7 Measures to Increase PMO Acceptance


+++ Step by Step Towards a Strong PMO +++ 7 Effective Measures to Improve PMO Stakeholder Management and Acceptance +++

By Johann Strasser                                                                                                               Read article in German

Are you working in the Project Management Office (PMO)? Or in the process of establishing a PMO? If so, you should keep on reading. For this article will provide you with essential building blocks to establish and increase PMO acceptance at your company.

For a PMO in particular, the topic of acceptance is of far-reaching importance. The PMO has a unique role. It is sandwiched between:

  • department heads and project managers on the one hand
  • top management on the other

In this field of tension, it is often perceived as a “policeman”. This makes stakeholder acceptance harder to achieve. Project managers and department heads tend to be suspicious of PMO members that are particularly close to top management, such as the PMO manager.

Looking to establish a PMO? Here is how to go about it and be successful.

Moreover, the standards of the PMO often interfere with individual ways of working. Often, the stakeholders have worked in their own way for a long time, and good stakeholder management may be necessary to achieve change and stakeholder acceptance.

At the other end, top management is constantly asking for proof of the benefits of the PMO.

Read below what to brace yourself for.

PMO Acceptance – Some PMO Statistics

An empirical PMO study by the German Association for Project Management (GPM)*  devotes an entire chapter to PMO acceptance. The study was conducted in cooperation with Nuertingen-Geislingen University (HfWU) in 2013/2014.
* Deutsche Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e.V.

In the main, the respondents to the PMO survey questions rated PMO acceptance at their own company as “good” to “satisfactory”.

How to Increase PMO Acceptance 1

Figure 1: PMO acceptance at one’s own company (GPM PMO survey 2013/2014)

The survey according to stakeholder groups arrived at striking results. Managers in particular rate their own PMO as very good.

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PMO managers and PMO members are those active in a PMO. They give a higher rating to the benefit and acceptance of their work than their customers or partners do. Only the project managers are less accepting of the PMO in comparison.

The study arrived at another interesting result. Overall, the acceptance of a PMO within an organization tends to be better where:

  • the PMO is involved in the strategic decision-making and control processes
  • quantitative benchmarking is used to measure the success of project management and the PMO

The conclusion we can draw from this study is:

There is a key to good PMO acceptance within companies. Involve the PMO in:

  • the strategic assessment of projects
  • (quantitative) performance measurement


But the PMO survey results also allow an inversion of the argument. Due to high stakeholder acceptance, a PMO is also involved in strategic tasks.

Against this backdrop of PMO statistics, we will outline seven measures. These measures can improve PMO acceptance within the company. This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Measure 1: Measuring the PMO’s Work and the PM Maturity Level

For monitoring, there is an essential precondition. You need to determine the initial status quo of the work the PMO does for the company.

If you carry out regular measurements, you will see changes in the tasks of the PMO. This will allow you to demonstrate how the maturity level of project management at the company has changed. The figure below shows areas for quantitative measurements in the context of such an inquiry.

How to Increase PMO Acceptance 2

Figure 2: Areas for determining the PM maturity level at the company

But this does not tell you whether the PMO’s work is perceived as good or bad.

It is only about the quantitative performance measurement. If you assess the quantitative performance over several years, you will be able to see a trajectory. It will show the PMO as the driver of project management at the company, not only as the administrator of the project portfolio.

Looking for reasons why a PMO is important? Read our related article.

From the standpoint of the PMO members, the stakeholder surveys are particularly important for PMO stakeholder management. After all, the stakeholders’ satisfaction with the PMO is significant for acceptance.

These “soft” personal estimates of the stakeholders can be a much more important evidence of success. They outweigh “hard” measurements of, for example, financial savings.

Measure 2: Measuring a PMO’s Success

The above study by the GPM lists five areas in which you can determine the success: These are:

  • How well is the defined project management process followed?
  • What is the level of target achievements of projects in the project portfolio?
  • How good is the controllability of the project portfolio?
  • What is the feasibility of the planned project portfolio?
  • How high is the maturity level of the projects in the planned project portfolio?

Such measurements can either be performed by the PMO itself. Otherwise, external consultants can take on the job. The second option will increase the acceptance of the survey results within the company. After all, there will be no self-evaluation by the PMO

The above questions also permit statements on the maturity level of project management at the company. If you compare the measurements to the status quo on a regular basis, you can present the development as the performance of the PMO.

Find out more about the possibilities of measuring PMO achiements in this article!

