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Have you ever conducted a PMO Process Purge? If not, there is a good chance your PMO is suffering from bloat. This article explores a common PMO antipattern and what you can do to prevent it.

A common PMO Antipattern

I want to share a PMO Antipattern with you. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term – antipatterns are repeated practices that initially appear beneficial but result in consequences that outweigh any of the hoped-for advantages.

This particular antipattern goes something like this:

  • A PMO is formed with a mandate to solve a specific business problem or need.
  • The PMO puts new, efficient processes in place. They train the business in new ways of working – using OKRs and KPIs to demonstrate success.
  • Snr Management is impressed with the impact the PMO has had.
  • Department Managers are impressed with the effect the PMO has had.
  • Everyone is happy with the impact the PMO has had!
  • As a consequence, people think of all the problems they have that the PMO could help them solve.
  • The PMO takes on more and more processes and services.
  • Now the PMO is stretched and reduces its engagement in some areas to little more than a veneer but keeps its original, ‘core’ processes in place as these have proved their worth to the business in the past and they are what the PMO was founded for.
  • Dissatisfaction with the PMO increases.
  • The ‘light-touch’ approach applied to new business challenges is not having the desired effects.
  • The core processes and services that the PMO was once praised for are now seen as being ‘overly bureaucratic.’
  • People start viewing the PMO as being a blocker, rather than an enabler.
  • Six months later, the PMO is disbanded – another statistic for a future Standish report.


How does it go wrong for the PMO?

So what went wrong? The first mistake was that the PMO did not critically assess the value it could add to the business problems it took on. The PMO had robust processes for assessing and prioritizing business cases for new projects but inexplicably did not apply these same processes when taking on additional PMO services. The second mistake was that the PMO did not review the original ‘core’ processes and conduct regular purges. This article focuses on the second of these mistakes.

When new processes or services are implemented, they solve a particular problem or set of challenges. To ensure the process ‘sticks,’ the process is defined as a series of tasks that have to be followed. Templates and gates are introduced, and compliance checks are put in place. These controls are essential to ensure the process is adopted. But processes mature, the draconian level of control can and should be reduced. PMOs should continuously be looking for opportunities to strip back controls on mature processes and hand processes back to the business. Ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. If the PMO stops tracking this process, will the business suffer? (note, a small amount of suffering may well be acceptable when compared with the effort that would be saved within the PMO).
  2. Does the problem that this process was designed to fix still exist? (changes in personal and organizational maturity may well have removed the problem that the process had initially been trying to solve).
  3. Who benefits from the process? (some procedures that were initially beneficial may now actually be creating disbenefits due to the number of non-value-adding steps).
  4. Who would shout if we stopped offering this service tomorrow? (it is not uncommon to find that the business would celebrate if you removed a particular process or ‘mandatory’ service!).

Why are processes so important in the PMO?

A Project Management Office (PMO) is a team or department that exists to govern, support and accelerate the delivery of project work within an organization. There are many types of PMO that exist. Some are small and operate within projects. Others are larger and operate more strategically, reporting to the board, and helping to decide which projects and initiatives to undertake based on the strategic direction of the business.

In all cases, PMO provides a number of services to the business, and each of those services comprises of a number of processes and procedures that are followed. In a world where entrepreneurial project managers do ‘whatever it takes’ to get their deliverables across the line, it is those PMO processes that act as the guard rails for our projects – ensuring they operate within the bounds of organizational governance, and ensuring decisions are made transparently with the best available data.

Maintaining currentness in the PMO necessitates addressing of prior regulations and customs. Legacy policies may no longer reflect best practice, so it’s essential to review them regularly and update them where necessary. This could involve anything from small changes, like reducing the length of a standing meeting, to introducing new project delivery methodologies, or approaches based on Agile or Lean principles.

Getting rid of obsolete meetings is another way to streamline processes within your PMO. Ask yourself if each meeting you hold really adds value – if not, consider cutting it out altogether. It’s also worth considering whether there are any activities which could be automated using technology or tools like PPM software solutions; this will help free up time for other tasks without compromising quality or accuracy in decision making.

Streamlining processes can often require standardizing them across multiple disciplines within the organization; this means setting clear expectations for how work should be completed in order to ensure consistency throughout the portfolio management process. Strategic planning should also form part of this process – by understanding what resources are available and how they can be used most effectively, organizations can prioritize their projects accordingly for improved resource allocation and program success rates overall.

Finally, removing legacy technology and PPM tooling is essential when it comes to staying ahead of the curve with regards to industry trends and developments in project management methodology. It is common in organizations for project teams to introduce new tools, only for them to fall out of fashion in the following months or years. Reviewing the use of different types of collaboration tools and licensing can be a great way of getting everyone speaking a common language, with the added benefit of saving SaaS license fees. Be aware of fresh technologies that may be advantageous to your organization in the future, since modern solutions provide more flexibility than earlier systems.

