Over the last few months, I have been asked about how the Project & Portfolio Management (PPM) industry has and will continue to change for articles and pieces by Axelos, the APM, and more, and one of the themes that have surfaced from these pieces is focused heavily on how organisations work with their people. 

Research published since March 2020 has highlighted some key trends that practitioners should take into account when considering the future of PPM in our organisations. 

  1. People are (on the whole) enjoying their home working and the flexibility that comes with that. Research by Wrike suggested that 75% of respondents believe that since working from home their mental well-being and work-life balance has improved. 
  2. People are (overall) more productive whilst working from home as there are fewer distractions to contend with, albeit some still struggle with the over-connectivity across multiple platforms. Again, research from Wrike demonstrated that the average time talking to colleagues about non-work-related topics has reduced from 66 to just 9 minutes. 
  3. The rate of requests for information is growing with a lot of the monthly KPIs changing to weekly or even daily. Research from McKinsey shows that COVID-19 and working from home is driving increased frequency in items relating to (…sic) defunding and prioritising initiatives, reallocating capital expenditure, and reallocation of people, all of which requires project data to be provided more often enabling the organisation to make decisions quickly. 
  4. People have more time to develop since working from home, demonstrated by the uptake in learning courses up by 200% according to WeForum.org. Workers are dedicating their non-travel time to enabling their own development, either personal or professional. 

The PMO Perspective 

For Leaders of PMOs (and other departments) the virtual working phenomenon has brought with it several challenges alongside some of the positives identified above. 

  1. Although workers are happy to have a more flexible work schedule, it can prove problematic for Leaders as their teams are working (more but) inconsistent hours. This has highlighted the importance of trust in teams that in many organisations was missing, with many reporting that their colleagues communicate and work much better since working from home as long as people check calendars and respect different circumstances from their own. 
  2. Whilst people are overall more productive it is important that Leaders do not assume that just because people are working from home, they are having enriching and fulfilling conversations all the time. It is therefore important to set time for the team to ‘let off some steam’ regularly. Events such as lunchtime mad half hours and Friday afternoon fun can ensure that people are communicating in a non-work-related capacity but also encouraging the culture of the organisation to stay strong. 
  3. Although PMOs have seen many projects held over the last few months, the increased requests for information have caused many teams to fundamentally change their service catalogue to respond to the needs of Leaders who cannot simply walk across the office and ask for an update. It is important to enable your team with technology so that they can focus on important work such as supporting people with new ways of working due to the virtual economy or supporting governance and assurance activities that are proving difficult for some companies. 
  4. Being mindful that PMO team members are taking the time to upskill themselves means that there is a possibility for improvement activities to begin that maybe were out of reach in the past. Take the time to review your PMO Service Catalogue and refine it based on your organisational reality, your needs, and new skills your team may have.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos in many organisations, but it has also put more focus than we have had for a long time on people: 

  • Trusting them to manage their day and workload 
  • Encouraging them to learn and develop 
  • Empathising with their circumstances 
  • Treating people like adults 

PMOs are integrators so this is a perfect time to take a look at our people (as well as ways of working) and ensure that working from home is evolving our incumbent culture to be one of support, gratefulness, and positivity in teams. 

Further reading