Moving your project management office (PMO) from the start-up phase to a mature, business as usual model, is a big step. It’s a sign of enormous progress, but you still need to keep an eye on preventing failure when sustaining your PMO.

After identifying that your PMO has reached maturity, you’ll develop a plan to keep your PMO functioning and adding value to the business. This is vital in helping prevent your office from failing.

Failure is a constant concern for a PMO, and it can happen at any point of its lifecycle. To help you deal with the potential for failure, we’re going to look at:

  • Why you need to care about PMO failure
  • The main causes of PMO failure
  • The signs that identify potential office failure
  • How to prevent failure in your PMO

So you can protect your progress whilst making new gains for your PMO.

Why is PMO failure important?

Data from 2010 suggested that most PMOs didn’t last more than two years. Offices tend to be set up to improve failing project performance or to manage a specific set of change-related projects, meaning longevity isn’t guaranteed.

Whatever the reason for your PMO being created, of course, you want to see it remain useful and justified in the business for the long-term. You may feel like once your office has reached maturity, that it is in some way protected within the business.

However, the status of your office can be reassessed at any point and are traditionally vulnerable, so while you work to make gains and add value to the business, you also need to protect your PMO from failure.

Why do PMOs fail?

Understanding the main reasons PMOs fail is the first step to helping prevent it from happening as you move to sustain your office long-term.

According to PMI, failing PMOs only manage to deliver 36% of projects successfully, as compared to 90% project completion for successful ones. Since on-budget and on-time delivery tend to be key PMO metrics, it’s easy to see why this is a cause of failure.

A PMO will also start to fail when there is a gap between what a PMO is doing and what the business thinks it should be doing. While you may be working exactly as planned, be it due to poor communication or lack of understanding, if the C-suite doesn’t get what you do, your office may be up for the chop.

Many PMOs focus on reporting and administrative tasks – these are the bread and butter of the work, especially when starting up. When a PMO can’t work strategically, it’s tough to prove measurable value against business goals.

What are the signs of PMO failure?

It’s important to know the warning signs of PMO failure so you can have a constant eye on them. We’ve covered these in more detail in a previous post, but here is a breakdown of what you should be looking for:

  • Stakeholders missing meetings
  • Reporting data not being delivered
  • Data not being used by management
  • Stakeholders missing review sessions
  • PMO team being excluded from meetings
  • Office size and budget being regularly challenged

How can I prevent PMO failure?

Looking at the reasons PMOs fail, there are some key takeaways to prevent your office befalling this fate.

First and of course, you need to ensure that your PMO helps projects deliver within time and budget constraints. Having clear success metrics will always be valuable.

Next, you need to ensure you’re educating the business about your PMO and what it does. Making sure the C-suite and other business areas know what you offer will ensure there is no confusion over the PMO function.

Finally, working to add strategic thinking as your PMO matures and moves towards a business-focussed model will help your office add clear value.

Preventing PMO failure

Spending time contemplating your PMO’s failure is important if you want to avoid it and allow your office to become sustainable in the long term. Preventing failure and sustaining your PMO is a challenge that needs to be built into your future plans.