Case Study | A failed PMO implementation

The PMO Focus Series

In the last few posts we have focused on project / program management office.

Here is what we published so far:

In today’s article we share a case study of a failed PMO project. In the next article we will share with you a maturity model that we use to help minimize the risk of PMO and PM System implementation failure.

The Failed PMO Project Case Study

The Background

A few years ago, a prospective client called us. His message, we rephrase below.

“Mounir, we are relatively a new organization and want to implement a PMO … in order to establish the project management system for managing our projects. We also wanted our PMO to align to PMI. We had hired an international consultant to do this and the consultant has been working for a few months. Although we are new to project management, we are not comfortable with the work and what the consultant is giving us. We would like you to come and do a review of the situation and tell us whether this consultant is doing the right thing or not and how we can move ahead.”

We accepted the assignment and visited the client to perform the work.

The Situation

Here are the things we found; from the first day of the client visit.

  1. The consultant had told them he is a PMP, he was not … to immediately we notice there is an ethics violation.
  2. The consultant was not familiar with the PMI Framework. This was a requirement since the PMO has to align to PMI. Another ethical violation in addition to competence; or should we say incompetence.
  3.  It turned out that the consultant was only familiar with PRINCE2, which is fine but not relevant to the scope of the project.

As we said, almost immediately we identified the above situations. The client suspected issues but could not determine what they could be since clients personnel were new to project management and they felt “who are we to challenge a well-known international consultant firm.”

Some might ask, well we realize that the consultant was not a PMP and not familiar with PMI Framework but they could still be qualified enough to build a PMO.

Let us emphasize a few points (from our prior article here).

  • The client expectation is to build a project management system and a project management office to ensure effective projects delivery.
  • The client requirements actually matched the expectations; the client did a good job in defining what they need.
  • The only shortcoming from the client side is that they did not have enough expertise in properly qualifying and selecting their consultant.

The Consultant Failure

Since the consultant was not a Project Management Professional (PMP) and not even familiar with the PMI Framework, the consultant was not competent to implement a PMO.

What did the consultant deliver?

Instead of delivering a PMO (the office and the methodology/system), the consultant gave the client a book, a “manual” that was about 450 pages. In other words, the only thing we could review was a big book – nothing else. Although the consultant called it a manual, it was not.

“The Book”

OK – maybe the manual was good. Here is another sad story. The manual was in two parts, one part was copy paste from PRINCE2 and the other part was copy paste from PMBOK® Guide. We are not kidding or exaggerating … copy paste … including the figures. The only thing the consultant did to modify the copy paste is to remove copyright references from the figures (ugly).

In reality, what we had is a case of fraud. We were shocked to say the least. We shared our finding with the client and ask for a meeting with the consultant.

We met with the consultant, in the presence of the client. He was a lost case and offered nothing. Here is a direct quote from the consultant: “Do you think we can use the PRINCE2 Methodology with PMI Terminology? Would that fix the situation?”

Our assignment (the review) was for about 10 days. In such a situation, we had no choice but to advise the client to cut our assignment short (on the third day), since there is nothing for us to review. We also recommended having a serious discussion with the consultant management.

The Outcome

To cut the story short, the client was too nice to terminate the contract (that is the second client failure) so they asked for modification to the manual. The consultant complied but after two revisions the situations was not much better. The client finally gave up and released the consultant, took over what he delivered, and started all over again.

Conclusion

This situation might be an extreme situation but it is a case where a consultancy, well-known, has taken advantage of a client lack of understanding of a new domain, project management.

  • The consultant failures were many, ethics, lack of respect for the client, competence …
  • The client failures were (a) lack of properly qualifying, evaluating, and selecting a consultant and (b) was too nice to hold the consultant accountable for their incompetence.

If we refer to the below graphic, the consultant charged the client a large sum of money and left them with nothing.

Failure-in-Project-Management-Office-Implementation

Failure in Project Management Office (PMO) Implementation: What the business consultant described, what the customer was billed, and what the client received!

We welcome your thoughts!

 

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About Mounir Ajam

Mounir Ajam is eager to awaken the giant of project management within individuals, organizations, and nations! Mounir is a project management author, executive, consultant, and social entrepreneur. Mounir is open for further learning and knowledge sharing.

He has global experience working on projects in the United States, Europe, South East Asia, West Asia, and Africa. He has been privileged to work on multiple small projects and mega projects.

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  • thank you both for the valuable input

  • Sergey

    Thank you for your topic. I am not so experiences in consulting agency work but i faced several times with results of their work. They mostly work with slogan – “do no harm”. They left hundred pages of instructions/advices without responsibility to consequences.
    Have you seen in your practice, agreement with consulting agency where was indicated KPI and penalty if they are not achieved? But KPI and not some deliverables like document with best practices or training of some methodology.
    As for me, it is need to measure current KPI and define achievable KPI e.g. in 1-3 year and milestones to monitor the progress. That should be start point of the discussion to align what executives ask for and what they expect from consultant or head of PMO.
    When executives ask for PMO and talk about some alignment with popular methodology, maybe it is time to make step back and ask “Why PMO? What is your biggest issue now?”

    • Accountability and responsibility plain and simple is what we as project or program managers should be providing. If you cannot describe what you do in the clients terms you should remove yourself from the project or at the very least admit you need to perform additional research to understand what their real needs are. As the manager / consultant we need to dig to understand our clients business better than they know it. How can you offer constructive services if you do not know the who, what , why, when and how of their operation.

      KIS keep it simple. You can teach anything to anyone as long as you present it at their level of understanding and work up from there.