The Evolving Program Management Office 

We’ve written a lot about the changing role of the Project Management Office (PMO), bring the old school mentality of managing into the new school Enterprise Orchestration Era (see our 5 Top Problems with Traditional Project Management Tools series). Given our long history of thinking about the role of orchestration, it’s probably no big surprise that we’re big fans of progressive thinkers in the PMO space who are looking forward and considering how the future of work affects the future PMO. Here’s a great PMO Trends in 2021 a Collection from the Industry article from PMO Leader that pulls together five lists of very forward-looking trends.

Inspired by all of their contributions, here’s our predictions on PMO Trends for 2021:

  1. We agree with Joe Pusz at PMO Leader — this isn’t the year to affect significant change. We’re getting closer and closer to putting the pandemic behind us, but it’s been twelve months of massive upheaval, remote work, rapid technology adoption, etc. We’re unlikely to see a lot more evolution in the PMO in 2021. Continue the investment you’re already making in adopting new digital tools and evolving to remote work. If you haven’t started those paths, now is definitely the time to begin them. Save any other big organizational change for next year.
  2. What’s changed is here to stay. Everyone cited remote work and digital technologies as trends that changed in 2020 and will remain in place. We absolutely agree (and so do our partners and customers!). Hybrid remote/office environments will be the norm and we are only going to see more adoption of digital technologies.
  3. AI is a long way off, but intelligent, automated systems are here today. We liked Joe’s contrarian stance that AI is “still a distant star far off in our universe”. It will eventually transform PMO practices as it has everywhere else, but the current state of the art in most of our customers is still spreadsheets and slide decks, not systems of record with the kinds of data AI requires to make predictions. That said, today’s leading PMO platforms like Conductor already include intelligent algorithms that act as early warning detection systems to flag potential issues when they’re a small course correction. No code environments have made lightweight business process automation a real possibility for day-to-day use now and will continue to transform low-value, manual work for PMOs and project team members.
  4. The role of the PMO has to become more and more strategic. The upheaval of the last year and the need for organizations to rapidly pivot and execute existential projects highlighted the importance of agile, nimble product leadership teams equipped with the right tools to affect change. The adoption of digital project/portfolio management solutions (including Conductor) has simplified and automated many of the routine PMO tasks and freed up time to focus on higher-value strategic work. This is the transition from traditional project management to enterprise orchestration that we highlighted in our blog series and includes the idea that we need to take hybrid approaches to leading projects that include aspects of Agile and Waterfall as required. PMOs that don’t follow this evolution will be at increasing risk of being supplanted by future generations of smarter digital platforms while those that do evolve will thrive with a seat at the decision-making table.
  5. Emotional intelligence is more important than ever, in both our people and our tools. Little known fact: the name Sensei is derived both from the idea of a master teacher (or, as we called it in The Decoded Company, “Technology as a Coach”), as well as the combination of sensors + emotional intelligence (EI). We’ve always believed that our tools should have the ability to measure the world around them and collect ambient data paired with emotional intelligence about how to shape organizational change management. That’s really an extension of what we see in the most successful PMO team members, who use data to inform their intuition and drive change. They recognize that the modern PMO is about much more than setting deadlines and budgets but really about enabling and empowering people. Shifting to a hybrid remote/office environment makes EI even more important as we adapt to less in-person face time and more limited bandwidth for understanding each other. EI has been shown over and over to be a high predictor of success, even for things like online learning (possibly a predictor of online work success).

We’re interested to see how the House of PMO’s PMO Competency Framework shapes up. No prediction yet — it was just launched in February 2021 — but we like to see forward thinking about building competency in roles that are traditionally seen as administrative or even unfortunate necessities. We talked about a similar trend in our blog post on Prioritizing Procurement Continuity and Resiliency, in which procurement professionals can evolve their skills to become more strategic business partners to leadership.


Tech-enabled PMOs

Our Conductor platform is relied upon by PMOs around the world as the trusted solution to orchestrate their project work so that PMO leaders have the necessary time to take a more modern, holistic approach. It empowers teams to address the emotional intelligence requirements of their people. To learn more about our awarding winning Conductor platform, join us at our upcoming webinar Future-ready your PMO: Program Management Orchestrated with Sensei Labs Conductor Platform on April 1st 2021.

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Jay Goldman

Jay thinks he might be the luckiest guy in the world because he got to co-found Sensei Labs and spend his days working hard to invent the Future of Work alongside this amazing crew. He’s focused on technology, design, and the art of leadership. In addition to writing here, Jay co-wrote the New York Times Bestseller THE DECODED COMPANY: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers (Portfolio/Penguin), cooked up the O’Reilly Facebook Cookbook, and contributed to the Harvard Business Review. He frequently speaks to teams and companies about the Future of Work, including at TEDx, NASA, Harvard Business School, Google, and Twitter’s World Headquarters.

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