By regularly reviewing, streamlining, and purging PMO process, organizations can ensure that their projects are managed efficiently and effectively. Purging outdated processes regularly is a key component in maintaining an efficient and effective project management office.

Key Takeaway: The PMO process should be regularly reviewed and updated, with obsolete meetings cut out to streamline processes. Purging outdated processes regularly is a key component in maintaining an efficient and effective project management office.

Purge Outdated Processes Regularly

The PMO is tasked with the duty of continually assessing and eliminating any processes that have become obsolete. A successful PMO helps the organization prioritize projects, allocate resources, and ensure program success. Regularly purging outdated processes can help organizations remain agile while focusing on important business challenges.

Controlling checks within a PMO should be conducted regularly in order to identify any process which has become obsolete or inefficient over time. It’s not uncommon for businesses to find themselves stuck in old ways of working due to lack of review and regular maintenance of their project management methodologies. To stay ahead of the competition, it’s essential that organizations have a directive PMO who maintains current practices with an eye towards innovation and improvement.

The PMO should remain vigilant by conducting regular assessments to guarantee that processes are up-to-date and adhere to industry standards. By exploring solutions from other companies, they can standardize procedures across departments and divisions, improving inter-team communication while providing better visibility into project progress for senior management teams. Utilizing project management tools such as resource allocation software can give a bird’s eye view of how tasks are progressing against strategic objectives, ensuring projects are delivered punctually and within budget parameters set by the portfolio management office (PMO).

Having multiple PMOs operating independently under one umbrella can lead to confusion when trying to manage change across different levels of governance processes related to individual projects or programs. It is important that all parties involved understand the roles they play within each team structure so they can work together effectively towards delivering successful outcomes throughout the entire project life cycle.

By purging outdated processes regularly, you can ensure that your PMO is running efficiently and effectively. To further optimize the performance of your PMO, it’s important to remediate legacy policies and practices.

Key Takeaway: The PMO should stay ahead of the game by regularly reviewing and updating processes to keep them in line with industry best practices. This will increase the probability of projects delivering on time, within budget, and that all parties involved understand their roles for successful outcomes throughout the project life cycle.

Remediate Legacy Policies And Practices

How do PMO Services and Processes get to the stage where they need remediation? There are several common reasons:

  1. The organization has changed. This can be a major change such as restructuring. Or it could be a series of small changes over time. Such change is inevitable. If the organization is changing, so must the PMO. As the new organization emerges from its change chrysalis, it will need new services and procedures from the PMO to support it.
  2. Technology has changed. We all know how fast technology evolves. Many of the manual activities that we undertook five years ago can easily be performed by computers today. PPM tooling is no exception. As your software providers update features, consider how they can make your PMO more efficient and support project managers in new ways.
  3. Emergent Thinking. Perhaps you’ve been on a training course, or to a PMO Conference? Maybe you picked up a new idea at a meet-up event. Whatever the source, this kind of ideas can cause you to look at your PMO and delivery practices with fresh eyes. 
  4. Shu-Ha-Ri. People change! At HotPMO, when we set up Project Management Offices, we always consider the competency of the project team. Where teams are relatively junior and inexperienced, processes need to be more directive. But people rarely stay junior for long! There is a Japanese martial art concept called Shu Ha Ri, which describes three stages of mastery of a topic. The first, Shu, is about learning the fundamentals. The Ha stage is when the learner breaks with tradition and seeks out exceptions to the rule. Finally comes the Ri stage where understanding is total and the martial artist becomes master. Most learners go through a similar pattern. Your newly formed delivery team of junior personnel may appreciate a directive approach with lots of mandatory procedures and checks. But as they progress through Ha towards Ri, the same processes are likely to be restrictive and frustrating. It is time to remediate policies and take a less directive approach.

Remediating legacy policies requires careful planning from the start so that any new procedures fit into existing frameworks seamlessly without disrupting day-to-day operations. Leaders must also consider how changes might affect other departments such as IT, HR, finance etc., so they can develop comprehensive plans accordingly before implementation begins across multiple disciplines throughout the organization’s portfolio management office (PMO).

By remediating legacy policies and practices, organizations can ensure that their projects are running as efficiently as possible. To further streamline the project management process, it is important to get rid of any unnecessary meetings.

Key Takeaway: Organizations are not static. People, teams and technology all change. The PMO processes of yesterday are unlikely to be the best fit for today.

Get Rid Of Obsolete Meetings


Gatherings are a fundamental undertaking. When people get together they share ideas and knowledge and align on common goals. Why then do so many people hate meetings? Having an excessive number of mandatory meetings, or ones that don’t fill any need can squander profitable time and assets. PMOs should focus on eliminating unnecessary meetings where information could be shared via other channels like email or chat platforms.

The reality is, meetings can be hugely disruptive. For those in creative roles or roles that require a lot of brain work, it takes time to immerse yourself in the context of the work you are doing. Depending on the level of complexity, getting into the right headspace can take 20 minutes or more. Having to attend a short meeting during the working day can disrupt that thinking process. A 30 minute meeting can easily cost an hour or more of ‘deep thinking’ time. 

