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.


Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton

Posted by Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton on 15th Jun 2018

About the Author

A Project, Programme and Portfolio specialist with extensive experience in the change management industry with a particular focus on collaboration, PMO conception & strategy, method and capability development.

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