Top Ten Trends in PMO for 2017

Another year rolls around and writing an article like this is a good time to reflect back from the previous year and think about what’s coming up as the new year stretches out in front of us. You can take a look at the trends in PMO for 2016 to see if your PMO picked any of them up.

Now let’s look to 2017, here is PMO Flashmob’s take on the top ten trends for PMO in the coming year:

  1. A clearer distinction needed between the PMO Manager and PMO Lead roles.
  2. Looking to other business frameworks, methods, processes and tools that can help the PMO solve problems.
  3. Moving the Agile conversation on the “Agile PMO” into real, practical activity.
  4. More focus on development and learning for PMO.
  5. Unpicking the value debate – understanding what the real issues are.
  6. Changing the PMO language.
  7. Understanding strategy in your business – including formulation.
  8. Change is our business so we need to understand the principles of change management.
  9. Using the right people for the job.
  10. Making small changes that have a real impact.

1. A clearer distinction needed between the PMO Manager and PMO Lead roles

You might have noticed how the job title “PMO Lead” is being used increasingly in the job market without any real thought about what makes this role different to that of the PMO Manager.

It is a title that is used interchangeably with PMO Manager – with a similar salary and responsibilities (managing teams or span of control)

So why is it being used?

The PMO Lead title is often used to show a role which reports to a Head of PMO, perhaps the dropping of Manager is required because of the conflict of having two managers in the PMO structure?

PMO Lead is also a term used a lot in relation to programme PMOs.

It is also used to single out specialist roles in PMO e.g., Planning Lead, Governance Lead.

The PMO Lead title also doesn’t tend to mean the most experienced or skilled person amongst a whole group of other people in the PMO

Somehow ‘we’ have added another level of confusion into the PMO domain – another job title which gets used because someone doesn’t want Manager in the title.

The term “Lead” also conflicts with the current debate around the project manager and project leader roles  – this article sums it up well – the PMO Lead is clearly not a leader role as defined in this article – it doesn’t seem to be a role which is senior to PMO Manager or Head of PMO.

But perhaps it’s the dropping of the ‘er’ from leader to lead which is the real distinction. In this article, it’s clear that the Lead title is someone who is new to management – so someone who doesn’t quite have the experience of managing a PMO team but has a strong PMO background and is taking their first steps into management.

Maybe that should be the definition the marketplace should adopt – making it clear what type of PMO professional they’re really looking for.

2. Looking to other business frameworks, methods, processes and tools that can help the PMO solve problems

It was made clear at the PMO Symposium last year that decent PMOs around the world don’t just rely on project management practices to get the job done.

We’ve often said at PMO Flashmob that the PMO professional is someone who has to gain knowledge in other areas of business because their role often spans other disciplines.

We mentioned data analysis in last year’s trends, and we’ve often talked about the merits of understanding business analysis, financial controls, procurement processes and marketing techniques.

PMOThe PMO Symposium talked a lot about PMOs using Lean and Six Sigma for process improvement (number two on the list)- something which the PMO does a lot – but how many of us really understand these disciplines and how we could use them in our daily work?

Earlier in the year we shared some insights into design thinking, which is “creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing”. Again the PMO has to design PMOs – and the functions and services they offer – could we learn something new from a creative world? You can take a look at a crash course here.

Then an email arrived from Coursera – why shouldn’t the PMO look to social sciences (neuropsychology, education or law), data science or game theory? (You should also check out the business series from Coursera too)

Sometimes it’s about looking for what is already out there – being applied already in different areas of the business and the PMO picking and choosing new approaches that could work for them. Why reinvent when you can nick it and adapt it?

3. Moving the Agile conversation on the “Agile PMO” into real, practical activity

Agile PMO2016 was definitely a year of trying to understand where Agile fitted into existing project management practices and it was also the year when the conversations about Agile PMO were really buzzing.

Step forward 2017 and we want to get to the practicalities of the role of the PMO – enough talking about the theories, frameworks and practices in Agile – the PMO needs to take action. But what action should they be taking?

We want and need to hear more from other PMOs that have been Agiling throughout 2016. They need to share their stories so others don’t have to start from scratch – or worse, make unnecessary failures just because they don’t understand enough.

Hopefully the PMO Flashmob will be able to find these Agiling PMOs and share their stories with you. *Get in touch if you’re an Agiling PMO*

4. More focus on development and learning for PMO

Another year goes by and still no further training and development options for people working in the PMO. That’s eight years since the launch of P3O – the only real training specifically geared towards PMO people. Since then, nothing.

Will 2017 be the year that we start to see other training and development options for the PMO? I hope so. The PMO Mini-Masterclasses have shown that there is an appetite for learning – something that doesn’t necessarily have to be 3 to 5 day training course. In fact, do we really need this?

As mentioned previously – the PMO professional is a multi-faceted role – with lots of different types of business skills needed. It’s not a stretch to see that modular training would be a good option – some type of package that people can pick and choose.

If that’s the case, what’s to stop you pulling together your own package – based on your current PMO, current business needs and your own personal development?

5. Unpicking the value debate – understanding what the real issues are

“We need to add value”, “we’re not adding value”, “what value are we adding…” it’s all so 2016!

As you know we’ve long disliked the adding value thing:

PMO Flashmob Bans “Added Value”

And it was great to see APM PMO SIG tackle the subject at their last conference – getting into the meat of the subject by choosing to articulate value as “what’s the point of the PMO?”.

