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What is a PMO? A PMO is a department or business unit within an organisation that enables decision making and provides delivery support for projects,


programmes and portfolios. PMOs come in many shapes and sizes. It can support project managers in the delivery of projects (a Project Management Office) and programme managers delivering programmes (a

Building a career in PMO

Programme Management Office). It can also support the senior executives in managing an organisation’s entire portfolio of programmes and projects, too, by facilitating the decisions around which programmes

Level two roles In level two, roles, such as the PMO Analyst, they can be supporting projects, programmes or portfolios. With a deeper understanding of how PMOs can bring value to an organisation through different functions and services, such as governance, risk management, prioritisation - the PMO practitioner can draw on development from both AXELOS’ P30® and AIPMO’s certifications. The former focuses on PMO frameworks and the services offered; the latter focuses on a more practical approach to service selection, design and implementation.

and projects are initiated. This type of PMO is often referred to as a Portfolio Office or an Enterprise PMO. The PMO is also the place where standards, processes, methods and tools for delivery are designed, creat-

There’s never been a better time to work in a PMO

Level three and four roles Lindsay Scott Director of PMO Learning, Founder of PMO Flashmob & The PMO Conference

What’s fascinating about working in a PMO is the sheer breadth and depth of roles available for people looking to carve out a long-term career. Not only is the PMO a place for those new to project management to gain experience, it’s also a place, for example, for a programme manager to move on and lead an organisation’s entire portfolio of programmes and projects - and lots of roles in between.


With levels three and four comes the management and leadership roles of PMO. Heading up programme offices, developing portfolio offices or leading enterprise level PMOs needs an in-depth knowledge and experience of what makes a PMO successful. The BCS certification PPSO Advanced Practitioner is aimed at those managing project, programme or portfolio offices, as is the AXELOS P3O® Practitioner. For senior leaders in Enterprise PMOs, the AIPMO IPMO-Expert certification is the most advanced learning and development option available. To forge a successful, long-term career in PMO – moving from a supporting to leading role – needs practitioners who are passionate about seeing project management thrive in organisations.

ith this diversity available there are plenty of skills, knowledge and experience to be developed – from reporting and data management to portfolio management; facilitation to leadership; from minute-taking to restructuring the enterprise framework for project delivery. There are four recognised career levels for those working in a PMO. With level one, the entry level Project Administrator and Project Support Officer works closely with the Project Manager and team. Building up skills in planning, reporting and secretariat, these roles are well supported by the knowledge gained through the British Computer Society’s (BCS) PPSO Essentials certification. This level of PMO work is an ideal place to break into project management work.

ed and maintained. This is often called a Centre of Excellence.

many industries for many years in various forms, from the purely administrative support function through to delivering essential reporting and/or undertaking effective project controls and governance. Their role has not always been understood and their value often questioned (as reports and research has confirmed in recent years). However, the tide has turned. While organisations recognise the value of projects (and even programmes and portfolios), they do present organisations with a whole host of challenges that sit outside the role of individual project managers who are busy delivering projects (with a greater or lesser degree of success).

5 questions organisations ask about projects: • “When is a project a project? When does a piece of work need to be formally managed as a project?” Eileen J Roden Consulting Director of PMO Learning, Lead Author of P3O® Best Management Practice

The term ‘project’ is now used in everyday conversation to refer to almost any activity that has a start, middle and end, be that at home, at school or at work. This coincides with a much greater awareness and understanding in organisations of the benefits of using projects to deliver changes into the organisation and externally to their customers.


rojects are ubiquitous! You can’t get away from them. For example, HS2, or a business change project we’re currently managing or perhaps the rollout of a new IT system. This explosion of projects has seen a huge increase in project management roles and the desirability of those roles. What is also becoming understood by organisations is the need and value of an effective PMO as the central, beating heart of the project ecosystem; that part of the organisation that provides guidance and support to all those involved in the delivery of project and programmes, from senior executives to end users and customers. PMOs are not new. They have been around in


Understand what the business needs from the PMO. Provide the functions and services that add the most value and give the biggest return on investment.



Learn everything there is to know about project, programmes and portfolio management - then understand everything there is to know about PMOs. There is new research and insights emerging all the time; use it.


• “How should the project be delivered? What methodology should we use? What governance is required?” • “How do we decide which projects need to be done?” • “How many projects are currently being delivered across the organisation? Are they delivering the benefits we expected?” • “What individual competence and organisation capability need to be developed to improve the success of project delivery in our organisation?” An effective PMO provides the focus, processes, tools and expertise to support the organisation in addressing all of these. The role and scope of PMOs is no longer being pushed by enthusiastic PMO professionals but demanded by senior executives within organisations. The PMO is now recognised as essential, not just for project success, but for the organisation’s success.

What a challenge! Those of us who have been working in PMOs for many years are excited by the opportunity this brings to professionalise the roles and career path for PMO professionals.

Build a strong, well-skilled and passionate PMO team. Create principles and values, manage with a ‘servant leadership’ ethos ( the idea that you should be willing to support the greater good even if it means temporarily sacrificing yourself or your ideas. It embraces the concept that meeting the needs of others is what allows communities and businesses to reach their full potential) and create a committed, high-performing team.


Don’t neglect your behavioural and interpersonal learning and development. Businesses need PMO leaders who can lead, communicate, negotiate and influence. Working with people across the business needs advanced business management skills.


Understand if you’re a builder or a grower. If you prefer to set up PMOs rather than the longer-term role of growing and maturing a PMO - find your niche and go with it.

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Project Management - Q3 - Sep 2018  

Project Management was originally published alongside the Telegraph in September 2018

Project Management - Q3 - Sep 2018  

Project Management was originally published alongside the Telegraph in September 2018