement, it helps in building the working relationship with the person / area recognised.

Do not reinvent the wheel

Many project teams will have their own way of completing project activities i.e. reporting.  Do not go in an impose your own approach.  Take time to understand what is being used by the teams and look to adopt tools and processes that work.

Again, this will help with building the relationship.  It also demonstrates pragmatism and can save the organisation time and money.

There may be instances where you need to implement a common methodology.  In this case look to how you can help the teams transition i.e. by transferring existing information to the new format for the project teams.


It is helpful to get senior management to communicate the formation and remit of the PMO.  This will help add some credibility to what you are doing and provide a level of authority.

To encourage the communication, you may want to create a draft communication that can be reviewed by senior management.  There is more chance they will issue if you have done the “heavy lifting” of creating the mail.

Important: just because the email has been issued does not mean that you will automatically have authority.  This you must gain by building relationships and demonstrating you can do a good job.

Build trust

Finally, you need to ensure that the project teams and departments know that they can trust you.  Specifically, that you will not publish any updates that have not been reviewed or agreed with them.

If you are looking for a rapid way to fail (plus make your working environment tougher), publish a report that you have created highlighting concerns about the projects that has not been agreed with the project team.  You will have the wrath of the project manager plus they will not share any information going forward.


Gaining support and buy-in from peers is difficult.  Laying a strong foundation built on working relationship and trust will go a long way to securing the “buy-in” for your PMO from the different project teams and departments.

PMO Buy-In Presentation