Top Ten Trends in PMO for 2016

As we kick-start the New Year in project management, we take a look at what’s in store for the PMO in 2016 – for those working in portfolio, programme and projects offices.

1. PMOs must secure the tools they need to do the basic job
2. PMO teams will recruit data analysts
3. Getting to grips with programme management
4. Methodology makeover
5. Further practices in portfolio management
6. Measures and metrics – showing why PMO is needed
7. Picking off the services that mean the most for the business
8. Making business cases for additional capacity and capability
9. Understanding the true skillset required for where you’re heading
10. Making relationships with other departments


1. PMOs must secure the tools they need to do the basic job

The majority of PMOs still rely on the basics of MS Excel to carry out the data analysis they need to do in order to produce the information that enables decision making. Whilst the majority of project managers use tools like MS Project in order to produce their Gantt charts and plans; the next stage of being able to collectively bring together those plans – to see interdependencies, and resource capacity is still a manual process.

If PMOs are to move towards a proactive service offering in the near future, the elephant in the room has to be addressed. This means the PMO has to be ready to run the most important project of their existence. The need for an enterprise PPM tool which addresses portfolio, programme and projects is a project which should never be undertaken lightly yet the returns of investment will be huge for the PMO going forward.

In a recent article published in the Sunday Times (10th January 2016, London) the reign of Marc Bolland at Marks & Spencer was discussed, one smart move he made says it all about the need to invest:

“He insisted on a modern management software system — which sounds dull, but big companies that don’t have one are flying blind”


2. PMO teams will recruit data analysts

Smart PMOs understand the value of recruiting a resource to the PMO that is experienced and focused on data. The core role of PMO has increasingly focused on reporting over the years, and with reports comes data. Yet PMOs still don’t have a dedicated, experienced and skilled resource within the PMO who can take data and produce information.

If we couple this with a lack of PPM tool, the need for a dedicated data analyst becomes even more imperative.

At a PMO Manager event in London late last year:

“We definitely need that role in a PMO, and we need that person with the technical skills. We need a person that can code because the data is getting more and more complex. We need someone who can pull it together in a meaningful way or actually code and automate things.”

2016 will see an increase in data analysts being sourced and recruited, making the role a permanent fixture in a world where PPM data is increasing and the pressure is on for PMOs to produce decision-making worthy information.

3. Getting to grips with programme management

Programme based PMOs are still the most popular PMO there is (Arras People, 2014) and supporting programme management still has a raft of challenges. Whilst project management practices and processes are slowly maturing, it is still early days for programme management.

PMOs struggle to enable support around key programme management practices such as benefits management, interdependency management, resource management and establishing standards for project scheduling (New edition of Gower Handbook of Programme Management, chapter on Programme Management Offices to be published in 2016)

During 2016, PMOs that are supporting and enabling programme management will still have their work cut out in their role in making programme management successful. For those working in a Programme PMO who haven’t yet undertaken the Managing Successful Programmes (MSP©) or elected for courses in the core areas of benefits, resources and planning should be doing so.

4. Methodology makeover

There was a superb presentation at last year’s PMO Symposium in Arizona (Deborah O’Bray, Investors Group) which highlighted that PMOs take a central role in naturally evolving an organisation’s project management methodology and process. As a PMO moves from the perception of being an “inhibitor” to an “enabler”, the methodologies change too. In the early years of a PMO with initial project standards, processes and templates, through the “control” years of audit, evidence, checklists and compliance, and finally the “efficiency” years of being much leaner, focusing only on the core processes needed.

Finding the right balance between ‘consistency and standardisation’ and ‘flexibility, innovation and professional judgement’ is where the PMO should be heading this year. So that might be incorporating lean agile practices, or creating a new Wiki methodology library. It’s time to think about evolving your methodology practices.


5. Further practices in portfolio management

One thing is clear, portfolio management has had a stellar year in 2015 with the Thought Leadership focus from PMI, the increased focus of conversation on strategy and execution, the increase in organisations looking to implement portfolio management practices.

2016 is all about making portfolio management real.

It became evident through the year at PMO Flashmob and the first PMO Conference in London that the message is getting through that portfolio management makes sense to organisations that use programmes and projects to deliver the business strategies.

What’s missing is real practical examples, practices, stories, that highlight HOW portfolio management works.

At a PMO Manager event in London late last year it was said that Portfolio PMO Managers need to be able to take risks, be innovative and really use their previous diverse experiences in order to implement portfolio management successful.


6. Measures and metrics – showing why PMO is needed

Over two “Global State of the PMO” from TwentyEighty Strategy Execution in 2013 and 2015, one thing was clear – the PMO doesn’t do a great job in measuring their own effectiveness. Taking this and coupling it with the long standing statistic that PMOs always remember, “75% of all PMOs closed within 3 years” (PMI, 2005 and 2010), PMOs have to give focus to producing their own metrics and measurements.

