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Evolving PMO: How the pandemic is shaping future PMOs

The pandemic has taught everyone that anything can happen, and change is always just around the corner. While every industry has been reeling from its impacts, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to make our project management offices more resilient and sustainable. To stay relevant and fulfil its role as a strategic command centre, the Project Management Office must evolve.

5 key changes of an evolving PMO

Here is a quick summary of the top 5 changes the pandemic will bring to the Project Management Office (PMO):

  1. Shift towards more Agile methodologies
  2. Increasing demand for effective communication and collaboration tools
  3. Acceleration of digital transformation through technological advancement
  4. The necessity for remote leadership skills
  5. PMOs becoming pivotal for crisis management

Let’s do a deep dive of each major change.

1. Shift to more Agile methodologies

Agile has been the ongoing buzzword of project management for years, though previously limited to software and ICT development spheres. The pandemic has shown us that the global market is not only extremely competitive and fast-paced, but also filled with uncertainties that could strike at any moment.

With its high value orientation, emphasis on self-organisations, quicker reaction times, more efficient management of digital programs and customer experience focus, adopting Agile methodologies allows organisations, not just software companies, to tap into the flexibility they need in times of crisis and change.

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If organisations need to be more Agile, their PMOs will need to spearhead the change. Becoming an Agile PMO is more than just changing practices and tools, but also involves changing mindsets and cultures. PMOs will need to transition from their traditional policing role rooted in rigid processes, old bureaucracy and traditional tools to make room for flexible processes, lean management and Agile-centric tools.

Though organisations may want to become more Agile, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to solve all your problems. In fact, many other methodologies have emerged and built off Agile philosophies to suit specific contexts. The PMO will be tasked with identifying, adapting and implementing the approach that suits their organisations needs best.

2. Increasing demand for effective communication and collaboration tools

The pandemic has brought about massive workplace changes, specifically in regard to remote working, and it is change that is likely to stay. A 2020 Gitlab research on white collar professionals discovered that only 1% of respondents wanted to return to the office with the vast majority preferring remote working. Additionally, 59% of the respondents indicated that remote working improved their output.

To accommodate this trend, the PMO will need to invest in improved cloud-based technology adoption to enable seamless communication and cross-team collaboration of geographically dispersed teams. Though many software and PPM systems have online collaborative capabilities, not all PPM software is equal. Collaboration platforms like Asana and Monday have become increasingly popular, but many such services lack integrative capabilities that allow all your project related activities to be collated in a single hub.

3. Acceleration of digital transformation through technological advancement

Digital transformation is nothing new, but the pandemic has greatly accelerated the pace of digital transformations. KPMG global survey shows that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation strategy in 67% of respondents, with 63% increasing their digital transformation budget. McKinsey research shows that companies were adapting to digital changes at much faster rates than what was imagined pre-pandemic, particularly in regards to remote working, online customer services and the adoption of advanced technologies into operations.

As companies begin to better grasp the value of digital transformation and understand the speed it can be implemented, it will become a forefront agenda for PMOs of the future. PMOs will play a critical role in not only introducing practices, tools and processes catered to digital workflows, but also building the right cultures to minimize the resistance to change.

Additionally, as digital integration becomes more advanced, PMOs will much sooner than later be faced with the challenge of adopting and integrating artificial intelligence into their operations. It may seem like a daunting task, but AI is set to bring extensive changes to the project management field and effective PMOs cannot afford to be left behind.

4. The necessity of remote leadership skills

Relationship building and clear leadership are critical ingredients for a successful PMO. But relationship building is one of the hardest challenges of remote working. How does the PMO maintain their position as the strategic hub of an organisation if they are not able to build the relationships to lead effectively?

The pandemic has clearly shown how unequipped teams have been for remote working. A Terminal survey shows that 77% of respondents had no prior experience of leading remote teams and 30% of organisations had no long-term strategy for remote working post-pandemic. With trends showing that remote working is not going anywhere any time soon, PMOs have to adapt quickly and effectively to keep teams organized, focused, and motivated.

While remote working has been said to improve productivity, there are still many challenges such as teams feeling disconnected, employees experiencing higher rates of burnout and lack of morale. PMOs will have to work on building up their digital communication and leadership skills to compensate for the lack of opportunities to build informal relationships with team members.

5. PMOs becoming pivotal for crisis management

“In my view the PMO, in times of uncertainty, holds the whole project management ‘enterprise’ together, via process, communication and guidance. Companies that don’t have a PMO will see a lot of chaos and fumbling around in their projects” – Bob Patrino, Principal IS Project Manager

In times of crisis, employees will turn to the PMO to be their guiding light and have the proper processes and tools in place to support them. Crises like the pandemic are only going to increase in frequency and if PMOs limit themselves to their traditional policing role, they will quickly lose their relevance. PMOs have the opportunity to become a critical asset in an organisation’s crisis management strategy and have the capacity to lead teams strategically, align stakeholders, prioritise tasks effectively and ensure resources are allocated to the most critical projects.

PMOs are changing permanently. Are you ready?

Like the rest of the world, it is tempting to wish we can all ‘go back to how it used to be’. It is becoming more apparent than ever that going back may not be an option and a ‘new normal is here to stay. However, the PMO may be changing for the better and it is only those who prepare for the future who will reap its benefits.

About the author

Bill is a PMO consultant with 20+ of experience in Project and Portfolio Management, Project Administration, Risk Management and Process Redevelopment. He is currently working as PMO consultant with pmo365 and providing his expertise to the leading business.

Bill Allars

Bill is a PMO consultant with 20+ of experience in Project and Portfolio Management, Project Administration, Risk Management, and Process Redevelopment. He is currently working as PMO consultant with pmo365 and providing his expertise to the leading business.