Eileen J Roden
Consulting Director of PMO Learning, Lead Author of P3O® Best Management Practice
As PMOs have become more prevalent in every industry and sector, the ever-increasing variety of roles makes it one of the most exciting places to work within project and programme management (PPM).
Not only do PMOs provide career opportunities at all levels in the organisation, but they also offer the chance to work at the leading edge of the digital revolution.
For those with no project or programme management experience
Those working in and around PMOs have spent many years fighting the traditional image of the PMO as a purely administrative support function or a starting point for a career in project management. Even though PMOs are so much more than this, there continue to be roles for those with no project management experience.
As a PMO Administrator or a Projects or Programme Coordinator, you will be able to work with some experienced project managers and learn the systems and processes associated with project delivery.
As you gain experience, there are opportunities to undertake delivery activities on behalf of the project or programme manager. You will also gain experience in the setting up and delivery of services (many incorporating a level of process automation) to the varied customers of the PMO.
One of the rapidly increasing roles within the PMO is in relation to data analytics. Even if we don’t have a sophisticated project system, there is increasing recognition of the myriad data available that can be used to improve the predictability and success of projects. So those with technical skills can also find a role in PMO.
For those with project or programme management experience
The PMO is no longer a one-way street into PPM. For those with delivery experience, the PMO provides the opportunity to support other project and programme managers through a variety of services, including coaching and mentoring. Having delivery experience provides real credibility with project and programme managers.
The role allows you to see how the processes and systems can be tailored to be effective across different types and sizes of projects. A key role of the PMO is the ongoing development and continuous improvement of the processes and systems that are required in PPM delivery. The role can provide opportunities to explore advancements along with emerging technologies.
For those with broad business experience
We often describe an organisation as having two interlaced areas of focus – running the business and changing the business. The VUCA environment within which organisations now exist, demands an increasing level of change, which means, in turn, an increasing number of projects.
Many organisations are recognising that having a documented business process model is key to having a controlled transition to the new ways of working delivered by projects.
As the central body overseeing the changes being delivered into the organisation, the PMO is often the custodian of this process model and therefore needs business analysis skills to help the organisation navigate from the old to the new while maintaining a coherent end-to-end business model.
For those of us working within PPM, it is easy to forget that there are many people within the organisation (often at senior levels) who have not had experience of working in a project context. It is not unusual for the first experience of PPM for a senior manager to be when they are appointed as a sponsor of one.
More and more organisations are looking to their PMOs to perform portfolio management in alignment with their organisation’s strategy. Undertaking this role often includes facilitation of the development of the organisation strategy. Here, it is not project delivery experience that is key, it is real industry and business experience.
If you’re a senior operations manager, a portfolio management role in the PMO gives you the opportunity to use your knowledge of how the business works to ensure the right changes are being delivered to achieve the strategy in the right sequence.
Behaviours are key
Knowledge and experience are undoubtedly important when moving to a role within the PMO. However, it is worth noting the recent Infrastructure and Projects Authority Report that highlights the importance of behaviours in project success. This also applies to those working in PMOs.
*PMO is a generic term we use to cover Project Management Offices, Programme Management Offices, Portfolio Management Offices and Centres of Excellence (as well as the myriad other names used across the industry).