Although tracking “programmes and projects delivered to on time and on budget” was carried out by 78% of PMOs in the TwentyEighty Strategy Execution report, just a third produced metrics on how services from the PMO were utilised by the business.

2016 is about a renewed focused on PMOs bolstering their own evidence and facts that show just how much value the PMO brings to the organisation.


7. Picking off the services that mean the most for the business

There is no doubt that the work of the PMO can be as large or as small as it wants and needs to be. With the increased focus on portfolio and programme management, PMOs can quickly become overwhelmed with the belief that new approaches and services are needed to keep up with the business demand. Yet smart PMOs know how to speak to the business to really understand what core PMO services are really needed and focus their efforts on doing these really well.

In 2016, PMOs will become famous for one thing because they’re giving the business that one thing that really makes a difference and they’re doing that well because they’re focusing all their talents in that area. 2016 is about pushing back on businesses where they want everything a PMO could offer without investing in the PMO’s resource capacity and capability to provide them.


8. Making business cases for additional capacity and capability

Which leads us on to the next trend. PMOs will be making stronger and more fact based business cases for the extra resource capacity and capability they need to make sure they’re delivering the services the business wants and needs. Gone are the days of easy headcounts and sign off for contract staff. Today everyone is working more with less which means the PMO has to provide compelling reasons why the PMO should receive more funding.

In 2016. PMO Managers should focus on creating effective business cases and learning the language of getting what you need from senior executives. It’s time to use those metrics and measurements; good success stories and customer satisfaction feedback forms to get what you need to evolve the PMO.

9. Understanding the true skillset required for where you’re heading

“Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future” said Brian Tracy, an American author. And invest that 3% wisely. Individuals working in a PMO who want to carry on working within the PMO field for a number of years to come, owe it to themselves to make sure their self-development takes into account where they are today AND also where they think they’ll be heading in the future.

PMO career paths today, if you’re lucky enough to encounter one, tend to focus on an organisation’s own view of PMO and where their PMO is today and where it could be heading in the future. But do you want your own career to develop with that particular PMO in the long term? Chances are you won’t, so it makes sense to understand what’s happening in the wider PMO world.

In 2016, PMO practitioners should be kinder to themselves and spend time doing that research, making new contacts, widening their career network, reading more, talking more and meeting more.

10. Making relationships with other departments

2016 is the year that PMO works on breaking down silos within their organisation to build partnership alliances with other departments that should have a closer relationship to the PMO. Relationships with the finance teams; business planning; human resources and learning & development; IT; quality and compliance; legal and procurement are all ripe for a little buddying from the PMO. The closer the relationship, the more reciprocity can take place, which all makes working within one organisation that much easier.

PMO has always been a fascinating and varied field to work within. It’s also an exciting place to be as many think the ultimate goal is for the PMO to either become a fully-fledged business department in its own right or not exist at all. 2016 will still be a year where the PMO works to be understood and valued by the business but we’ve certainly moved on from PMO = administration.






About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob. She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast


  1. Ken Burrell

    Some great points here Lindsay!
    I agree that PMOs will increasingly need Data Analysts (point 2) even if they have a PPM tool (Point 1), as the output from these tools often needs some quite sophisticated manipulation to make it useful / pretty (especially if the tool doesn’t do quite what you want “out of the box”).
    I also agree that the time of Programme Management is approaching (Point 3). As an independent PMO Contractor, I find that the companies I work with usually have a (sometimes quite well-developed) Project Management methodology, but nothing for Programmes. To equip myself for this gap, I have recently undertaken the Axelos® Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)® course. I found this insightful, and believe it will prove to be invaluable on programme roles.
    Of course I also agree with PMO networking (Point 9), and unsurprisingly I would recommend PMO FlashMob as a great way of doing it!
    I look forward to seeing you and all the other FlashMobbers on 21Jan16.

  2. Vinod Subramanian

    Thanks for the good article.. With growing program complexities and having all skills and technical depth available in any project team practically impossible…. One area that would be important and PMO should facilitate is a continuous search and maintenance of a repository of contacts of experts both internally (geographically dispersed offices and delivery centres) and externally (including freelancers) who could be called upon to support project teams when a risk is foreseen..

    This could very well be part of point 10 and as part of networking. Probably the most important activity given the increasing complexities of programs.

  3. Alison Laughlin

    Great article. Access to quality data, through easy to use and reliable tools is so important. Understanding the data and what to do with it is a PMO skill that, when developed, can really help management understand where the business is going and what short comings are to be addressed. It is not just the immediate management that benefit from this information, but also the different business functions within an organisation because, together, they all form the company and together they will move the company forward. So the PMO expanding their wings and reaching out into other departments is key.

  4. Rabi Krishnaratne

    Great post…thanks

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