It was a year of discovery for us at Agile Management Office. We spent much of 2019 listening, reviewing, understanding and developing a detailed overview of the key challenges facing PMOs. With the support of academic literature and practitioner interviews, we confirmed that PMOs need to change as old outdated methods are no longer providing value. Amidst the rapidly evolving landscape, PMOs have an opportunity to thrive if they can achieve the right balance between delivery, strategy and operations, acting as an orchestrator for success.

As we hurtle into 2020, we want to take some time to reflect on everything we have achieved in 2019 and how it compared to our predictions for 2019. In 2019, we called out the following top trends for PMO:

  1. Digital transformation and the PMO
  2. Service Delivery Model
  3. Digitalisation: Monitoring & Metrics
  4. Partnering
  5. New ways of Working

It’s evident that emphasis was on digital transformation and new ways of working. This was front and centre for many PMOs; especially in larger organisations and was in response to the increased need dictated by delivery teams.

As outlined in the AMO White Paper 2019 we discussed that PMOs continue to face many challenges, one of which is a disconnect between what they need to do and what delivery wants them to do to stay relevant. It appears there will be some time before the PMO can truly own and manage the way they engage with departments outside delivery, making partnering something that will need more time to mature and to be accepted.

We understand evolution is necessary to stay relevant, and the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mindset affects our ability to be competitive. We’ve been saying this for years. We also believe that it is a very interesting time for PMOs, with greater visibility and focus on how PMOs are delivering value for their organisations.

The needs of the customer are constantly evolving and so too will organisations wanting to keep up the pace. Like the many years it has taken Agile to gain traction, we believe Digital Transformation and the PMO is one that will stay around for many years to come and remain a top focus area for PMOs. We saw several of our clients lean into new project software in an endeavour to independently track project’s performance and provide management with an unbiased view of their portfolio. Adopting principles from lean and agile were key in implementing such capability.

So, having reflected on 2019 along with our year of heavy research as we were authoring our global white paper series ‘Is the PMO still fit for purpose?’, what do we believe are the top 5 trends (and opportunities) for PMOs in 2020?

Elevation of the PMO as a Key Driver of Enterprise Change

Consistently called out as a high priority challenge and opportunity for PMOs globally is the need (and desire) for greater strategic alignment. We believe the best type of PMO is one that is tailored to support organisational needs at a level the organisation can embrace, and from which it can realise benefits and drive change. Unfortunately, for many PMOs, their value is called into question. This is partly because there is a wide gap between what the PMO is doing and what the business expects it do. It is of increased importance nowadays that the PMO plays a part in aligning delivery to strategic goals and objectives, thus enabling enterprise change.

New models for governance are going to be developed that monitor varying methods of delivery, rather than deciding them and introduction of alignment and simplification of governance, as a result, regaining capacity to focus on true evolution, allowing its people to do more things in new and exciting ways. By integrating the value proposition across the organisation and obtaining endorsement, you reduce the need to justify the value at every point. As the value of the PMO elevates, so too will its involvement in driving key enterprise change agendas.

Falling in Love with Agile

Over the past five years, it’s been impossible to miss the seismic transition which has swept through organisations, leading to significant repositioning of the delivery functions. As the value of speed to market, and responsiveness to customer demands have risen to the fore; Agile, has rapidly crept out from the world of software development into almost all product and service industries. Combined with the increased uptake of Agile, as a “self-governing” approach to Project Management, PMOs are trying to find ways in which they can retain oversight and control of how projects are managed.

However, while the focus of transition has zeroed in on the teams which are perceived to be the gatekeepers of reaching the customer; the framework which supports these units to deliver effectively, efficiently and at maximum utilisation has been persistently overlooked. There will be increased activity by the PMOs who are trying to align old ways of governing with new ways of working. This will include regularly assessing what needs to change by balancing the needs of their organisations preferred delivery journey without being perceived as obtrusive and without stifling the creativity of Project teams. The PMO will help drive consistency and collaboration at levels greater than when delivery teams go it alone, but they need to do so in a way that is not impacting the Delivery team’s creativity and we believe many have started this journey already.

Agnostic Approach to Governance

Whilst many Agile transitioning or transitioned organisations would argue otherwise, visibility, transparency, governance and oversight are all being left behind. Are organisations transitioning so fast that they are making the same mistakes they made with governance? Whilst this may not be too concerning to those in the depths of project delivery, it certainly is an issue that supports the growing organisational disconnect. It also introduces many risks, and the inherent loss of ability to judge value.

The PMO is starting to listen to their stakeholders and recognising that it’s not a one size fits all, and that they need to ensure they have adequate governance for the size and scale of delivery. With the increased use of Agile tools and techniques, it is becoming more apparent that governance needs to remodel itself to support new ways of governing. That is will how governance is treated will be different dependent on the organisation and the delivery methods or models that it chooses to use. PMOs are becoming more interested in upskilling their own skillsets and learning more agile methods to be able to approach different modes of delivery. You will find more and more PMOs undertaking new certifications and other internally available training to increase their desire to me more agile, that is small ‘a’ agile!

Compliance Focus

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would likely be seeing the upwards trend of challenges that have been prevalent in the banking and finance sector around compliance (or lack thereof). The PMO although is mostly removed in many instances, will likely be playing a bigger role in responding or directing tighter controls for governance; particularly in Projects. PMOs are recognising the need to proactively track and monitor data in a way that it is more holistic and understand how it is inter-connected across the organisation.

When we think about governance, many people often forget that governance is a big umbrella with lots and lots of smaller elements of other governance, where these elements depend on the industry. Smart PMOs are aware of this and those that are in these organisations could be looking at ways to address this. From identifying all aspects of governance and how they are interrelated across an organisation to understanding how governance oversight takes place from department to department as the flow of information extends further, traceability of lessons and knowledge share of these lessons and the streamlining risk and issues management so it’s consistent regardless of whether it’s in delivery or non-delivery functions are all ways that PMOs can (and may) address the needs for greater compliance.

Using Information in New and Different Ways

Of course, all the above is driven by a focus for increased / well-defined information. No longer is it just about reporting on the standard measures and metrics, but how those measures and metrics can translate into knowledge. Of course, having an enterprise level view of projects and programs and higher influence helps drive the type and quality of information being processed, but vice versa the need for information is driving increased visibility and control. PMOs will find an increased use of data analytics and visual tools such as Microsoft BI to undertake reporting or using tools like Confluence to streamline reporting.

Furthermore, increased focus on information helps us to understand if and how projects are successful, providing us with the knowledge to adapt and evolve to the environment. We will begin to start using post implementation data to determine if the products/services built were the products/services that were requested, or if our research into the market translates into user adoption / satisfaction, etc. Knowledge is power in such an uncertain world, and knowledge is derived from information.

In Summary

These are by no means exhaustive but a taste of where we think the key focus areas will be targeted in 2020. We also need to be upskilling our PMO teams, not assuming your existing PMO has the right skills, tools, capability, capacity to get the job done. You need to be reviewing your PMO at a minimum annually (preferably quarterly).

Evolving the way, we do things means redefining the PMO value proposition, so we can stop justifying our existence to the world and be a partner to delivery, but how is this possible?

The opportunity here is that PMO can use principles of these ‘new ways of working’ to facilitate transformation of the PMO itself; bringing value to projects and to the business; utilising feedback from stakeholders to provide transformational direction.

How does a PMO keep up or preferably be ahead? In two words; Integrated and Managed.

One of the primary goals of the AMO Method™ is to harmonise the worlds of delivery and governance; unlocking the potential gains which are dissipating into the ether through unnecessary friction. This is where we’ve focused our bespoke AMO Method; it’s an approach that can support the governance and oversight of Projects, regardless of methodology, whilst maintaining a lean footprint and the best part is you it’s easy to incorporate into your delivery environment, we do all the work for you.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? What are some of the other trends you think will be coming for PMOs in 2020?

To find out more about our 2020 workshops, please get in touch with us here.