Is Project:Hack for the PMO Practitioner?

Project Data Analytics

Been hearing a lot about Project Data Analytics recently? Yes us too! It’s one of those things we see every so often in PMO (portfolio management, benefits, Agile have been just some of them over the years) which (a) we need to know about because it’s part of our job to know everything about project delivery (b) it has the potential to be disruptive, a big game-changer for the PMO.

Project Data Analytics MeetupWe’ve been looking to the leaders in this field to help educate us. Martin Paver and the team at Project Data Analytics Meetup have been brilliant at helping us understand – inviting us in and allowing us to ask daft questions until we can start to make sense of it. Some of the things we’ve seen really is mind-blowing.

We had the pleasure of having Martin speak to PMO Flashmob a few weeks ago and until that session is ready to share, we wanted to tell you about a recent weekend we sponsored that Martin runs a few times a year.


It was a first for us – no idea what to expect and even feeling nervous and slightly out of our depths.

We had a few familar PMO Flashmobber faces there (thanks for sharing your insights Ken!) and we wanted to share a few insights to give you a sense of what happened. The next event comes up at the end of June and we’d really like to get more PMO practitioners there so we can work together over a weekend.


  • This was a two-day event held over the weekend of Sat 23Feb19 and Sun 24Feb19
  • It was held in the Microsoft Reactor, near Finsbury Square in London
  • About 50% of the attendees came from a Data or Programming background, and about 50% from a project management or business background (split about 50:50)
  • There were about 100 people in all, and people were grouped together based on a problem they would like to solve.


Although these were never explicitly stated, the event seemed to have several parallel aims:

  • Provide some basic education on data analysis techniques (e.g. Intro to PowerBI MasterClass)
  • Do something cool with data (as a way of demonstrating to industry that when they share their data, they get some interesting results)
  • Build a network
  • Share the wider message to your social media and contacts.

Getting Started

At the beginning of the weekend there were about 15 different problems for people to think about and then decide to work on one of the problems in small groups. Each group (ideally) needed a data geek, programming geek and someone from a business background.

The idea is that by the end of the weekend the teams have something to share that demonstrates how the problem can be solved.

Here’s an example of one of the problem statements, with some nifty advertising going on 🙂

The data for all the problems that need solving have been provided in advance and is easily accessible – they’re using mainly Azure and Python on the day.

Once we had formed groups to work on a challenge, as a non-data person, for the most part I felt surplus to requirements

That observation is one of the main reasons why PMO practitioners are feeling relunctant to get involved with events like this, however:

My value came in asking the stupid questions that no-one else had thought of (or was prepared to ask) and coming up with hypotheses to test. Not all of these were good, but most came from me.

And that is exactly it – we need to be there to ask the questions from a business and project point of view!

The data scientists can’t work in isolation and neither can we – we have to form working groups where people are playing to their strengths.

More Learning

Throughout the two days there were little pockets of learning going on with ‘Masterclasses’. This was groups of people listening to different expert balanced on bean bags around the screen.

Our feedback is that we need more of these. For the business and project focused people who are not hacking away at the keyboard – leave that to the people who can – there has to be other things going on to keep us engaged. Sure you can spend some time watching these guys but not for the whole weekend.

We want a group of PMO people to attend the next one so we can also work together on looking at our own challenges with data

We can make this happen if we work together, imagine that, a whole weekend of collaboration and learning together – that’s the cheapest training you’ve ever been on that’s for sure. Details on the next one here.



At the end of the weekend the teams were competing for prizes. Each team presented their work to the rest of the audience. Here’s just one of the presentations – just pause it to see more details:

Common Themes

There were four themes across all the sessions:

We need more data

We need better data

We need more time

We need more skills

All of these will continue to be challenges as the area of project data analytics progresses – and that’s what makes an emerging field exciting, fascinating, bewildering as it all gets worked out.

And it needs us – the PMO community to be in there working out the solutions.


Project Data Analytics

Ken on the left with steam coming out of his ears

Not all the groups succeeded in creating a viable solution but you know what they say about failure! There’s still lots of learning – a huge amount really if we are to really take advantage of what data science has to offer.


It feels very bleeding edge and that’s not for everyone – but if you are an early adopter, make sure you come along to the next one. Let us know if you are in the comments below – or contact us and we’ll start a Whatsapp group leading up to the weekend so we can get to know each other.

If you’re feeling a bit out of the loop with it all, you might want to come along to the Introduction to Project Data Analytics for PMO Practitioners which takes place before the PMO Conference this year. That’s a great place to start before attending the next Project:Hack on the 29th and 30th June.

Join us?

From the Day

An early start for me on a Saturday!


Thanks to Ken Burrell – brilliant PMO Flashmob contributor for sharing some of his insights from the weekend. You can find out more about Ken and connect with him and also see his new book on Learning Lessons.

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob and a Director at PMO Learning - the sister company to PMO Flashmob and the best training company for PMO people in the world! She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast. Loves dogs and gin.

One comment

  1. I’ll be there 🙂 .

    Thanks Lindsay and Ken for sharing the blog. I’d say the biggest benefit for PMO professionals is understanding the art of the possible. What can be achieved with what sorts of data? How good does the data need to be? How much data do you need to get the algorithms to work? What skills do you need in your team? Is this something you want to become adept in?

    I keep reiterating that this will have a huge impact on PMOs. Some of it is bleeding edge, but some is purely about data wrangling and dashboards. Learn some new skills to move beyond excel and nudge towards data science.

    It can be daunting, but its a great opportunity to get stuck in and learn some new skills. You can help develop the use cases, develop the data models, challenge the ‘so what’ and ensure the question is being addressed. That’s actually the hardest part!

    Just knowing about this stuff will enable you to progress into your next role.

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