I think there are two things to think about in 2017 in terms of the value debate.

The first is articulating what we mean by “value” – do we mean value or do we mean benefits? Is it a “what are the benefits to the business of having a PMO and the functions and services it offers”? Or is a “what is the value to the business once we receive these benefits that the PMO provides?”

These are two different things and we need to make sure we’re talking about the right thing.

The second is, are we actually talking about real tangible things that gives the organisation benefits and value from the PMO being in operation? I hear too much “we’re not adding value” rather than “we understand our value to be X – is that true? If not, what are we going to do about it”. Or “the executive level can’t see the value in what we do” rather than “let’s make sure our executive level tell us what they want from us and let’s make sure we give them that”.

In other words – instead of using the words, “we’re not adding value” change it to something that people actually understand and can do something to change it. Woolly words have no place in 2017.

Which leads us on nicely to the next one.

6. Changing the PMO language

pmo-mini-masterclassWe’ve often talked about stakeholder engagement – between the PMO and the wider business – and how there are different things that the PMO can be doing to engage people better (our next Mini-Masterclass looks into this).

Language use is something that comes up time and time again – it seems we know that the language we use can be a real turn off for the business – or worse still they just don’t understand us and therefore ignore us. Yet, we don’t seem to have made much effort in making the change required.

This problem has reared its head more frequently because of the changing role of the PMO. With more and more PMOs getting involved in portfolio management – and therefore steps closer to strategy and senior executive audiences – it seems our language is still the same as when we used to just talk to Project Managers.

The PMO evolves yet our language hasn’t evolved with it.

It’s time to really address this – taking positive action rather than expecting that it will just fall into place one day.

7. Understanding strategy in your business – including formulation

2015-2016 seemed to be the years where portfolio management was a big deal for PMOs. It still is but we also seem to be talking quite a bit about strategy too. Sure, the remit of a lot of PMOs is ‘strategy execution’ and that includes portfolio management as well as programmes and projects – but we never use to utter the word strategy.

It feels like suddenly, the PMO has gone from talking about project status reports to this world where it’s all about the direction of the whole business!

But do we really understand strategy? Do we understand how strategies even get formed?

If portfolio management is seen as the glue between strategy and execution – and by and large PMOs understand execution very well – can we say the same for the other side – strategy?

Would it be helpful to understand this – or is this a case of the PMO getting into something that really it shouldn’t?

I think the PMO should be understanding it all – even if it’s just about the bigger picture of what and where they are operating.

8. Change is our business so we need to understand the principles of change management.

It occurred to me over 18 months ago that PMOs don’t tend to get involved in the change management or change manager role very much but there are definitely opportunities there that could benefit everyone in the delivery organisation.

If project management is about change – and PMOs are there to support project management – it makes sense that the PMO would understand the principles, processes, techniques and approaches of change management. Yet learning and development in this area doesn’t tend to happen for PMO practitioners.

Think about all the areas the PMO could use change management. In their own process improvements or in creating new processes which need the buy in from the wider delivery organisation – through to supporting the change managers in the work they do (facilitating workshops is the first that springs to mind). They can use change management techniques in stakeholder management; client meetings; cross department working groups and project reviews. The PMO practitioner can also use change management principles in their own development too – we know that often, humans are resistant to change, with a fuller understanding of the ‘science’ of why that is, perhaps our behaviours will change too.


9. Using the right people for the job

In 2016 we started looking at the types of people who work within the PMO – earlier in the year we kicked off with the PMO Benchmark Report – then later we looked at some research that was presented at the PMO Conference about the different types of communication styles that people working with the PMO have.

The final part of the research is still open if you want to take part – the outcome of this will tell us a lot about what types of people there are in a PMO but more importantly how the differences play out in various parts of their career – for example – is there a certain type of PMO Manager that earns more than the next one because their communication style is a certain type.

It’s fascinating stuff uncovering something about the people part of the PMO – and hopefully it will help us to further understand what types of people are needed within the PMO for the different types of functions and services the PMO provides.

We all want to play to our strengths and do the best job we can – that means having the right people in the right jobs. 2017 should be the year that we put more focus on this aspect of the PMO practitioner.

10.  Making small changes that have a real impact

Often all this talk about strategy, portfolio management, enterprise-level PMOs just sounds so, well large, complicated, difficult to do, something that takes a lot of time and a lot of conversations before it becomes a reality.

Not all PMOs are even anywhere near ready for this type of conversation with their organisation because actually they’re focusing on getting the basics of good project delivery and support in place first.

There’s a lot to be said about making small, incremental changes (agile anyone?) to the PMO today, a steady evolution of current practices in readiness for bigger overhauling changes further down the line.

If a PMO can look back on 2017 at the end of the year and say, you know, we changed these four small things but look at the difference it has made.

It’s time to start assessing what small changes could have a real impact in your organisation over the course of the next 12 months.


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. Lindsay, it’s great how your pieces always poke and prod in order to provoke thinking and interaction. I’m with you totally on #7 – whether the PMO is actually involved or not (often organisation dependent) it needs to understand it all. How else can a P(portfolio)MO manage and deliver the portfolio if it doesn’t? And how can P(programme or project)MO’s deliver projects that align with strategy if they don’t? No man or project for that matter, is an island.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *