Unfortunately, typically more than half of all PMOs fail within the first year of their implementation. And although there are several reasons why this occurs, one of the most common ones is stakeholder expectations not being met and understood. For many people, such as team members, for example, PMOs are often seen as an added level of bureaucracy and more red tape. For upper-level managers, the PMOs are often viewed as a “savior” department, which will solve project deadline delays, cost overruns, client dissatisfaction, and even higher levels of staff turnover. And although PMOs can potentially positively impact these issues, the PMO in and of itself is not a silver bullet for all project and operational ills, big and small.
Before even thinking of developing a PMO, one of the first tasks is to understand all stakeholders’ expectations and doubts. For example, the CEO might want the PMO to solve the issue of high staff turnover primarily. On the other hand, the CFO might be more concerned with staying within budget, resulting in higher profitability. At the same time, a staff person might be more interested in seeing how the PMO can help them acquire the professional training they need. Additionally, stakeholder concerns also need to be addressed. For example, the same CEO might be concerned about losing more people if they feel that the PMO will add more work to their already busy schedule. And the staff person might be concerned that the PMO will trigger an added level of supervision and scrutiny, which they do not welcome. Therefore, all these concerns and expectations need to be identified, analyzed, and processed to create the appropriate response and plan.
The best approach to capture stakeholders’ concerns and expectations regarding the development of a PMO is through surveys, individual interviews, or other techniques, which allow people to express their concerns freely. Otherwise, you risk missing important feedback because people are often apprehensive about seeming negative, uncooperative, or difficult. And frequently, if people do not clearly and openly express their honest views regarding PMOs, important input will be scarce, and these staff members may not be able to get on board with this idea when the PMO is implemented.
Once you understand what your stakeholders want to achieve with the PMO and what they believe might be hindrances, you need to address them as best as possible from the start and provide examples of successful PMOs to provide a tangible outcome for their PMO. Because often, we, as project management consultants, will tout the benefits of a PMO, which are many and realistic, but we do not have clear examples of what one might look like. And suppose there are concerns regarding client confidentiality. In that case, you can still provide information regarding the benefits and achievements in an anonymous format as long as the data is precise and honest.