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The PMO as a career? Sure, why not!

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A recent research project around the PMO took place to answer the following questions:

  • Is PMO a profession?
  • If so, is it a credible career path for PPM professionals?
  • What are the contexts that need to be considered?

It is widely acknowledged that project management is a profession in exponential growth and of critical importance for the global economy. In parallel, support roles such as the ones fulfilled by PMOs have been and are expected to continue to experience growing.

With that in mind there are several interesting lenses to focus our view on the project management office (PMO).

From a strategic perspective we see that more and more of our world economy is ‘projectified’. The demand for skilled project professionals is expected to continue growing, and most organisations responding to surveys tell us that they have a PMO to support that growth.

There is competitive view too. The interest in PMO (as an emerging industry) is growing across various facets: events, publications, learning opportunities, and conversations on social and networking spaces. Various associations and organisations now support and work with PMO entities to develop their maturity and skillset.

The PMO has been a very popular topic across European conferences in 2018, and we expect this to continue with IPMA doing work to understand what exists and how it aligns with their competence baseline.

Professionally, APM has invested in PMO over the last few years; through the addition of PMO roles to the Competence Framework, the refresh of Registered Project Professional (RPP) to accept those in enabling functions, accreditation of PMO specific learning, and the introduction of the PMO of the Year Award. This kind of investment from the chartered body for the profession can only be a positive move towards the PMO being accepted as an industry and included in the next iteration of the Body of Knowledge (BoK).

The APM PMO SIG have (over the years) seen a shift in its membership. From professionals who move into PMO as a stepping stone to project management, to delivery managers making a conscious choice to move into PMO and elevate their delivery skills to the next level(s).

Also, the role of the PMO has shifted. The view that PMO is an administrative function is now a very old fashioned one. If you consider the strategic perspective, organisations now want more for their money; and this means that PMO people are asked to do so much more than take meeting minutes and ensure actions happen. Sure, this may be some of the job; as is the dreaded ‘policing’ aspect.

Although it is healthy to acknowledge these facets, don’t let anyone tell you that they are key to your PMO succeeding. In fact, being in a PMO requires a mindset which is different from administrators and even delivery managers. This mindset includes emotional intelligence, business acumen, and leadership skills, as well as the ability to harness knowledge, and develop talent.

What does all this mean for those looking to move into PMO? There are now lots of options!

Options if professionals wanting to move into PMO don’t allow themselves to be pigeon-holed, accept that PMOs evolve over time – which means they will have to evolve too, and understand that the PMO role is more than knowing about delivery – it needs the whole of the person to be invested in different ways to really drive the team to become value-adding business partners.

When people ask me about the PMO world, I always say the same thing. There is no one size fits all – no black or white. Grey means that each day is different, which means each day is challenging, but also enormous fun. You can add value quickly and decisively and go home on many days feeling like you made a difference.

What you need though, is to be brave, and a little innovative. Don’t listen to all the sage old advice all the time – check out what is coming down the pipeline that resounds with you personally and experiment.

Remember the Hedgehog Concept by Jim Collins: To be the best you can be (build your core ideology), you need to understand: what are you deeply passionate about (I bet it’s not meeting minutes), what can you be better than anyone else at (if you keep learning), and what drives your economic engine (why do you do what you do)?

It also helps if you’re a little bit zany!

You can contact me through the PMO SIG email address, LinkedIn, or social media via @PMONinjas.



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  1. Paul Giammalvo
    Paul Giammalvo 19 June 2018, 01:35 PM

    First it is NOT widely acknowledged that Project Management is a "profession" at all. That is nothing more than marketing claims put forward by PMI and APM with precious little to substantiate those claims. Quite the contrary there is ample evidence that project management is NOT a profession at all. Secondly "PMO"'s are not new at all. What we in construction call "project controls" which includes QS, Business Analysts, Cost Engineers and Systems Engineers (See attached graphics) has been around FORMALLY since the 1950's and the functions go back to well before the early 1900's. (For more on this see the work of Henry Fayol and Henry Gantt to start with. Bottom line- this posting looks like yet another instance where the project management processes, which have been around for at least 5000 years are continuously being "rediscovered" or "reinvented" by people unable or unwilling to study the past for a couple of hours. What is it that Alexander Pope told us? Something about those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it? Bahhhh HUMBUG....!!! BR, Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

  2. Jose Garcia
    Jose Garcia 22 April 2019, 06:07 AM

    With all due respect Dr Paul G, if you think Project Management is not a profession, then do you also think I should give back my paychecks back for the last 14 years? After my military years, I was guided and mentored by project managers in a PMO where I chose my path: Project Management. And to your surprise, there are actually positions out there for certified project management professionals, some of us with great deal of project management depth in both agile and traditional project management. Even some crazy enough to have a masters degree in project management. Yes. I hate to inform you that project management has benefited some companies that I have worked for to the degree of increased profit margins above 50% due to the formalization of the discipline and project management practices. If you’d like to know more about it I would be happy to discuss how beyond the marketing hype, true project management discipline is a powerful practice in many industries. Unless, of course, you think the rest of the world must be wrong. Respectfully, Jose