Case Study, a failed PMO implementation

In the last few posts, we have focused on PMO (project management office) and PMO Implementation. Here is what we published so far:

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

The failed PMO Implementation Project, a 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 initial findings

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; therefore, immediately we noticed this 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.
  3. The consultant, or the person assigned to the client from the consultancy company, did not have the necessary competencies; or should we say incompetent?
  4. It turned out that the consultant was only familiar with PRINCE2. This could have been 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. They felt “who are we to challenge a well-known international consulting firm.”

Can the consultant still build the PMO?

Some might state, “well we realize that the consultant was not a PMP, and not familiar with PMI Framework, but could not he still be qualified enough to build the PMO?

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

  • The client expectation is to build an organizational project management system and a project management office to ensure effective projects delivery.
  • The requirements actually matched the expectations; the client did a good job of 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.

Therefore, when the consulting firm sent a consultant that does not have the right level or type of experience necessary to build a PMO or the OPM System, then can anyone believe this consultant is capable? 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 that is beyond competence and border on being fraudulent. We were shocked to say the least and 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 cause 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 modifications 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, PMO 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!