Trust, Credibility and Relationships: The Secret Sauce for the Successful PMO: Why IT Projects Fail and Some Things to Think About


by Ahmad Iqbal, President

BPM Advisors, LLC 

California, USA

All too often, organizations find themselves implementing multiple initiatives, often with conflicting priorities and resource limitations. Many projects end up becoming victims of politics, interdepartmental turf wars, budgetary miscalculations, and other impediments. Larger organizations often establish a Project Management Office, or PMO, to provide governance, artifacts, best practices, and methodologies. In reality, however, a significantly high percentage of PMOs, especially in IT organizations, either fold or fail to live up to their expectations within the first year of existence.

It has been said in the past that building a successful PMO is analogous to a construction project with many structural components. Unfortunately, what is often overlooked is the secret sauce that makes the structural components stick together.

Of course the approach to building a PMO can vary based on the nature and culture of the organization. What works for the Marine Corps may not work as well at the Peace Corps. Despite being “Corps” these two organizations have very different cultures.

A lot of PMOs are too consumed with the formalities and subsequent compliance with the project framework, methodology and other project-related artifacts. While compliance is one of the essential functions of PMOs, too much focus on enforcement will turn them into dreaded ‘Project Police’ especially due to the narrow focus and almost cult-like devotion to methodology frameworks. Some project leaders are so caught up debating the superiority of waterfall vs. agile that they miss the larger picture of why their projects are undertaken in the first place.

The rigidity of a formal approach typically links project success to the triple constraints of time, budget and specifications of deliverables; success of PMOs, similarly, is measured by the establishment of governance, framework and methodologies, etc.

However, such orthodox adherence to formal methodologies allows project professionals, both at the micro (project) and the macro (PMO) levels to miss the forest for the trees due to the narrow interpretation of artifacts. At the micro level, success and failure are typically assessed against meeting schedules, budgets, and specifications, not against achieving full customer satisfaction. Similarly, PMOs, too, are busy with enforcement instead of building relationships.

In reality, the success of a PMO, especially a nascent one, relies not on better adherence to frameworks and methodologies, but the ability to establish trust and build relationships with their internal clients. These organic factors, such as Credibility, Trust and Relationships and the ability to Manage Change, are the desperately missing secret sauces of PMO success.


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About the Author

pmwj16-nov2013-iqbal-IMAGEflag-usaAhmad Iqbal

California, USA

Ahmad Iqbal is the President of a Los Angeles based boutique management consulting firm called BPM Advisors, LLC. In the past, he ran many large-scale projects locally and internationally in the telecom, aerospace and financial services industries. As someone who started multiple successful PMOs from ground up, he helps clients who either seek to establish successful PMOs in-house or need to re-calibrate existing ones. In his current practice, he pioneered a PMO-as-a-Service model to help organizations execute projects efficiently without having to incur overhead of having project teams in-house. In addition to his organic approach to project management, Ahmad’s expertise includes Strategy and Policy Development and Implementation, Change Management, Organizational and Operational Assessment, Business Process Re-engineering, Enterprise Architecture and Design for IT organizations, Best Practices Processes and Procedures etc.

Ahmad is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Business (Graduate Division) of the University of Redlands (www.redlands.edu) where he teaches project management and other graduate level technology and business classes for their MBA and MSIT programs.  Ahmad has been a speaker in various Leadership training seminars and workshops discussing his experience in Change Management and Organizational Transformation. He authored various internal policy papers, and whitepapers based on his research and experience for the organizations he served.

He is an elected member of the Board of Directors at International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (www.ivcla.org). In the past, he served as a fellow with Southern California Leadership Network (SCLN). He can be reached at: aiqbal [at]bpmadvisors.com