Project Management

The Future of Project Management Offices (PMOs)?

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Recently I've been asked by several people about what I believe is the future for PMOs.  My answer, of course, is that it depends.  It depends on what your current strategy is today, how forward thinking your leadership is, and what you believe your PMO's role should be in your organization.  

To better understand your current strategy and leader, considering the following questions:  

  1. How effective is your existing PMO?  Is it adding real value to your organization? Is seen as doing so by your leadership?  Do you have measures to support these claims?
  2. How adaptable is your existing PMO? Does your PMO have a track record of embracing new ways of working (WoW)?  How well does your PMO react to change?  How well did it react to the changes required to face the  COVID-19 crisis?
  3. How respected is your PMO? Do the people your PMO is meant to be guiding want to work with your PMO or do they merely tolerate it? The support of these people will be crucial as your PMO evolves to meet new challenges.
  4. Does your PMO focus on more than just projects? Projects are one type of endeavor your organization has going on. You very likely have long-lived product teams that are a critical aspect of your value streams, service teams that support people throughout your organization, and operational teams that focus on running your business, to name but a few.
  5. Is your PMO outcome focused? Does the PMO focus on ensuring that your organization's endeavors provide real value to their stakeholders, or are you merely concerned with simplistic "on time, on budget" issues?
  6. How flexible is your PMO? Is it able to support teams with different WoWs - agile, lean, hybrid, and serial - or does it insist teams follow a consistent, "predictable" process?

The current state of your PMO will be an important determinant of how it will choose to evolve and whether it will be able to evolve to meet the challenges of the VUCA world in which we all operate.  Potential futures for today's PMOs include:

  1. Evolving into a lean governance body. Lean governance is an important aspect of PMI's Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit. The lean governance mindset is different, focusing on motivation rather than conformance, on enablement rather than inspection, on flow of value rather than delivery of artifacts.
  2. Evolving into a value management office (VMO). Rather than delivery of successful projects, a VMO focuses on the successful (and often continuous) delivery of customer value. For individuals, this will necessitate a shift to focusing on value stream management rather than project management. Mark Lines and I recently wrote a foreword for the forthcoming book From PMO to VMO: Managing for Value Delivery by Sanjiv Augustine and others. I suspect this book will be a game changer for many PMOs.
  3. Evolving into an adaptive PMO. Many PMOs will choose to get better at being PMOs.  They'll become more flexible, adaptable, outcome focused, and value focused. This will require project management professionals to learn critical continuous improvement skills, exactly the skills you gain via Disciplined Agile certifications.
  4. Dissolution. Some PMOs may find that they are no longer needed, their primary responsibilities being automated via artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies and by other organizational groups taking over their remaining responsibilities.  A PMO may not be dissolved completely, at least not right away, but certainly can be reduced substantially.

Your PMO may choose to follow a combination of the strategies that I listed above, and in future blogs I'm going to explore each one in greater detail.  I believe that today's PMOs face an important turning point, one that has been coming for years but has now been brought forward by the pandemic, where they must choose a new path if they are to survive, and better yet thrive.  Which path is right for you?

Posted on: June 01, 2021 08:34 PM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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From years I am working in creating or transform PMOs into VMOs.
Why not the other options (just in my personal experience)?
-Lean governance body: Lean and Agile are not the same thing. Additional you can put other approaches outside and those approaches are still used mainly because the type of solution to create.
-Evolving into an adaptive PMO. Everything is adaptive. I fully believe and I can sustain that it has no reason to put this type of adjectives to things. It is impossible to survive without adaptation.
-Dissolution. Could be. But the reasons some people think today (and in accordance to my research from too may years in the future) are not valid.

@Sergio, great points.

Some thoughts:
1. When I say "lean governance" I mean a lean approach to governance, not just the governance of lean teams. Having said that, it's really a Lean/agile governance approach, but that's a bit too wordy IMHO.
2. Some PMOs are a lot less adaptive than others, unfortunately.
3. I felt I was pretty clear about why we'd see reduction, and maybe even dissolution - application of automation, including AI, and reassignment of responsibilities to other groups.

@Scott thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

Thnaks for sharing Scott, Very interesting topic, as Ways of Working (WoW) evolve, the same should happen with PMOs (Transformational Management Offices - TMOs).

Thanks Scott,
Seeing an eminent shift from PMOs to VMOs...

This is awesome. I've never heard the term VMO, but being at the Portfolio level in a very large US Government (DOD) agency (we work directly with our CIO), I want to let others here know of this idea. Great article!!

I've been working on different PMOs for a willy, and every one of them where very stricted about the process. Lucky, today I'm working on a PMO that has the same view as mentioned.

I beleave VMO is a natural growth for the PMO.

@Danilo, glad to hear you've managed to join a more effective PMO.

I suspect that PMOs that aren't flexible and focused on value will soon find themselves being sidelined.

Thank you Mr. Scott for sharing the concept of VMO. I will definitely learn more about it.

Excellent post. Really appreciate it.

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