There are a number of reasons why PMOs (Project Management Offices) succeed or fail, but the most common reasons why they collapse might just surprise you.  According to a recent CHAOS report, a mere 39% of projects succeed by being delivered on time, on budget and with the required features and functions.  Consequently, that means that an astounding 61% of projects are doomed for failure.  

With such high failure rates, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the problem is mostly attributable to process or technology issues; however, people issues are the true, primary culprits. At the end the day, the success of a project rests in the hands of the entire organizational team, and issues amongst personnel can easily arise, having devastating consequences if action is not taken.  Most people have heard someone say that we should learn from the mistakes of others. In the case of PMOs, there isn’t more sound advice. Here are a few of the most common reasons that PMOs fail to help you identify and ward off potential pitfalls. 


A recent survey by Pulse of the Profession found that the following were the most common causes of project failure:

  • Changing priorities within organization – 40%
  • Inaccurate requirements – 38%
  • Change in project objectives35%
  • Undefined risks/opportunities – 30%
  • Poor communication – 30%
  • Undefined project goals – 30%
  • Inadequate sponsor support – 29%
  • Inadequate cost estimates – 29%
  • Inaccurate task time estimate – 27%
  • Resource dependency – 25%
  • Poor change management25%
  • Inadequate resource forecasting – 23%
  • Inexperienced project manager – 20%
  • Limited resources – 20%
  • Procrastination within team – 13%
  • Task dependency – 11%
  • Other – 9%


While failure can occur under a seemingly limitless number of circumstances, there are some reasons for failure that happen more frequently.  Here is a look at some of the most prevalent causes of PMO issues.

Executives are Not Fully Committed to the PMO 

When issues with projects arise, executives are quick to authorize a PMO to help work out the kinks.  But when it’s time to participate in steering committee meetings or help with decision making, the execs are MIA or send lower-level delegates lacking decision-making authority.  As a consequence, projects continue to perform poorly; however, instead of recognizing their own culpability in the matter, executives often push blame solely on the PMO and dissolve it.


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to project management.  What worked at one organization most likely will not work at another.  If a project manager or project leader can’t remain flexible and adapt to the individual needs of a new company, then failure is imminent.  It is better to identify organizational strengths, weaknesses of personnel, needs of stakeholders, unique drivers, and pain points and develop a customized methodology that will lead to an efficient and favorable outcome. 

The PMO Becomes the Problem 

A PMO director is tasked with the unique responsibility of selling project management methodology to stakeholders and making sure that they buy into it.   However, all too often, the PMO may become inflexibly committed to ensuring that every I is dotted and every t is crossed, turning into the PMO police.  Unfortunately, this approach forces the adoption of flawed, ill-fitting methodologies that become a hindrance to the project and the bane of a project manager’s existence.

Lack of Vision 

Ideas often start at the executive level and trickle down the organizational structure.  Day-to-day execution of operational tasks is important, but if PMOs don’t have a clear picture of the overall goal or idea, they won’t be able to adequately strategize or articulate how and where the project is headed.  

Metrics are Key

Without a strong, analytically minded PMO leader, a PMO won’t succeed.  Metrics are key to accurately forecasting key elements of projects such as resource capacity, budgets, and the number of projects that can successfully be undertaken.  Unfortunately, much of the project management planning is pieced together with guesswork rather than facts, causing variability and inaccuracies. By utilizing data and regular reporting, a PMO leader can successfully ensure that available resources can meet projected demands.