As the world traverses through some challenging economic times, 2023 stands as a testament to resilience and adaptability. The PMO is having to evolve to meet the challenges of what has been referred to as a year of “wait and see”, echoing the uncertainty of a global community at a crossroads.

The tumult of recent years has shown us how organisations have had to respond to sudden and unexpected change, how it has sought to stabilise, even stop, only to restart and regain ground.  Adapting is now the new normal.  The PMO is the organisation’s mechanism to drive investments through projects, so it’s easy to see how affected the PMO is when the organisation is faced with changing economic and market conditions and the impact that has on investment decisions.

The imperative is always to maximise the return on investment.  As more organisations shift to Agile and focus on being agile (and, yes, we acknowledge those are different things), PMOs once again need to shift from their more traditional role of shepherding large projects towards predefined outcomes to one that oversees incremental steps towards strategic goals and adapting to change more rapidly.

This approach has been pivotal for executive leaders and sponsors who are moving away from mammoth programs of work and steering their organisations towards smaller chunks of scope to reduce the risk and test and learn.

2020 was termed ‘The Great Disruptor’. Trends that emerged were ground-breaking for industries traditionally bound to the confines of the office. However, for many organisations, these transformative trends are here to stay:

  • The proliferation of virtual teams and remote working
  • Adoption of hybrid and agile methodologies
  • Integration of AI and automation in workflows
  • Emphasis on emotional intelligence in leadership
  • Stronger alignment of strategy and execution
  • Adoption of flexible working hours
  • Surge in cloud storage and applications

These evolutions, although initially daunting and disruptive, have morphed into foundational pillars, and the PMO has had to adapt with it. However, as 2023 ends, the industry appears poised for another significant shift.

2023: A Year of Watch and Wait?

There’s a long series of memes that found their way into many of our social media and chat threads about how 2020 changed much of what we knew, that 2021 broke a lot of the norms, and how in the years since, it’s been a constant recalibration to a persistent state of change.

2023 was, perhaps, a year marked by introspection and reinforcement than trailblazing as organisations refocused on five fundamental shifts in the market.

  • Remote or Hybrid Workspaces and Return to Office: COVID-19 dismantled the age-old belief of physical presence as a prerequisite for productivity. The sentiment now echoes the findings of Microsoft’s work trend index, emphasizing a shift towards hybrid work environments. The correlation between job satisfaction and productivity stands validated, underscoring the importance of work-life balance. Late 2023 has seen a pushback to the office, which is finding some resistance.
  • Ruthless Prioritisation: 2023 was a year of meticulous allocation. With escalating living costs, rising manufacturing expenses, and talent acquisition becoming pricier, emphasis on results-driven strategies is paramount. The Agile management office and Ten Six highlight the essence of prioritization in their insights, emphasizing the need to align resources with tangible outcomes.
  • Optimising Technology: The spectrum of technological integration in project delivery is vast. From cloud computing and SaaS to sophisticated PM software, technology is intertwined with every facet of project management. Yet, certain technological voids remain, prompting the industry to anticipate ground-breaking solutions.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI’s significance transcends mere technological integration. Its potential to revolutionize mundane administrative tasks and enhance strategic planning is vast. Its integration can facilitate predictions, offer insights, and optimize resource management.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ): The relevance and importance of soft skills has skyrocketed as people grapple with change. Leaders who understand the importance of EQ can shepherd change and bring their teams along for the journey. Those who don’t face considerable resistance after so much change. With the onset of remote working and AI’s integration, EQ has transitioned from a desirable trait to an essential skill. It aids in navigating the complexities of hybrid workspaces and complements the competencies organisations need to ride the next waves of disruption.

As the end of 2023 draws close, we see that the PM community is proactively preparing. It’s been a year of consolidation, reflection, and gearing up for the tides that the future holds. The next chapters in PM’s journey promise to be riveting, and only time will unveil the trajectory it embarks upon.

What Lies Ahead for the PMO?

If 2023 was a year to step back, reflect, consolidate, and prepare for continuous change, what do the next twelve months hold for project delivery?

Agility and Flexibility

Executive leaders should understand that integrating agile methodologies with traditional project management practices (often referred to as hybrid or blended approaches) is becoming more common in PMOs. This trend acknowledges that different projects may require different approaches and that flexibility can lead to more successful outcomes.  In addition, it recognises that running scaled agile practices still requires oversight and coordination to keep all goals in focus.

Adaptive Planning

PMOs are increasingly adopting iterative planning and adaptive management techniques. This allows for more responsive planning that can adjust to changing market conditions, stakeholder needs, or project realities.

Emphasis on Value Delivery & Value Management

PMOs are shifting their focus from tracking timelines and allocating resources to ensuring that each project delivers maximum value in line with strategic business goals.  Mature PMOs are working closer to projects to find ways to add value and support, partnering with sponsors and projects to grease wheels, remove barriers and massage scope across the portfolio to achieve as much as possible.

Benefits Realisation

There is a greater emphasis on tracking whether a project was completed on time and within budget and whether it achieved its intended benefits. Tightly linked PMO and finance functions bake benefits into budgets. Still, many grapple with the risk of execution, as this only works if all projects are executed successfully, which is unlikely.

Digital Transformation and Technology Integration

The use of sophisticated project management software is becoming more integral to PMOs. Tools for collaboration, time tracking, resource management, and reporting are increasingly cloud-based, offering real-time data and analytics.

Leveraging AI for Risk Management

PMOs are also investigating how to leverage AI for predictive analysis, risk management, and decision-making support. Automation of routine tasks frees up project managers to focus on more strategic activities.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Analytics and Reporting: Executive leaders should recognise the power of data analytics in driving project decisions. PMOs are relying more on data to inform their strategies, with a focus on actionable insights that can lead to performance improvement.

Knowledge Management

The ability to capture, manage, and leverage project-related data and knowledge is key. PMOs act as central repositories for lessons learned and best practices, making knowledge management a strategic asset.

Strategic Alignment and Change Management

PMOs are being called upon to ensure that projects are not just completed but are closely aligned with the overall strategic objectives of the organisation. The PMO must work with executive leadership to align project selection and prioritization with strategic goals.

Onwards to 2024

As the rate of change accelerates, PMOs must be adept at managing change within the organisation. This involves not just the logistical aspects of change but also the human factors, including communication, training, and cultural adaptation.

Executive leaders should be familiar with these trends and understand that a PMO is not just a functional entity managing projects but a strategic partner that can significantly influence the success of the organisation’s long-term goals. Continuous engagement with PMO leaders and investment in the PMO’s capabilities is essential for adapting to these evolving trends.

To find out more about how Quay Consulting can help your team leverage the PMO for your organisation,  please get in touch with us.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...