To support efficient working, we need to purge obsolete meetings, and then optimize the meetings that remain.

To create an efficient working environment, PMO teams need to optimize meeting schedules and encourage teams to adopt patterns that work for them. Some organizations block out periods of the day or week where no meetings are allowed at all. These periods allow individuals to get themselves ‘into the zone’, and deliver their best work without distractions.

By getting rid of obsolete meetings, organizations can free up resources and streamline processes to better prioritize their project portfolios. By standardizing processes across multiple disciplines and strategically planning for improved resource allocation, PMOs can take their projects to the next level.

Key Takeaway: Project Management Offices (PMOs) should prioritize the elimination of unnecessary meetings, then optimize meeting schedules to allow for ‘deep work’.

Streamline Processes

Streamlining processes is an essential part of any successful PMO’s responsibilities. It helps ensure projects are completed efficiently without delays caused by bottlenecks in workflows leading toward successful outcomes within complex projects requiring collaboration between various stakeholders at different levels throughout organizations worldwide. Standardizing processes across multiple disciplines can also be beneficial, and it should be done with improved resource allocation in mind.

Standardizing processes involves creating a unified set of rules that everyone can use regardless of their job title or department. Having standardized processes also makes it easier to identify areas where improvements can be made, allowing you to quickly implement those changes before they become issues down the line.

By streamlining processes, organizations can reduce complexity and increase efficiency. To further improve the effectiveness of project management operations, it is important to evaluate legacy technology and PPM tooling.

Remove Legacy Technology And PPM Tooling

The success of a PMO depends on its ability to adapt quickly to changing technologies and tooling. To remain competitive, organizations must remove legacy technology and PPM tools that are no longer effective or efficient. Doing so allows them to take advantage of the latest advancements in project management software and other solutions.

So much of the PMO Manager’s role is taken up with supporting projects, managing upward and firefighting, that expecting them to keep tabs on the tooling market feels like a huge ask.

But failure to keep an eye on the trends, both inside the organization and elsewhere can cost dearly. Collaboration tools are a great example. There are many fantastic tools out there. But which ones are used within your projects? If you have some project teams on the latest software, and other projects running with a tool that was popular 3 years ago, then your collaboration tools end up being a blocker to efficient communication, rather than an enabler. Project x can no longer collaborate with Project y. And it isn’t just the project teams who struggle. Senior leaders often sponsor multiple projects. Having to look at the PPM tool for updates on one project, Trello for another, and Confluence for a third, can be a slow and frustrating business. 

Every time a new tool is procured, consider the implications for other tools within your organization. Does this make them redundant? Should they be shut down? How do we avoid duplication and artificial “software silos” being formed? and finally, can we make any cost savings by removing legacy tech?

 For your tools that are more widely adopted, consider whether they still meet the needs of your organization. PPM tools that were designed around business processes that no longer exist can reduce efficiency and frustrate those who use them. Internal tools such as groups of spreadsheets that have evolved over time, can introduce risk if they are hard for new staff to learn and understand. Finally we have to consider integration. Do the tools you use ‘play nicely’ with other tools in your organization, such as Finance and HR onboarding systems?

Before rushing out to find a new PPM tool, it is important for companies to research the available options before investing in new solutions as each organization has different needs when it comes to project management offices (PMOs). Internal PMOs may require different types of support than external ones do; some PMOs may need close integration with Finance, others less so; some need more support for agile and DevOps practices; whereas need to focus more on collating and consolidating data and KPIs for reporting and decision making.

Key Takeaway: The success of a PMO depends on its ability to adapt quickly to changing technologies and tooling. Removing legacy technology and PPM processes allows organizations to take advantage of the latest advancements in project management software and solutions.

The importance of a regular PMO Process Purge

PMOs should regularly purge processes from their portfolio. Doing so allows them to be nimble and focus on the business challenges that are important to the Senior Management team. Doing so will enable you to diverge from the antipattern outlined at the start of this article.  With this in mind, I offer you this challenge: Go back to your PMO and look at every process, procedure, meeting, tool and service with fresh eyes. Ask yourself the four questions below and see how much legacy bureaucracy you can purge from your PMO and your organization. 

  1. If the PMO stops tracking this process, will the business suffer? (note, a small amount of suffering may well be acceptable when compared with the effort that would be saved within the PMO).
  2. Does the problem that this process was designed to fix still exist? (changes in personal and organizational maturity may well have removed the problem that the process had initially been trying to solve).
  3. Who benefits from the process or tool? (some procedures that were initially beneficial may now actually be creating disbenefits due to the number of non-value-adding steps).
  4. Who would shout if we stopped offering this service or tool tomorrow? (it is not uncommon to find that the business would celebrate if you removed a particular process or ‘mandatory’ service!).

Take control of your project portfolio and accelerate delivery with the help of our PMO consultancy. Leverage our expertise to maximize efficiency through proven management models.

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