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PMO Trends in 2021 a Collection from the Industry

joe pusz leadership pmo joe project management Feb 04, 2021


Each year we see predictions or trends to observe in the coming year. This is popular in most, if not all, industries. We even see this in professional sports and entertainment. Our Project Management and PMO industry is no different and in this post I'll share some crystal ball predictions from industry leaders as well as make a few predictions of my own.

Let's start with the Top Ten Trends in PMO for 2021 from the pmoflashmob.

  1. Portfolio prioritisation and optimisation really helped organisations pivot and change priorities quickly in 2020, now is the time to optimise the process.

  2. Our world went virtual and dispersed, this year we will consolidate the learnings and improve on how we engage and work with people remotely.

  3. With the launch of the new PMO Competency Framework, understanding where the skills gaps are and the learning & development required to plug the gaps will get easier.

  4. The rise of the PMO Wellbeing Office, not just for pandemics, the PMO is in a prime position to support the health and wellbeing of change colleagues with signposting services.

  5. Agile, Lean, DevOps, product management – bimodal, hybrid delivery, whatever we’re calling it, the PMO is supporting more of it. Education, experience, lessons to be learnt in the successful supporting of them all.

  6. Maturity in the data visualisation aspects of project reporting – we want to build the case for more AI-led technologies in project management but will settle for improving the way data converts to information, insights and action.

  7. Time to take stock and get back to basics – the need to optimise new ways of working and adapt existing for the hybrid office / remote working environment.

  8. Perfecting the art-of-the-gathering, advanced techniques and approaches for making the most out of precious face-to-face time.

  9. Adoption of PMO metrics and measures which help focus on the right things – using OKRs.

  10. Being at the front of the room, time for the PMO to up their game when it comes to public speaking; communicating to senior executives; facilitating sessions and being visible.

This is a great list from Lindsay Scott and the PMO Flashmob. There are a few items related to our "new normal" addressing remote work. AI is certainly at the top of many lists so no surprise to see it listed here as well. I really like the PMO Wellbeing Office although I think in our remote world that will be difficult to see coming together. Portfolio Prioritization makes the list as companies look to utilize the PMO to align Strategy. Nothing in there that hints at the death of the PMO so that is good news for all of us.


Next up from Wellingtone, PMO Trends for 2021. In this article Marissa Silva (The Lucky PM) shares seven trends she predicts for us this year. 

  1. From frameworks to whatever works

  2. Portfolio Management rules

  3. Project Assurance matters

  4. Project management for all

  5. Data everywhere

  6. Project Management becomes responsible

  7. Remote teams become the norm

Marissa provides a well-rounded list of predictions including the continuation of remote teams. Just as Lindsay indicated, this is our new normal. There is a nod at AI although not directly mentioned with Data everywhere. Systems and tools get us the data but how will we use it? She also includes the importance of Portfolio Management for us moving forward. Although somewhat different than the PMO Flashmob list the Wellingtone list covers several common predictions and nothing that would present an "Oh Wow" moment.


Next list to review comes from PMI and Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez. His list is 2021 and beyond... 5 Disruptive Trends in Project Management. Antonio believes 2021 will be a confirmation of The Project Economy a term he conceived back in 2018 working on his book, The Project Revolution.

  1. The End of Job descriptions, the start of Project Roles

  2. From Project Manager to Strategy Implementation Professionals

  3. Expanding the Toolkit, it is not a waterfall of agile; it is both and more

  4. The Project Management Office: Evolve or Game Over

  5. Artificial Intelligence will disrupt the project management task; we have to embrace technology.

This list is a bit more focused on the Project Manager, or the Strategy Implementation Professional. He shares the expansion of the role, the end of the standard job description, and evolution of processes and methodologies. Once again we see a list which includes Artificial Intelligence. Several of these predictions call for significant changes to org structures, project roles and what we might consider traditional project management.


The final list to share is published from Ten Six and is PMO Trends to Watch in 2021. This list include 5 items to be aware of this year.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

  2. Hybrid Project Methods

  3. Online Training

  4. Flexible Change Management

  5. Supporting Staff with TQ

We see the familiar AI listing which has been on every list we've reviewed. We also see a common item with the Hybrid Project Methods but a couple of new items as well. TQ in this list is Technology Quotient, a person's ability to be able to use and manage technology as required by the project or business need. Online Training certainly seems an obvious choice as the world will continue to largely work remote in the COVID world we now live.


All 4 of these lists will be neither right or wrong. They are predictions of what is to come. Some common elements, a few outliers, and several items which were carry-overs from lists back in 2020.


My perspective is a bit different than what we see on the other lists. Here is my short list of predictions followed by some explanation.

  1. AI is still a distant star far off in our universe

  2. Project Delivery outpaces Project Management

  3. Yawn, a boring year in the Project Industry

I do not see Artificial Intelligence making any significant inroads within our profession in 2021. I don't diminish the benefits we could reap from utilizing AI but our profession and our data collection tools are no where near mature enough for AI. How many PMOs are using spreadsheets or less? 98% of American companies have 100 or fewer employees and those small companies employ half of the American workforce. I am quite skeptical that these small companies have the capital to invest in AI solutions.


I do believe we'll see a continued shift towards Project Delivery rather than project management. Organizations in our COVID world have learned to be more flexible and less focused on governance. The project outcome is taking center stage and remote teams have learned to use any means necessary to deliver projects. Just as Sales teams are focused on outcomes, Project teams are now focused on closing the deal.


My final prediction for 2021 is that nothing of significance will change. It isn't sexy to predict same old same old but that is what I expect. For over a decade project success rates have been stagnant around 45%-55% success. We haven't seen evolution or changes to drive improvement so why would we expect to see that in the midst of a global pandemic? Teams are committed to software or lack there of it with existing multi-year contracts. The major PPM providers haven't released major AI functionality so I don't expect to see it this year. Organizational change is hard. Any experienced PM knows how hard OCM is and to think we'll see organizational or functional shifts during the pandemic is far too optimistic for me.


2021 will be a transitional year bridging the period of pre-COVID to post-COVID. We all learned to adjust to a new normal during the pandemic and we have to do that once again post pandemic. Team building, new business priorities and social experimentation will be coming to us all in 2022 but this year, don't expect too much.


This post originally appeared on The PMO Leader site. Check out all the great blog posts and content on The PMO Leader.


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