Measure 3: Involving the PMO in Strategic Measures

The study by the GPM showed that one thing increases acceptance within the company above all – involving the PMO in strategic measures. For instance, the PMO members could support management in the following strategic areas:

  • Which projects are actually started and which are not?
  • How does the prioritization in the selection process occur?
  • What additional value do the projects provide for the company’s strategic objectives?
  • In what way are cross-project budget and resource conflicts resolved?
  • How is the involvement in the budgeting process carried out?

You might also like our Checklist of 10 Vital Success Factors for Establishing a PMO.

Measure 4: Separating Operational & Strategic Project Portfolio Management

Not every company assigns strategic tasks to the PMO. If you do, you could consider a separation. Dividing PMO objectives into strategic and operational tasks can obtain the trust of the project managers.

There is an advantage to an operational PMO without the proximity to top management. It is less likely to be perceived as an “inspector”. In meetings, the PMO learns about problems in projects. An inspector might pass those problems on to management. And transparency is not a goal project managers like to support.

Strategic project portfolio management (SPPM) can take on tasks such as:

  • prioritization
  • decision-making
  • budgeting
  • overall capacity planning

Operational project portfolio management (OPPM) can take on:

  • project controlling
  • staffing the projects

You might be interested in reading “The PMO of the Future”.

Measure 5: Practicing Active PMO Marketing

How to Increase PMO Acceptance 3

“Do good and talk about it.” This also applies to the PMO. Proactive communication with all stakeholders will enable you to demonstrate:

  • what services the PMO can offer other roles
  • what successes the work of the PMO has achieved

You can practice this self-marketing via:

  • regular internal emails
  • a dedicated site in the company’s intranet; this you need to keep up to date; and make news available quickly

To enhance the PMO’s visibility, you can schedule events such as regular best practice forums. You can also further stakeholder acceptance by establishing a PM community at the company. This will allow you to involve project managers in shaping project management practices.

A high positioning of the PMO in the business hierarchy is also helpful for the communication. Presenting the PMO achievements in a positive light can be beneficial. A good opportunity for this type of PMO marketing are internal events celebrating successfully completed projects. This prominent mention will definitely attract attention.

Measure 6: Documenting the PMO Responsibilities

What does the PMO do? Are the PMO objectives, stakeholders and responsibilities common knowledge at the company?

What expectations people have of the PMO depends significantly on the documentation of the actual tasks of the PMO members. Whether the stakeholders feel they had their expectations satisfied also rests on this PMO documentation.

Another approach to PMO organization are Agile PMOs. Read related article.

If the task description is missing or not common knowledge, this bears a risk. The PMO is likely to belie the expectations of the target group. This can lead to stakeholder dissatisfaction. The task description should also state which important tasks are beyond the responsibility of the PMO.

You should classify the type of support, too. This allows you to control the direction in which the PMO should develop.

You should also qualify the operational support. Will the PMO actually be doing things (e.g. “guiding the mouse” of the project manager when using the tool)? Or will it merely give instructions on how the project manager has to do things? This would mean the project managers were largely left to their own devices.

Looking for a practical example? Read our interview with a PMO manager.

Over time, the PMO will have to change its responsibilities due to the project managers’ learning curve. Therefore, you will have to adapt the documentation of what the PMO does on a regular basis.

It is also paramount that the role of the PMO remains the same in all projects and does not vary. The PMO documentation will aid this purpose.

Measure 7: Ensuring Personnel Continuity in the PMO

To achieve stakeholder acceptance, PMO members have to be two things:

  1. qualified for the role
  2. on par with experienced project managers

This is impossible if the PMO members change all the time. Ever-changing contact persons are not a good idea. At worst, they may lack project management experience. Therefore, good PMO staffing is essential.

A “familiar face” can foster the acceptance of all stakeholders at the company and improve PMO stakeholder management .

Conclusion – How to Increase PMO Acceptance

This article has introduced you to 7 measures you could take to increase the acceptance of the PMO:

  1. Document the PMO’s work
  2. Measure the PMO’s successes
  3. Involve the PMO in strategic measures
  4. Separate operational and strategic project portfolio management
  5. Practice active PMO marketing
  6. Document the responsibilities of the PMO
  7. Ensure continuity in PMO staffing

One last tip: If you plan to implement one of more of these measures at your own company, proceed as follows. Prioritize the measures and take small but goal-oriented steps in the right direction. And: Ensure a sufficient level of commitment as well as support from top management.

Do you know further strategies of increasing PMO acceptance? Would you like to share them with us? We look forward to receiving your comment below!

Final tip: Subscribe to the TPG Blog Newsletter now and never miss another blog post.

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